Amateur and professional cricketers

Amateur and professional cricketers

Cricket at the highest level has developed into a fully professional international sport from which leading players can earn a large income. However professionalism has a long history in English cricket. The first professionals had appeared by the first half of the eighteenth century, when heavy gambling on the game encouraged wealthy patrons to draft the best players into their teams. They would often offer these players full-time employment as gardeners or gamekeepers on their estates. In the second half of the century, the famous Hambledon Club paid its players match fees. ["Barclays World of Cricket", Collins, 1980, ISBN 0 00 216349 7, pp 3-5.]

In the middle of the nineteenth century William Clarke's All-England Eleven was a highly successful all-professional venture which did much to popularise the game. The earliest overseas tours were also all-professional affairs. [Alan Gibson, "The Cricket Captains of England", The Pavilion Library, 1989. ISBN 1-85145-390-3, Chapter 1.]

Amateur and professional status in English cricket

For many generations there was a formal divide in English first-class cricket between amateurs and professionals, or "Gentlemen and Players" as they were known at the time. Although amateurs and professionals often played together in the same team, they would use separate dressing rooms and on some grounds went on to the pitch through different gates. The amateurs referred to the professionals by their surname only, but the professionals called the amateurs "sir". [Similarly, on contemporary scorecards amateurs would appear as, for example, "Mr PBH May", professionals as "Laker" or "Laker, JC".] However, this was not specific to cricket, but was the normal nomenclature used between middle and working class associates at that time. The "Gentlemen and Players" divide was a reflection of the divide between officers and other ranks in the army and it seemed perfectly natural to most English people of all classes in the 19th century. The Gentlemen v Players matches were amongst the highlights of the English season, although the Players could usually put a much stronger side into the field than the Gentlemen.

The perception of amateurs as officers and gentlemen, and thereby leaders, meant that any team including an amateur would tend to appoint him as captain, even though some or all of the professional players might be more skilled technically. This also applied to Test cricket from 1888. Some English touring teams to Australia until then had been all-professional, but England did not appoint a professional captain again until Len Hutton in 1952. It should be pointed out that many of the amateur captains were unquestionably worth their place in the side in terms of technical ability. In the 1930s, Walter Hammond switched from professional to amateur so that he could captain his country. ["The Cricket Captains of England", p164.]

In the 20th century the position gradually changed in cricket as English society became more egalitarian. There was also a mounting problem of shamateurism as the number of men who could afford to play cricket full time for several months each year without being paid to do so decreased. Some "amateur" players were given a largely nominal job as "club secretary" and there were sometimes allegations that a few were paid surreptitiously, over and above the "bona fide" travelling and hotel expenses that they were entitled to claim. The old distinction became increasingly out of step with social conditions after the Second World War and amateur status was abolished in English cricket at the end of the 1962 season.

Earning a living from cricket

When county cricket began to formalise in the mid 19th century, the counties employed professionals. The better supported and therefore richer counties such as Surrey often had teams made up largely of professional players with an amateur captain, while poorer counties such as Somerset relied much more heavily on amateurs to allow them to field a team without going into the red. However, early professionals were paid a low weekly wage and during the off season, which could last for nearly eight months, most were left to fend for themselves and had to take whatever work they could get. A few played professional football in the winter. In order to provide cricketers with some financial security after their playing careers, the benefit system was developed, but this was generally a poor substitute for good wages and a pension.

By the post Second World War period, most cricketers were on a fixed salary, but only for the summer months and until the 1970s, the earnings of professional cricketers were low. In England many cricketers needed to find other jobs over the winter to make ends meet, and in other countries with less demanding domestic cricket schedules most cricketers fitted their cricket in with study or a regular job. Things began to change in 1977 when cricket was shaken up the Australian media tycoon Kerry Packer. By offering cricketers higher wages than had ever been known in the sport before, Packer induced many of the world's most famous cricketers to abandon the official cricket competitions and play solely in a new competition called World Series Cricket which was broadcast by a television network which he owned. This was one of the biggest crises in the history of the sport, but it was patched up after a couple of years, when Packer's channel was granted the rights to official matches. The earnings of top cricketers from "official" cricket then began to escalate.

In the early 21st century cricket is still not as lucrative as some other sports, but international cricketers typically earn several times the average salary in their country. Regular members of the English cricket team earn several hundred thousand pounds a year. However, the highest paid cricketers in the world are the star members of the Indian cricket team, who make most of their income from endorsement contracts. Cricket is the main sport in India, and the players are front rank celebrities, especially Sachin Tendulkar, who is one of the world's highest paid sportsmen, with an income estimated by the Times of India to be in excess of thirty million US dollars a year, nearly all of it from endorsements [] . The Indian Cricket Team is one of the highest paid sports teams in the world and it is the highest paid National Sports team.Fact|date=February 2008

It is also possible to earn an adequate annual income from domestic cricket in some countries like England, Australia, India. Nonetheless many cricketers use the offseason to prepare for a post-cricket career.

ee also

* Gentlemen v Players
* History of English amateur cricket


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