THERE'S a new kind of disease doing the rounds of countries which are involved in the sport of cricket. The bug first surfaced in Australia way back in 1981 but remained confined to the island continent for a long time. It's only recently that it has started spreading to the other cricket-playing nations. Strangely, it is not cricketers themselves who have spread the disease. Greedy administrators have. They call it trination fever.
Notice: after a Test series is over, it is not just the two teams which have matched wits, which play each other in a one-day series. No, there has to be a third team. One which has nothing on its itinerary, any damn team for that matter, is roped in and each team plays the other x number of times. Not satisfied with this, the organisers always have a final as well; indeed, if it were possible to have semi-finals with three teams, then the organisers would surely have held those matches as well.
A couple of months back, we had Australia, South Africa and New Zealand going through the motions in Australia. India, Australia and Zimbabwe are going through one tournament in India at the moment. And, believe it or not, the first two will do battle in Sharjah later this month along with New Zealand. After all, the folk in that desert have to be kept happy as well. One mustn't forget the fact that South Africa, Pakistan and Sri Lanka are doing their bit to keep the bug alive in the southern hemisphere. Later this year, India will play in a tournament with Bangladesh and Kenya (this tournament has been cancelled after this piece was written). There are probably a lot more of these triangles lined up; the ICC would be the ones to know.
What is accomplished by all these tournaments? The Indian and Pakistani boards have milked the fact that there are crowds willing to turn up whenever their teams play and have set records for the number of countries the two teams have played in. Now it would appear that everybody else is trying to follow suit, though they are yet to venture into territory where the game is yet to take full root.
Any occasion suffices. And sometimes you don't need one at all. Indian independence? Come along, we've got a trination tournament set up. There may be a fourth team thrown in to add some spice as well. One hundred and fifty years of cricket in Victoria? The answer is to get the three best teams in the world over here and... Pakistani independence? Oh, we've got a trination going as well ( a better one than that in India, mind you!). The prime minister's birthday? Boys, I know just the right thing for that. My great-grandad turned 75 -- and you know how we're going to celebrate, don't you?
The third team is, I guess, supposed to add more competition. Sometimes when a third bird is thrown into the cockfighting ring, the two who are already slugging it out turn on the newcomer who then gets the worst of the exchanges. The analogy is probably something along these lines; the organisers would know better. So would the makers of pornographic films for they it is who gave the phrase menage a trois new meaning.
We only need a few more countries to take up the idea and then this kind of tournament would become a fixture. In fact, the World Cup itself could be split into little tournaments of this sort and played on every continent; the winners of each trination could then be made to play the last stage of the tournament in some capital city -- maybe Paris or Berlin, since the game does need to be promoted in France and Germany as well. How come they have been overlooked so long?
Lest some say that I have a bias towards the West, let me hasten to add that there are a large number of other countries which need to get into the act and places like Sudan and Somalia are two which suggest themselves. Iraq and Iran could do with a couple of trination tournaments (may give Saddam Hussein something to think about besides biological and nuclear weapons) and Vanuatu is not far behind. I'm available to draw up an itinerary which also includes the former Soviet republics and those countries thrown up by the disintegration of Yugoslavia. And nobody will be left out, I can assure you.