Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Its just not cricket!

I am reverting back to the topic of cricket again because as usual something in this domain has upset me. I was deeply disturbed and offended by Saurav Ganguly being allowed to play after he was correctly banned by Clive Lloyd. Indians, specifically Indian cricketers and especially Saurav Ganguly have scant regard for rules of any sort. He is more representative of the auto driver mentality of "traffic rules are for convent educated". I hate this attitude which has consistently surfaced with regard to the Indian Cricket team so far - the attitude of " I am an Indian. I am a born Idiot. I do not know how to follow rules. I would rather flout it and then use influence/political pressure to cover up my stupidity."

The "extenuating circustances" mentioned by Tim Castle is shocking for even a casual observer of cricket. The delay was for 1 hour. Does he know how many overs can be bowled in 60 minutes? 15 overs. I saw the game, Ganguly had no reason to delay the match except for constant discusisons and slow over rates. It was incompetence shown in the face of defeat. No other reason. Wet Ball, rain, cramps all amount to bad excuse. It cannot mean you cause a delay equivalant to bowling 15 overs.

I think India is playing the "oooh! I am poor brown man! I am being cheated by white english saheb! oooh! I am victim" card far too long. India has become a shrewd manipulator in International Cricket politics. It has arm twisted the ICC to make it tumble like a monkey-show on the road.

Michael Atherton , not one of my favorite cricketers, but one of my favorite commentators, has written an excellent article regarding this issue. He will be trashed, not for the contents of what he has written ( because they make too much sense), but because he is a british person. And Indians are pretty adept in juding/forming opinions based on race/ past credit history than deciding from more tangible logic at hand. So if you find anybody critisizing Atherton's comments dont be surprised when you hear them say " who is he to talk about this? He batted very slow in his day, he is an average cricker, he is a snobbish person". Not one person will actually refer to the logic of the article. Purely because it makes too much sense. And we can have none of that.

ICC Has Lost credibility ( by Michael Atherton)

At first sight there might not be too much in common between this week's decision by the International Cricket Council to overturn Sourav Ganguly's two-match ban and the shenanigans surrounding England and their tour of Zimbabwe. Bear with me.

Ganguly, rightly, had been banned by the ICC match referee Clive Lloyd because his team took an hour too long to bowl their overs in a one-day international. As someone who sat through India's soporific over-rate during their Test series against Australia, it was a ban long overdue. Ganguly, though, appealed, hired a lawyer, was cleared to play in the first Test against South Africa in Kanpur and has now had the ban overturned for the second in Kolkata.

The appeal adjudicator appointed by the ICC was Tim Castle, and he said there were extenuating circumstances - a wet ball and an injury to a Pakistan batsman - for India's pathetic over-rate. Was Lloyd asleep during the match? Malcolm Speed, ICC chief executive, welcomed the move. He said: "This decision demonstrates the independence of the ICC's appeals process. [It] highlights the exceptional circumstances that prevailed whilst also emphasising the general importance of maintaining over-rates during international matches." Absolute crap. The only thing it shows is India's power at the ICC table.

The day before that drivel uttered by Speed, Ehsan Mani, the president of the ICC, admitted that for the first time his organisation had some sympathy for the England and Wales Cricket Board's position on Zimbabwe. Why? Not because, in a radio poll, 99 per cent of the British public felt their team should not go. Not because England's cricketers were holed up in an African hotel, for the second time in 21 months, being treated as political pawns in a much bigger and murkier game than the one they are paid to play. Not because England have a unique historical relationship with Zimbabwe, the nature of which taints every decision - political, sporting or otherwise - between the two countries. Not because Robert Mugabe has openly spoken of his contempt for Britain and will do anything to make it look foolish. Not because the ECB has long felt impotent because of the potential swingeing fine that the ICC have hung over their heads like the sword of Damocles. And not because of the appalling, worsening human-rights situation in Zimbabwe, one that England have been warned they will be complicit in should they tour. No, for the first time the ICC found a little sympathy in their hearts for the ECB because 13 journalists had been refused accreditation. Ridiculous.

Since this sorry saga began the ICC have done absolutely nothing to suggest that the wellbeing of English cricket means anything to them at all. Here is a recap: during the World Cup, Nasser Hussain's team sat, confused and threatened, in Cape Town ahead of their fixture in Harare; from the start, the ICC refused to accept the England team were under unique pressure; they refused to allow morals to enter the equation, thus taking a deeply amoral stance themselves; they refused, according to Hussain's book, to take the threatening letter from the Sons and Daughters of Zimbabwe seriously; later, the ICC outmanoeuvred the ECB by asking David Morgan to delay a vote on England's next tour to Zimbabwe until after the Spring meeting of the ICC in Auckland, at which the Future Tours Programme was enshrined as an ICC regulation. Since then, the ECB have had a potential nightmare of a year's ban hanging over them for non-compliance (despite ICC officials regularly briefing the media that such a ban is unlikely). The ICC are often referred to as the head of the 'family of cricket'. The way the ECB have been treated is no way to care for a sibling.

If the ICC had really wanted to help England, then they could have done so. Remember that India and Pakistan had not played against each other for years with the ICC's blessing. The only reasons countries can give for not playing - security or government pressure - were formulated to allow India and Pakistan the freedom not to play. No, while the ICC are prepared to bend over backwards to help India, Pakistan and Zimbabwe there is something deeply anti-England at the heart of their decision-making.

Throughout the week it has been Morgan who has received the brunt of the criticism. He has dithered and has lost some respect over the way he seems to want to fulfil the tour no matter what. He also missed an open goal by refusing the opportunity to pull out when the journalists' accreditation was turned down. But he and the ECB have been placed in an intolerable position by the ICC. Making decisions about Zimbabwe is hard - as everyone else in this tale has found out. In 21 months the only person to make an unequivocal stand, and say enough, has been Stephen Harmison. Morgan deserves some of our sympathy.
Relatively, the Ganguly issue was a small one. But, after the ICC's treatment of the ECB and English cricket throughout the Zimbabwe affair, it merely served to emphasise that the game's governing body has run out of credibility.

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