County cricket is dying and poverty-stricken and if something isn’t done soon the counties won’t even have enough money to tempt the world’s finest cricketers to renounce their international careers any more

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Duanne Olivier (via Sky Sports)

Cricket’s economy is a baffling thing. We’ve spent half the morning reading about how the domestic game is going to die on its arse if The Hundred isn’t a success and then the remainder reading about Duanne Olivier jacking in his international career to go and play for Yorkshire because, you know, a man’s gotta get paid.

Olivier, who is 26, has taken 48 Test wickets at 19.25. This is a pretty tidy start and you’d think he’d be well placed for a solid-to-very-good international career. But no, he’s had a better offer.

“I’ve only got this one chance to see where my talent can take me, and Yorkshire just felt right to me,” he explained.

It’s a jarring sentence because Olivier is stepping down from top level sport to instead chug in five days a week against batting line-ups shorn of all the local international batsmen.

We can sympathise though. County cricket is not so extraordinarily financially rewarding that this is a greed thing. All we’re really talking is a good, predictable income for a three-year period. That’s the big draw, that’s the hook, so you have to imagine what the alternative must have been.

The slightly bigger picture

Money sloshes around irregularly within cricket and with such force that it actually distorts the sport itself.

English cricket’s last TV deal – a five-year one starting from 2020 – was worth 1.1bn. The five-year IPL deal signed in 2018 was worth $2.55bn (£1.91bn at the current exchange rate). The five-year Indian international cricket deal that started in 2018 was worth $944m (£708m).

The South Africa TV deal is a fraction of these. It was worth $202m (£152m) over eight years. There are other sources of revenue of course – sponsorship and so forth – but that deal is insurmountably dwarfed by some others.

As for how much of the world’s financial investment in cricket ends up channelled towards the written media, we don’t have actual figures but an ongoing unofficial poll of editors would suggest that the answer is ‘not an enormous amount’. We’re thinking of launching a campaign for them to ban the pyramidal boundary rope in the hope that all the money from those sponsors ends up displaced towards magazines, newspapers and websites.


Mike Gatting wasn't receiving the King Cricket email when he dropped that ludicrously easy chance against India in 1993.


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  1. Feels more like a decision based on Brexographics than criconomics to me.

    Cue mixed & portmanteau metaphors such as “chicken running down the clock” or “kicking Kolpak cans down the road”.

      1. I remember you’ve written before about Gayle’s innings the day after negative columns.

        I would be irritated at people sneering at cricket’s zaphod beeblebrox/universe boss, but he seems to handle it well.

    1. Having just seen Gayle yawning, I’m wondering how much he has left in the tank. Then again, they are so far ahead of the scoring curve at this point that they can afford to ease back a bit.

      Nothing wrong with the article of course, which makes thought-provoking (slightly depsressing) reading. But I don’t have anythng to say on that subject…

  2. As this seems to have morphed into a “through the evening” thread I’d like to add a couple of observations.

    I absolutely loved Gayle’s celebration of his hundred, sinking “elderly-style” to his knees. We talk about “going down in instalments” in our geriatric charity matches, when someone deems to try and stop the rolling ball with their body. Gayle’s celebration was the epitome of a “going down on his knees, in instalments” gesture.

    To a similar extent I absolutely hate Sheldon Cottrell’s military-style wicket celebration. Firstly, I would prefer military-style gestures to be absent from my enjoyment of sport. That includes the ghastly marching bands on big match days at Lord’s (The Home Of Cricket) in my opinion. But in particular, the manner of Cottrell’s celebration is self-indulgent, clumsy and seems to me disrespectful towards his opponents and the military generally. It is abhorrent and I really wish he’d desist from it. He’s a good enough bowler to allow his bowling to make the gestures for him.

    Rant over…

    …but at this juncture match far from over. In the balance, in fact.

    I’m returning to my TV screen right now.

  3. That was a bit of an anticlimax in the end. I’m happy that England are 2-1 up… but I found myself rooting for WI to pull off that ridiculous chase. Strange viewing experience

  4. Further to my recent 6 hitting verbage report, today they added banjaxed, bazooka-ed, brutalised, biff, whumped, larruped, ker-plunked, slotted, and, er “butters his parsnips” to the list, so I guess I was wrong, there were plenty of verbs left.

    1. The expression, “fine words butter no parsnips” is one of my favourite old saws, I must admit.

      Daisy insists that goose fat is a far better coating for roasting root vegetables, but the modern way seems to be to toss them in olive oil.

      “Tosses his parsnips in olive oil” for six doesn’t quite work for me…

      …nor does a generic, pithy version of the idea…

      “tosses root for a maximum” seems even more euphemistic than “butters his parsnips”…oooer, madam.

  5. Re: the actual article, Olivier quitting tests is a big loss. Rabada and Olivier would have been the ones carrying on after Steyn and Philander step off the stage.

    Couldn’t he have just played the IPL instead? Not an IPL fan, but it is a quick way to earn some money, and the South African calendar isn’t busy at that time.

    1. Maybe he could have done – but without an offer he can’t have been sure it would happen. Yorkshire made an offer (and so did several other counties).

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