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Different strokes for different folks

THERE was a song which was played pretty often on the radio when I was a kid. It started something like this: "Where have all the flowers gone?" The ending is what is relevant here. It went this way: "When will they ever learn? When will they ever learn?" That seems the right question to ask after the Indian report into match-fixing was released: when will cricket officials from other countries ever learn that there is something amiss in their own backyards? Just changing the rule book for themselves will not make things go away though some luminaries appear to think so.

Lord McLaurin is one. A few weeks back, this worthy was calling for Wasim Akram, who had been censured in Pakistan's inquiry report, to be kept out of the Test series against England. But when a cloud appeared over one of the England players, Alec Stewart, his lordship immediately exonerated the player and said it should be a case of innocent until proven guilty. Going by his own yardstick, Stewart should be omitted from the team until an inquiry proves that he is innocent. But McLaurin has this telepathic ability to know when people are innocent; all it took for him to conclude that Stewart was clean was a long distance telephone call to Stewart. Indeed, this is a Daniel come to judgement!

There are similar arguments being raised about Brian Lara. He was named in the Indian report as having taken money to under-perform. Hence, the argument runs, he should be omitted from the team until proven innocent. At the same time, the same people who put forward this line of reasoning say it is right for Mark Waugh to stay in the team because "he only supplied information."

This is selective amnesia - right at the beginning of the Indian inquiry report, the authors have specified that anyone supplying information has to be considered an accessory to match fixing. The type of information which they claim to have been supplying is easily obtainable on any TV channel that is covering cricket and bookies are not fools to pay for such things, runs the reasoning. I can't pick any holes with that one.

What's the difference here? It couldn't be because Wasim Akram is a man with a brown skin could it? Or because Lara isn't a white man? When is this damn colonial attitude going to end? There are cricket writers aplenty to support the likes of McLaurin, people who write bilge, the same ones who write that the West Indies teams of the 1980s were world beaters because there was no limit on bouncers! Sure, then could it be that Australia are the top team today because there is no way of curbing sledging on the field of play, something at which the Australians are past masters? I can just hear the howls of protest.

The Indian and Pakistan inquiries have been released to the public at large. What has McLaurin done? Why was the inquiry, conducted into the three cricketers named by Chris Lewis, not released to the public? Isn't this the same McLaurin who was going blue in the face calling for Pakistan to release the results of its inquiry? And wasn't McLaurin going to take issue with David Richards over the deception practised by the latter over TV deals? What happened, your lordship?

There are other paragons of virtue around, paragons who can give this worthy rump of the British honours system (incidently, something which you can buy, provided you have the right money and know the right people) a run for his money. Where is the portion of the Australian inquiry conducted by Justice O'Regan that was not revealed to the public? Why is it still a state secret? How is it that the Australian chappie, appointed specifically to investigate into match-fixing, did not find out anything more about Mark Waugh? Was he loath to travel far and wide and talk to people? Or did he conduct his inquiry (which certified that all was hunky-dory) over the telephone a la McLaurin?

Oh, there are more and more of these perfectionists, have no fear. Where is Ali Bacher today? Can he tell us what he did after getting hints as long back as 1994 that something was amiss? Bacher is very quick to make sure that some of his statements get wide publicity and others get buried. Come, O Ali, tell us what your role in this whole affair is.

A word of advice to all these worthies - before you stretch your legs out, make sure you are in the right position to sit down. Else, people have a way of coming crashing down on their backsides. There is a lot of crap in everybody's backyards; just make sure your own end is clean before you start flinging accusations far and wide. This breed of chickens have a nasty way of coming home to roost. Hansie Cronje found that out. And others will follow suit.

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