A sad state of affairs

2014-05-31 00:00

LAST weekend Rory McIlroy provided substance to the comical wisdom of PG Wodehouse who wrote that “there are no greater feelings of relief and happiness than exist in a young man newly released from his engagement to marry”. Apparently untroubled by his decision to abandon Caroline Wozniacki, McIlroy won his first tournament for several years on either side of an Atlantic ocean that he crossed so often in pursuit of the glamorous Dane.

Alas, the jilted Caroline fell in the first round of the French Open. This would indicate that she at least has been shaken by the collapse of her wedding plans as invitations had begun arriving on the doorsteps of her family and friends. The only compensation for being half of a famous couple in such a situation is that she was spared the embarrassment of communicating the bad news to those who had been invited to the big occasion.

It must have been galling for Miss Wozniacki to have seen her one-time fiancé in such good spirits after his win in the European PGA at Wentworth that he enthused about regaining the number one spot in the world golf rankings. It was not so long ago, when his relationship with her was in full flower, that McIlroy’s fans were hoping that he would make the cut when he deigned to turn up for a tournament.

It just goes to show that a young person on the threshold of a career in professional sport needs to be free of distractions off the field. One hopes that McIlroy will quickly move on to more victories and that his former partner rediscovers the form that took her to the top of the women’s tennis rankings in 2011.

Elsewhere, the world of cricket has stumbled into another match-fixing scandal. This time the source of the trouble is to be found in New Zealand, which is some sort of poetic justice for it was that country that was harshest in its condemnation of Hansie Cronjé.

Chris Cairns, who is thought to be the “Mr X” named by Lou Vincent and Brendon McCullum in their testimony before the ICC inquiry into the latest scandal, has long been on the radar of the ICC’s anti corruption force. However, with just two minor convictions in over a decade, the anti-corruption unit is not exactly the epitome of a crack detective unit when one considers that corruption in cricket is rife enough to cause permanent damage to the game if it is not brought under control.

While admitting that he has been fingered as the Mr X of the corruption allegations, Cairns has denied all charges, but he is going to have some explaining to do to free himself from the accusations made by Lou Vincent.

Vincent has admitted his own wrongdoing in an effort to escape full punishment. His story has been confirmed by his former wife, who has told of haring round England to collect large brown envelopes stuffed full of cash.

The dilemma of the ICC is what to do with someone like Vincent who might be the person to unlock some of the secrets of the underworld of match- and spot-fixing. It goes against the grain to show some leniency to the likes of Vincent, who was making a decent living from cricket, but where would the anti-corruption unit be without the evidence of those on the inside?

What is worrying is that the ICC seems to be more concerned with finding the source of the leaks that led to the publication in the media of much of Vincent’s testimony as well as that of McCullum.

When David Richardson, the chief executive of the ICC, finally spoke about the latest crisis gripping the game his words did not recognise the gravity of the issues enveloping Chris Cairns and Lou Vincent or provide a clear statement of the action that the ICC will take on guilty players involved in match- and spot-fixing.

Instead, Richardson’s interview seemed intent solely on launching a “thorough investigation” into how the testimony of the New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum came into the public domain — a classic “shoot the messenger” response.

Cricket is going through one of those phases when it has been denuded by the retirement of many of its attractive personalities. As always, the loss of these players has resulted in a dip in public interest that will be exacerbated this year by the Fifa World Cup, which takes place in the heart of the northern summer. The ICC needs to be aware that any lack of vigour in pursuing the allegations emanating from New Zealand will further damage the game when public interest in it is fragile.

This last week saw the death of Chris Duckworth, one of the few survivors of the 1955 Springbok tour to England.

Duckworth, who played for Rhodesia, went on this tour and that of 1960 as the reserve wicket-keeper. He played in two Test matches as a batsman in the 1956/7 series against England. He was a charming, old-fashioned man who never had a bad word to say about anyone, but he was dismayed at some of the goings-on in modern cricket.

The remaining survivors of the 1955 team are the Natal players Trevor Goddard and Ian Smith. Lindsay Tuckett is the sole survivor of the 1947 tour to England and the granddaddy of all Springboks is the 102-year-old Mobil Gordon, who played in Durban’s famous timeless Test before World War 2.

An odd statistic from World War 1, which “celebrates” the 100th anniversary of its beginning this year, is that 12 Test cricketers lost their lives in it— four from England, one from Australia and seven from South Africa.

Given the scale of the slaughter in that conflict, the English figure is surprisingly small. The saddest loss in war, however, is of the very young men who never had a chance even to begin the fulfillment of their dreams — something that Messrs Vincent and Cairns might care to ponder.

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