Stephen Brenkley: Winner takes all, even the game's soul

The Last Word: $20m match has money but nothing else going for it. The players will get rich but cricket will be the poorer

As sterling goes down, the prize money available to England's cricketers in Antigua next Saturday goes up. But with each notch on the digital displays, it is probable that the spirits of theplayers, perhaps soon to be rich, are heading south with the pound.

Four months ago, $20 million was worth, a buck here or there, £10m. By close of play on Friday, it was equivalent to £12.7m. That means the £500,000 for each member of the winning team in the main match of the Stanford Super Series has now become £638,000, an extra £2,500 a week over the course of a year.

All the soundings from inside the England camp suggest that they are beginning to feel extremely uncomfortable about this winner-take-all match between England – yes, the official England XI – and the Stanford Superstars – yes, an invitation side assembled for the day by one of the world's richest men, the Texan billionaire Sir Allen Stanford. No man in his right mind could turn down the chance of earning the sort of money on offer in the legitimate pursuit of his trade, and those who have asked if England's players might donate the money to charity are posing a question too far.

There is something not quite right about it, however, and the players sense it. Ian Bell, who will open the innings, pointed out on Friday that given the choice between winning the Stanford lucre – how tempting it is to use the traditional prefix of filthy – and winning the Ashes it was no contest. The Ashes every time.

It was also highly instructive to hear England's captain, Kevin Pietersen, on the subject last week. Now in some quarters Pietersen,

venerated as he has become, is still a cricketing mercenary, having left his homeland South Africa to make his fame, but much more obviously his fortune, in England.

Playing against the Stanford Superstars, it was possible to infer, was not what Pietersen had in mind. Asked if the match against the Superstars should not be taking place, he said: "Yes, there is obviously scope for that. We're employed by our employers, we're fortunate to go over there and play this fixture. A lot of people think too much and too deeply about stuff, I don't do that with things I have no control over."

But would he be happy leading England in this fixture? "I have to be," he said. "It's something I have been picked to do. The thing is that the ECB is a business, and like any business-minded people they treat it like that. As hard as it is to say, that is reality. We play for our country and we do what we're told by our employers."

Hardly a ringing endorsement for the events about to take place at Stanford's own Coolidge ground. Pietersen was effectively saying that they are playing because they have to.

Perhaps the ECB had no choice but to play the match as well. Their explanation that they are doing it for the wellbeing of West Indies cricket, which will receive $3.5m from the prize fund each year for the next five years, has slight substance. But it is not the main reason.

This decision to be partners with Sir Allen was partly to placate the players who felt they missed out on the pots on offer in the Indian Premier League because of its clash with the English season, and partly to collect $3.5m themselves, which they may be able to use as a sop to the county clubs.

There is also the defence that Twenty20 matches of one sort or another are springing up all over the place, and if the appointed boards of control did not do it, some rich chap would bustle in and set up his own tourney. Like, say, Sir Allen Stanford.

Of all the short-form matches currently being organised, the conclusion is easily reached that Stanford Superstars v England is the most offensive. It has no context as a propersporting competition, it is neither country versus country, club versus club or invitation XI versus invitation XI. It is a rococo hybrid. It has money but nothing else going for it.

The burgeoning of Twenty20 is merely following the market. The IPL was a tremendous hit last year, and in its wake other competitions have sprung up. England have rather been muscled out of this. They are not a founder member of the Champions League, and the news on Friday that Australia, New Zealand and South Africa are trying to establish an all-singing southern-hemisphere tri-nations Twenty20 is bad news for England's own plans for a Premier League.

England have apparently told India that England's players can play in the IPL next April if India release 20 players for the EPL from 2010. Since the IPL is scheduled to run until 29 May, by when England's players will have had to return for other duties, India may not bother. England's playersmay come to feel they are missing out not simply on money but on something significant in terms of high-class, meaningful competition.

The future of cricket is on the line, not least how Test cricket can survive when T20 is garnering the audiences and the attention. It will be a rumbustious affair in Antigua this week, demanding to be noticed, but it will not be the answer to anything.

Suggested Topics
News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
Lewis Hamilton walks back to the pit lane with his Mercedes burning in the background
Formula 1
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con
comic-con 2014
Sport
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
football
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
News
Bryan had a bracelet given to him by his late father stolen during the raid
people
News
A rub on the tummy sprang Casey back to life
video
Sport
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
film
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
News
people
News
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
life
News
Tovey says of homeless charity the Pillion Trust : 'If it weren't for them and the park attendant I wouldn't be here today.'
people
Sport
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little