Traumatic week for cricket

2008-03-22 00:00

EVEN by the game’s customary standards, it has been a traumatic week for cricket. Folly, greed and posturing have been exposed. Seldom in its turbulent history has cricket been so badly served by its stewards. Frankly it is hard to know where to start.

West Indians might suggest beginning with the trio of players threatening to put their lucrative IPL contacts ahead of their regional responsibilities. Others will point towards the doomed attempt to suppress the breakaway ICL. Many devastated Zimbabweans will argue that the whitewash presented as an audit by KPMG deserves pride of place. Some will point towards Pakistan’s abject refusal to accept the recall of Darrell Hair. The abrasive Australian is not everyone’s cup of Rooibos, but he has done his time and ought to be welcomed back. South Africans will insist that the crassness of Norman Arendse commands first place in the list. They may have a point.

Ironically it has taken a former prison warder to show some stature in this dismal period. After all it took a former prisoner to lead the nation from its previous darkness. Throughout the debacle over the selection of the team to tour India it has been clear Arendse is unworthy of his position. He seems unduly anxious to impress his paymasters, thereby following in the footsteps of the clever, but equally destructive Percy Sonn. Thankfully he has had his comeuppance.

Of course it was not possible for a pale-skinned player to say anything about the artifices indulged in by Arendse and company. André Nel is hardly the right man to advance any cause.

Charl Langeveldt is another matter. His intervention has exposed the insult at the core of selection by numbers and colours. Langeveldt is a proud man and a capable swing bowler. As a committed cricketer he yearns to represent his country. But he wants to earn his place the same as everyone else. Although below the highest class, he has proved himself to be a stouthearted and popular competitor. Now all that has been udermined by his supposed patrons. As a man of dignity, Langeveldt does not want to be used as a pawn in anyone’s game. Above all he wants to be able to look his team-mates in the eye.

Frankly it is hard to know whether Arendse is better or worse than his predecessor Ray Mali, but it is a close-run thing. And, to think, cricket’s greatest men have almost without exception been black. Evidently these impostors intend to redress the balance. Langeveldt has been betrayed by those supposedly in his corner. Now he has scorned them.

If Chris Gayle, Ramnaresh Sarwan and Shiv Chanderpaul carry out their threat to put IPL before Test cricket, then let them go. None of them should represent the West Indies again. All should be removed from their leadership positions forthwith. Clearly they represent the worst of West Indian cricket, the greed, vanity and selfishness that has ruined a great tradition. Sack them and find some youngsters eager to serve. West Indies cricket can hardly get any worse. Already the team belongs in the second division. Caribbean cricket has been dragged down by past and present players intent on swanning around and then blaming everyone except themselves when things go wrong. Frank Worrell, CLR James and Learie Constantine must be turning in their graves.

Cricket’s attempt to ban ICL players is ridiculous. No contracts have been broken. It is just another example of highhandedness. T20 has given players a market value. This ban is not about principle, it is about power. Incidentally the palaver over the auctioning of players was absurd. Many people buy their houses on the hammer. Picasso’s paintings are sold at auctions. It is the best and fairest way to reach a price.

Not having read the KPMG report into ZCU it is impossible to reach any conclusions about it. Presumably it will be released. At least KPMG managed to find some serious financial irregularities. Perhaps they also found the shredder. It might not be possible to put the leading lights behind bars (they spend most of their time in them) but they ought to be thrown out. Irregularities are not to be tolerated from regulars. But they live under the protection of the BCCI, whose want of principle was reconfirmed by revelations that several of their victorious players at the Under-19 World Cup were overage.

About the only saving grace of the week was the news that Imtiaz Patel has been invited to serve as the ICC’s new CEO. Good luck to him. As a rule, it is easier to save a game from aggressors than from itself.

•Peter Roebuck is an international cricket correspondent who is based in the KZN midlands.

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