India strong-arms the world cricket body

January 8, 2008

It's pretty easy to predict how this whole crisis over the Indian cricket team's tour of Australia will end.

The International Cricket Council, the world body for the game, has already bowed to India's demand that Steve Bucknor, the umpire who made some unbelievable howlers during the second Test, should not officiate in the third Test. The other umpire who officiated in the second Test, Mark Benson, was due to be replaced by Asad Rauf of Bangladesh.

India's second demand is for the three-Test ban on its spinner, Harbhajan Singh, to be lifted. Harbhajan was found guilty of making a racist remark to Andrew Symonds even though the match referee, South African Mike Procter, came to this conclusion by taking the word of three Australian players over that of two Indian players.

The ICC will get round this one by delaying the appeal, which the Indian cricket board has now lodged against the decision. The ICC's appeals procedure allows for a player who has appealed against a decision to continue playing until the appeal is heard. Take it from me, the appeal will not be heard until the fourth Test is over.

Once India has left the shores of Australia, the appeal will be heard and will, thus, be a low-key affair. At the moment, there are more media people than cricket players in the mix. The appeal will either go Harbhajan's way or else he will be required to miss a couple of inconsequential matches - or even a single match. He will also be asked to undergo counselling or some such bullshit.

The ICC is already trying to pretend that its sacking of Bucknor is not a backdown. What a joke! Just yesterday, an ICC spokesman said there was no question of changing the officials for the Perth Test. Today it has eaten crow and done just that.

But there is plenty of scope for laughter in this whole mess too. I must admit that I laughed out loud when I heard that Australia was trying to claim one of its players had been racially abused. Come on, this is a country where the first legislative act in parliament way back in the early 1900s was the passing of the whites-only migration law that put in place the White Australia policy!

And the cricketers who came out to defend Australia gave me more cause for laughter - Michael Slater (the man who had a dreadful run-in with Rahul Dravid and umpire Srinivas Venkataraghavan in India), Ian Chappell (the Australian captain who pioneered the art of sledging) and Geoff Lawson (the man who was responsible for taking sledging to the level of an art form). Let's remember that most of the incidents of racial abuse in cricket - Dean Jones labelling the South African Muslim player Hashim Amla a terrorist and Darren Lehmann calling Sri Lankan players black cunts are the most recent - have all been perpetrated by good old Aussies.

I laughed again when I heard that people were trying to claim that use of the word monkey could not be insulting to a black man. What's more they even pulled in references to Hanuman, the Indian monkey deity, to prove that the word was not a dishnourable one in this context. Whom are these folk trying to con? Do they think everyone was born yesterday? Disingenuous would be a gross understatement.

Another reason to have a belly-laugh is the way people continue to dish out crap about cricket being a gentleman's game. Plus, of course, the umpteen references to tradition. There is money in the game, that's about it, and too much of it. That's why we have such boorish behaviour, that's why winning, at any cost, has become the only thing. What tradition? The tradition of cheating? Of insulting your opponent? Of questioning your opponent's parentage? Of threatening to sleep with your opponent's siblings?

There is no tradition or anything even remotely resembling it in cricket. That ended in the mid-70s. Let's get on with the game, bring in technology to the extent possible, and insist that umpires, like any other employees, meet some standards of efficiency. And let's get rid of people who are sucking at the teat of the system and who have no business being there in the first place.