Harry Brook and the IPL

The events of the last 24 hours have highlighted a greater trend in cricket that I feel an increasing uneasiness with. When Harry Brook withdrew from the IPL, the reaction was so severe that he felt the need to explain to the public why he made the decision. So loud was that noise, that a 25-year-old man had to tell the world about the passing of his grandmother.

We are at a point in cricket, sport in general, that fans genuinely believe they are entitled to know private information about players when they feel like they’re not in a state to play. When somebody cites ‘personal reasons’, there seems to be a total ignorance to what the word ‘personal’ means. By nature, this is something that the individual clearly does not want to talk about. Yet, we see over and over again this push to tell us.

Let me say, this is not limited to the case of Harry Brook. The same thing happened with Virat Kohli during the recent Test series, an onslaught of nonsense about not caring enough or not having his priorities in order. The reality is that for so many fans, nothing should ever come above showing up and putting on a show. When ‘personal reasons’ appear there is suddenly this burden of proof that you have to meet to satisfy the mob. Your reason has to be good enough to justify the cardinal sin of not playing cricket for a few weeks.

Where this irks me most is the incredibly grim way it reduces those involved to pieces of meat, expected to put on a smile and hit some balls around. The suggestion is often that they should just get on with it, that any inconvenience caused to the fans outweighs any personal pain. I find this gross.

Quite frankly, I could not care less about the disruption this causes to a cricket franchise. I say this as someone who loves the IPL, but I really don’t think squad planning comes before a loss of life in my books. If a young man needs to grieve, let him grieve. There will be other IPL seasons, let him have the time he needs.

In this case, I feel like Harry Brook has been caught by people talking at cross purposes. There is a serious conversation to be had about players speculatively entering the IPL auction, then pulling out closer to the time when they do not feel it to be worth it. It is clear that there is a strong sense of frustration with this happening, but surely we are capable of recognising the difference in this case. Not to be glib, but this was hardly in Harry Brook’s mind when he got purchased in December. Sometimes things happen in life, and you just do the best you can.

Where I fall overall is that it’s just cricket at the end of the day. I love the sport, but I cannot imagine putting it above the welfare of those involved. To me, it’s perfectly valid at the best of times to say that you do not want to play. I don’t have any interest in a sport where players are appearing due to some misplaced sense of obligation or even under duress. I hope Harry Brook takes as much time as he needs and wants, and that players are not constantly made to prove why they do not want to play a game that exists purely for entertainment.

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