World Cup, Shmworld Cup...

March 9, 2003

The game of cricket has been slowly becoming a farce ever since the infamous Jagmohan Dalmiya became president of the International Cricket Conference and indulged in such grandiose deeds as admitting Bangladesh to the fold of Test cricketing nations.

However, his successor Malcolm Grey, seems to be singing from the same songsheet. The ongoing World Cup is testimony to this.

Fourteen teams have just completed a joke series of matches which has taken a month. Whoever scheduled the games probably has an IQ on par with the common cockroach - there was no spare day for replaying matches which were washed out though everyone and his dog knows that the South African weather isn't kind to daytime activity at this time of the year. In 1983, England had budgeted for just such an eventuality and all games were played to the finish with some being completed on the second day.

But how can you provide a second day when half the UN members are involved? How long will people suffer this kind of tomfoolery and hang around for the business end of the tournament? Two weeks and the tournament should be over. Then interest will grow. Or else, the teams who are allowed to compete should do that - compete. They shouldn't be washed away like some of the matches were.

As a result of this kind of stupidity, at least two Test teams have been shown the door in the preliminary stages. Two others went out due to their own stupidity. And one team, Kenya, has entered the second stage of the tournament from where it seems likely to enter the semi-finals even if it does not win a game in the second stage.

That would indeed be a triumph for the game and its administrators. In 1992, we had the brilliant rain rule devised by Richie Benaud give South Africa the chance to enter the record books by scoring 22 runs off a single ball. Eleven years later, we find that there are even greater buffoons around. If anything, the quality of thinking within the echelons of world cricket has sunk even lower.

The one good thing which the World Cup has done is exposed a drug cheat. Shane Warne came to the tournament with great gusto, making it his swansong, and vowing to help Australia retain the trophy. He is now sitting somewhere in Australia and probably avoiding tablets which his mother gives him.

Warne provided some comic relief to cricket lovers who feared that turning on their TV sets to watch the games would make them lose any little interest they retain in the game. Who wants to watch Glenn McGrath take seven wickets against Namibia?

Warne's excuses were nothing short of laughable. "My mom gave it to me." Sure and my mom's given me deadly things too. Trouble is, I was four when she did that and Warne was at least eight times as old.

Spin as he would, Warne couldn't bowl or throw his way out of this one but the administrators went soft on him and gave him a one-year ban when the mandatory ban is two years. Of course, this is common in Australia - when other people like Ben Johnson or the Chinese swimmers are caught, they are crucified by the media. But when it's an Aussie, why there are always mitigating circumstances.

"No intention of cheating." "The man didn't gain by taking a diuretic." "He was only bothered about his looks." "He's our greatest bowler." Yeah, yeah, yeah. Pass the butter, boys. And make sure mom hasn't managed to get her hands into that one, yet.