Trent Boult
The veteran has made himself available for the 2023 World Cup in India.

The last few months have seen three massive developments that have the potential to change the cricketing landscape forever. December 2021: South Africa’s keeper-batter Quinton de Kock announces his retirement from Test cricket at the age of 29. July 2022: England all-rounder Ben Stokes decides to quit one-day cricket at 31. August 2002: New Zealand’s left-arm seamer Trent Boult gives up his central contract at 33. While opting out of the central contract, Boult stated that he wanted to spend more time with family. There have been mixed reactions to the Kiwi pacer’s decision to give up his contract with New Zealand Cricket. One thing cannot be denied, though. The signs of a sea change are well and try evident.

Boult’s decision and those of de Kock and Stokes can be termed akin to a bubble waiting to burst. Everyone knew it, but few were willing to talk about it. The debate over the crammed schedule has been going on for a few years. It’s getting worse by the day. Early warning signals were visible when the likes of Stokes and Maxwell decided to take a “mental health” break from cricket. And then, COVID-19 happened. Being in bio-bubbles day in and day out made lives miserable for players. The break from the game during the pandemic must have also given cricketers the time to reflect on where things were heading.

Just a practical thing to do

Boult’s move would, of course, reignite the country vs. money debate. But the argument does not hold water because multiple factors are at play here. With all due credit to former cricketers who are questioning Boult-like decisions, today’s situation is entirely different from what it was 20-30 years back. Playing all three formats of the game is practically “unsustainable” for anyone, as Stokes aptly put it. There is just too much cricket being played and too little time away from the game for players. When it comes to international cricket, traveling during tours makes life all the more hectic.

The advent of the Indian Premier League (IPL) has been a game-changer in more than one sense. While it brought even more money into the game, it has also given cricketers the option of earning by playing for a lesser duration and with minimum travel, thus making life less taxing for them. Unlike international tours, travel during the IPL is limited. That’s not all; players can also come along with their families. In short, the moolah is great, and there is much more freedom in personal lives.

There are opportunities to be explored. One shouldn’t be surprised if more players go down the Boult, Stokes, and De Kock route in the future. The UAE league will allow nine overseas players in a playing XI, a path-breaking decision when it comes to T20 tournaments. There are also opportunities in the CSA T20 league. Remember, with IPL franchise owners purchasing teams in both leagues; there is a very good chance that top players are handed “package deals” to feature in different franchises in multiple tournaments across the globe.

Why Boult’s case is different from Stokes

Another argument that could be made is that, like Stokes, Boult could have given up one of the formats. However, the Kiwi pacer’s case differs from the talismanic England all-rounder. While the ECB organizes the Vitality Blast and even The Hundred, New Zealand players do not have enough opportunities back home. Given that cricket is not the number one sport in the country, the pay is limited. It is another matter altogether that New Zealand are the world Test champions.

Boult is 33 now, and if he is thinking about his family and their future, we are no one to grudge him. The ICC, too, has no right to complain. They saw the red signal ahead but refused to stop.

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