Principled England dismiss terror and opt for cricket

2008-12-06 00:00

Late in the 19th century the German philosopher Nietzsche startled the world with his declaration that “God is dead”.

He went on to predict that the consequence of the end of a spiritual backdrop to life in the 20th century would be the development of barbaric nationalistic brotherhoods that would eventually result in wars of unimaginable intensity and consequence.

This you might think was a pretty accurate forecast of the major events of a century in which the brotherhoods of Nazism and communism had such a dominant impact on the lives of so many people, never mind the two World Wars that killed as many as 60 million people. What then did Nietzsche have in mind for the 21st century that we ushered in with such optimism once we had all survived the apocalyptic forecasts of the Y2K disaster?

Nietzsche believed that civilisation — as we know it — having limped to the end of the 20th century on the back of a decaying God-based moral code, would suffer a total collapse of all values. People would try to find new systems of values, but would fail, he warned, because one cannot believe in moral codes without simultaneously believing in a god who fixes you with his fearsome gaze and says “Thou shall” or “Thou shall not”.

What the hell, you might now be asking, does this gloomy prognostication by an almost forgotten German have to do with your peaceful read of the Saturday morning’s sports pages? The answer lies in the response of the England cricket team to the carnage that unfolded in Mumbai, notwithstanding the irony, in terms of Nietzsche’s vision, that the trouble there seems to have been created by the warped adherents of a god that seems very much alive.

One of the values now confronting us all is that of standing up to those things that threaten the nuts and bolts of all our existences. The tragedy of Mumbai has provided further confirmation, as if we needed it, that we are all now in the frontline of the battle against wanton acts of terror.

That the authorities need to tighten up security all over the world goes without saying, but if life as we know it is to continue in a form that makes it worth living, every one of us has a duty to let the terrorists know we are bloody-minded enough to ensure that the show must go on.

Thankfully the England Cricket Board have made the right decision and Kevin Pietersen’s cricketers are on their way back to India.

The moment that we back off in the face of perceived danger is the moment that the terrorists can begin to claim a victory in whatever struggle they are pursuing. Who would have won had the ECB cancelled the rest of their tour to India? That is the simple question and the answer is neither on the side of those who love cricket nor those who love life.

It is all very well to mouth the platitude that “the safety of the players is paramount”. The trouble these days is that their safety cannot be guaranteed and nor should it be if the game is to survive. Certainly due care must be taken, but playing cricket is just one of the many risks we all face in our day to day lives, just as is catching an Underground train or boarding a plane or stopping at a red light in the early hours of the morning.

Cricketers have to decide if they want to continue to make a living by playing the game or to give it up in favour of regular day jobs of the kind that two-and-a-half thousand poor souls had on that bright clear morning of 9/11. Playing cricket may be a greater risk than boarding a bus, but it is also more fun.

Just take a moment to narrow down the implications for cricket if the England team had refused to go back to India to complete their obligations. India are now the great big momma bear of cricket’s biggest honey pot. The players are begging to place their bowls at the IPL table, but if Test cricket is too risky by what stretch of the imagination is T20 safe?

Some cricketers would argue that a quick meal at the T20 table is easier to protect than a five-course dinner. The short answer is that we know the Mumbai attack was planned for six months. If the England cricketers had been on that menu they would now be counting their dead.

What will keep Test cricket going if India becomes out of bounds to touring teams and its honey pot stays out of reach? Already Pakistan cannot get teams to visit their country and not all teams are comfortable touring Sri Lanka. England had their own problems just before the 2005 Ashes series began. How would that summer have turned out if the Aussies had flown home as soon as the bombs started exploding on London’s Underground? There certainly would have been no OBEs for any of that England squad.

Cricket is a fragile flower in a troubled world. Its family is small. It is more easily disturbed than any other game. Donald Bradman was fond of telling cricketers that they were the guardians of the game for unborn generations. The burden on this generation of cricketers may be greater than it has ever been, but this does not mean that they should shy away from the task of carrying it.

England should be applauded for returning to India.

•Ray White is a former United Cricket Board president.

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