Monday, October 28, 2013

Why the “Spirit of Cricket” is the worst sort of hypocrisy

From the November/December issue of the “The Cricket Society News Bulletin”

Sydney Cricket Ground. The final over of the final Ashes Test match. The series is tied 2-2. England’s last two batsmen are at the crease. Australia needs one more wicket to win back “The Ashes”. England needs to survive six balls to draw the match and retain them. Peter Siddle bowls to Jimmy Anderson. The ball flashes through to the keeper and Siddle and all of the Australian team leap up in appeal convinced that Anderson hit the ball. The Umpire says “Not Out”. Australia has used up its reviews so that is the end of the matter. Except that Jimmy knows, as batsmen always know, that he did indeed get the finest of touches on the ball. So what does Jimmy do? Does he look at Michael Clarke and say “Fair cop Pup I nicked it” and walk off the field so handing the Urn back to the men in green and gold? Does he hell!

And if you think that Jimmy was right not to walk, which as an Englishman well you might – no doubt justifying your view by saying “An Aussie would have done the same” – whither the “Spirit of Cricket”. And what about the Christopher Martin-Jenkins Spirit of Cricket awards” – where do you stand on them? Because this is a moral issue and one that allows no flexibility.

The professional winner of the inaugural CMJ Award was Derbyshire captain, Wayne Madsen, who, according to the citation:
“demonstrated that it is possible to combine the highest level of sportsmanship with professional cricket,”
In a match against Yorkshire in July 2013 Madsen
“feathered a ball from bowler Steve Patterson to the wicket-keeper. With one lone appeal coming from the Yorkshire fielders, umpire Jeff Evans gave Madsen not out, only for the Madsen to walk back to the pavilion on his own accord”
“Jolly Good Show” for Madsen you might think. But if you believe in the purity of the principle of the “Spirit of Cricket” you can’t praise Madsen and at the same time defend Jimmy in my hypothetical case. You can’t say “It’s good that batsmen walk, but only when it doesn’t really matter”. And that is the problem with the whole concept of the “Spirit”, now enshrined in the Laws of the game. Men in suits of a certain age in positions of power or influence in the game, many of whom haven’t picked up a bat in anger in years, decided that it would be to set a good example if they created a fine sounding idea – the “Spirit of Cricket”. And they, and others, opine that walking if you know you’ve nicked the ball is a good example of fair play. CMJ was one of the chief proponents of this. In his Cowdrey “Spirit of Lecture” lecture at Lord’s in 2007 he said this:
“… the game would be immeasurably [better], if it were to become once more the inviolable custom of every cricketer to walk to the pavilion the moment that he knows beyond doubt that he is out.”
But, as my imaginary Ashes example illustrates, this is all so much pie in the sky. The reality is Stuart Broad standing his ground at Trent Bridge in the first 2013 Test Match despite knowing that he had been caught at slip. And there are plenty of other examples from this and every summer of a similar nature. That’s the real world, and it ain’t going to change!

“The Spirit of Cricket”, and the new CMJ Awards, are the worst sort of hypocrisy. Their invented values relate to a world that doesn’t exist - and probably never has. Except in the minds of those who, no doubt honourably, truly wish it was so. They may think, as the preamble to the Laws now states, that
Cricket is a game that owes much of its unique appeal to the fact that it should be played not only within its Laws but also within the Spirit of the Game.” .
But these are no more than motherhood words designed to give us comfort. And to reassure us that cricket is a game sans pareil in its values. But in truth this is not how the game is played – certainly at the highest levels, and it never was. Bodyline anyone?

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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Why is India doing this? Because they can.

"Why is India doing this ?" asks South African cricket writer Neil Manthrop on Wisden India about the Board of Control for Cricket in India's (BCCI) decision to play only two Test matches during their South African tour this winter. The one that is dropped is one of the great cricket events - the New Year's Test at Newlands.

So why? It's like dogs licking their bollocks -  because they can. Is the BCCI against Test cricket? Not if it brings in the money they're not. Five Test matches v England to look forward to next summer. Even SA only got four. But then with daily tickets at around £100 plus their share of the broadcasting rights it's a nice little off-season earner for the BCCI. And the Indian diaspora, most of them born in Britain (like their parents) will stump up generously for tickets and all the bright blue gear. More $$$ no doubt for the corrupt gangsters of Indian cricket.

The BCCI calls all the tunes. The Lorgatt affair is scandalous - but he was always going to be too honest for the mobsters at the ICC.

In around ten years time someone will write a book with a title like "Who killed Test cricket?" The answer is of course there now for all to see. The body is not yet a corpse. But it's only a matter of time before it's laid out to rest on a Mumbai rooftop to be pecked to death by the vultures.