Cricket—just when you think the game is getting a little boring, new twists and ‘turns’ brings it back to the front pages of the newspapers. Off-the-field cricketing actions have always created newsworthy stuff for the media men. And in the past week or so, similar actions have ensured that cricket, as a sport, will never be too far away from controversies.

It all started with the Proteas calling their tour to Sri Lanka off, following a bomb blast just a couple of kilometers away from the hotel. The fear-factor reigning large on the players from Africa is understandable, considering that the term ‘bomb’ struggles its way into the international pages of the newspapers in that country. But a question begs to be asked here. With the Indian team staying back, wasn’t there a security threat for the Indian players? But then, eventually hardly a match would have actually taken place as the subsequent bilateral India-Lanka three match series had to be abandoned due to heavy rains. An anti-climax of sorts, but very much along the expected lines!

The second incident that will take some time to die down is the Pakistani boycott of post-tea session in the fourth test match against England at Oval. Darrel Hair! This name has become synonymous with controversies related to the subcontinent. This name will ring more than a thousand bells to the Lankans. The owner of this name was the first to call Muralidharan a ‘chucker’. His list of ‘chuckers’ ran large, but none in that ‘list’ included any from outside the subcontinent. The latest ‘Hair’ raising controversy includes no chuckers or an individual, but an entire team and the cricket ball. On seeing the roughed up side of the ball, Hair, along with his Caribbean colleague, Billy Doctrove, came to the conclusion that the Pakistanis were upto no good and had tampered with the ball, thus, not just calling for a new ball, but awarding England with five penalty runs! Not once did Hair or Doctrove warn the Pakistanis about their suspicion. Not a single one of the 20+ cameras caught any of the Pakistani players tampering with the condition of the ball. In fact, not even did the two umpires see any players messing around with the leather and seam! A look at the scuffed part of the ball was enough for the two to come to the conclusion that the subcontinent men had ‘brought the game to disrepute by altering the conditions of the ball’. In protest, Pakistanis who were well on their way to a consolation victory, refused to come out to the field after tea, making the two batsmen and umpires wait. The cameras focused on the closed Pakistani dressing room.

After a few anxious moments, the protesting players walked out to the field, but this time it was Hair’s turn to act childish and be the protestor! The umpires called the play off for the day and didn’t come out! The Pakistanis eventually forfeited the game—the first ever time a country has done so in the 129 year history of test match cricket!

Did Inzy and co do the right thing by not protesting in such a manner? YES! Period. ‘Childish’, people would say, but enough of Hair’s anti-Asian attitude! I am not a big fan of Pakistan, as considering their history of ball-tampering incidents; they might well have done something wrong on this ball as well. But, show us the proof, Mr Hair. ICC apparently, has decided to stand behind its umpire. This is not a surprise as the cricket’s governing body has not once, supported the cause of Asian cricket.

In 1994, when England played South Africa, the English captain Michael Artherton was caught red handed on camera applying some dust from his pocket on the cricket ball. Was that not trying to ‘alter the condition of a cricket ball’? The skipper was let off with a fine! Inzy however, faces a fine and ban of one test and/or two one-dayers! This may not be for tampering, but for leading or for that matter, not leading his team out on the field and protesting. Hair, on the other hand, will go scot-free for his counter protest. A definite case of double standards!

Who is the eventual winner in this? No one! Who lost? The people who had paid money to watch some cricketing action! And of course, the game itself!

ICC—Idiotic Cricket Council or Idiots who Create Controversies, indeed!

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Retirement Plans…

“I think I’m gonna retire!”
“Like Ganguly, my form seems to have disappeared with age. I can’t win matches anymore.”
“Age? What age? Don’t talk rubbish. Form is temporary, class- permanent!”
This was just one of those cricketing clichés that my best pal, Vijesh used after a game, as we were brooding over ‘what could have been’. Both of us ended up being in the same team, for once, in a four-over friendly. The previous Sunday was the only other time I’d faced a delivery, after the September of 2004, when the Xavier’s ‘selector’ thought that “undedicated players” shouldn’t be a part of the team (mentioned in my first ever post). Coming back to the game, I thought my bowling in that game was lackluster, but I knew I had to make up for it with my batting. We were chasing a rather modest 26 in four. After the fall of the first wicket, Vijesh and I put up a partnership as we inched closer towards an easy victory. But, just as we needed five of the last over, Vijesh was run out and I was left with having to score just five of the last five. ‘Easy’, one would think, considering I have accomplished more difficult asks earlier. But Appu is one of those bowlers I hate to face. He has been my nemesis time and over again. And as this left handed batsman played and missed the second ball from the left-handed bowler, I knew this wasn’t going to be as easy as the equation suggested.
Five of four. But Appu’s impeccable line did me in again as I charged down and missed again.
Five of three. I just couldn’t trust the batsman at the other end for, to borrow Geoffrey Boycott’s words, ‘my mum could play better than him’. I made up my mind to stay in the crease and play the ball according to its merit. The ball was on my legs and I flicked it down to the fine-leg area, but alas, only if runs were allowed behind the wickets. We were not playing eleven-a-side and therefore, couldn’t afford to keep men behind the wickets.
Five of two. A thousand thoughts ran through my mind as I was clueless about what my PoA will be in the next delivery. Another excellent delivery and I played and missed. Again!
Five of one! I had no choice but to go down the track in this ball. Appu marked his run-up and ran in with the green coloured tennis ball gripped firmly on this left hand. And as soon as the ball released itself from the think yet long fingers, I charged down the pitch. The ball turned out to be a full-toss close to my legs. I heaved it to the leg side, this time making sure it stayed in front of the wicket. Vijesh let out a huge cry, seeing the ball high and seemingly about the clear the field. But to his dismay and to my own, the ball bounced about five metres within the boundary. As I was jogging the 22-yards watching the ball sail high and bouncing twice, I was pleased to even secure a tie. But wait! It wasn’t over. I thought the ball might hit the iron fence. It would have, but for that narrow ditch dug up just before the fence. The ball died inches before the fence inside the ditch only to be picked up by a joyous fielder. We lost! I banged my bat to the green grass and looked up to the heavens.
I couldn’t help wondering to myself—‘Blessen, the match-winner is dead! Blessen, the cricketer is dead!’ But again, inevitably, an ‘inner voice’ (or was it Vijesh?) told me, “He never will.”

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