Charity match reveals ICC’s mendacity

2014-09-20 00:00

LAST Sunday, I attended a cricket match at what is arguably the most beautiful ground in all of England. This is the private ground of the Getty family of U.S. oil fame. Situated at Wormsley in a bowl surrounded by the gentle hills of Buckinghamshire, nothing emanates from an increasingly uneasy world, where the images and noises of discontent dominate the news.

The occasion was a charity match between Brian Lara’s invitational team and the remnants of the 1994 Warwickshire team for whom the great man played when the county won three titles. The beneficiary was the impecunious Rwandan Cricket Association with whom Lara has had a long association.

My interest in this game resided in the form of my eldest grandson who soon goes up to Oxford University to read engineering and play some cricket. Just how he came to be playing in this match is something of a mystery. Availability was a factor but he had a good season in his last year at school and information travels quickly in the world of English cricket.

The luncheon, catered by Jamie Oliver, was a grand affair attended by a sprinkling of celebrities from the world of cricket and beyond. These included Ashley Giles, the former England cricketer who is shortly leading a mission to play a T20 cricket match at over 20 000 feet just short of the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro. This will be a world record of sorts but the main aim is to raise money for charity. Amazingly two full teams have enrolled for this arduous journey.

The post-prandial auctions raised a million rand, which was a splendid effort. The match then got underway in front of a thousand spectators who had come to enjoy an autumnal afternoon watching some gentle cricket.

Lara won the toss and decided to bat. Andrew Strauss opened the batting and was in such imperious form that one wondered if he had retired too soon. In truth, however, the bowling of the 94’ers was moderate and runs came easily enough for the Lara eleven. Wickets fell with polite regularity.

The England lady vice-captain batted at number four but was soon caught at slip. Later in the day she dropped a sitter off my grandson’s bowling to complete a miserable day for her, confirming in the boy’s mind that a woman’s place did not belong on a cricket field with men, amongst whom he now counts himself.

Her dismissal brought the boy out to bat with the current holder of the highest scores in both Test and first class cricket, and the only man who has scored every kind of century up to five hundred.

The boy has a propensity to run his partners out with depressing regularity, so his parents and I were quite relieved when Lara missed a big hit and was bowled. The boy himself got cocky after hitting a six and a four and was stumped.

The match was meandering to a harmless conclusion as the lowering sun ditched below the surrounding hills when it erupted into a comical and joyous conclusion. Matthew Hoggard, who had bowled with surprising pace for someone whose playing days are a distant memory, removed himself to a deckchair while he sent on a succession of young schoolboys to field for him.

With the opponents unlikely to score enough runs to win the match, Lara brought on one of these boys to bowl the penultimate over. Dean, 11 years old, marked out a lengthy run and proceeded to bowl with an action that was distinctly illegal.

Dean was smacked for a couple of sixes but with his fifth ball the batsman, Keith Piper, allowed himself to be stumped by a few yards. The next batsman, Michael Ball, was hit on the pads first ball. Following a raucous appeal, the umpire, Michael Parkinson, entered into the spirit of things upheld the appeal giving young Dean two wickets in two balls.

This should have been over up but Dean would have been denied the chance of a hat-trick so he was permitted the chance to bowl another ball at Gladstone Small of tortoise neck and fast bowling fame. The crowd was wildly alive to all possibilities. Amidst a terrific din, Small walked past the next ball to be stumped by Paul Dixon who then scooped the young man up and carried him off the field to tumultuous applause.

To the delight of his father, Dean was given a case of wine for his man of the match award. From cloud nine the young fellow claimed “his opponents had left the field with their heads down”.

His strange hat-trick was then reported in the Telegraph as though it had been genuinely achieved against determined former county champions and young Dean was marked down as a future England bowler.

All of which is a roundabout way of getting to my main point. Which is that the villain of this piece is the new order of the ICC , the kleptocrats from India, Australia and England who have grabbed power and wealth for themselves.

The question is why the ICC has done so little to get cricket off the ground in Rwanda. One of the ICC’s primary missions is to spread the game of cricket round the world. Yet so little has been done for Rwanda that it has been left to private individuals such as Brian Lara to raise money to provide a proper ground where the game can be played.

The cry from the new order is that they are entitled to a greater share of the ICC’s income. But the persistence of this refrain will be the deprivation of assistance to countries like Rwanda, where the game has gained a foothold against all expectations.

This match at Wormsley was a happy occasion that ended in an unlikely explosion of laughter and joy.

Its purpose, however, was an indictment of an ICC that is failing in its duty to provide assistance where it is desperately required.

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