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Jokers to the fore again

I'D almost decided to quit writing about cricket a month or two back. Keeping up with things on the cricket field takes too much of time and at times the energy just isn't there. And there are other, more pressing, interests that occupy the mind.

But then there are times when the old journalistic blood starts boiling again. As it did over the last week, following a comedy of errors played out by one of the biggest jokes in international sport, the International Cricket Council. And when such things happen, I just have to have my say.

Today, the Indian and South African teams will go into day two of an "unofficial" Test match, something that harks back to the days of apartheid, when "unofficial" teams visited the country and played Tests against the Proteas. The situation has come about because we have match referees who want to stamp their imprint on a game and are unwilling to use the same rules for both teams.

Frankly, I don't think that has a great deal to do with racism - though people from Mike Denness's period, people like Ray Ilingworth to name just one, have been known to refer to black players in the England team by unsavoury names which smack of colonialism. No, I think that if a team stands up and gives as good as it gets, then people will be more inclined to treat it on par with others. In other words, one should demand equal treatment - one will then receive it. I should know - I've been faced with any number of situations when people try to cow you down by trying to imply that you are not equal. Frank speech works wonders in such situations.

I hope that the ICC does try to get the third Test between South Africa and India classified as unofficial - something which can only be done by a committee vote, a committee that also includes South Africa and India. Guess whose side will have more votes? It doesn't take a great deal of genius to figure that one out. And I'd like to see what happens when India take on England in India. Remember, Mike Denness is from England - the Indian crowds know their cricket pretty well and I doubt they'll let the English team forget that.

It's funny - the day after Sachin Tendulkar cleaned the ball of mud and was accused of ball tampering, Jacques Kallis did a similar thing. It was there on TV for all and sundry to see. Mike Denness didn't see anything wrong with that. Neither did the venerable referee sitting in Tasmania when Craig McMillan cleaned the ball on the first day of the second Test against Australia. Different strokes for different folks. The ICC sees nothing wrong with this. But then the ICC is an international joke and has been for some time.

I'm old enough to remember all the bragging that went on in 1977 when Kerry Packer decided to thumb his nose at the cricket establishment and organise a rebel series. Oh, they were up in arms, they were, those gentlemen at Lord's and they had their fingers waving as they attempted to point out how much this Australian roughneck had sullied the game and how he was going to suffer in court. At the end of all the judicial manoeuvres, it was Packer who laughed all the way to the bank. He still does - I was watching what little cricket there was in Hobart today on Channel Nine which he owns.

So Malcolm and Malcolm can continue to take their "firm"stands and receive support from journalists in their own country. They will have to eat crow and compromise pretty soon - though, knowing Dalmiya's methods very well, I'm sure he won't rub their faces in the dirt too much. He'll be happy to cut a deal which gives them an honourable escape - and leaves them owing him once again. The fact is, Gray is heading the ICC today because he cut a deal with Dalmiya in 1997. And though he has personal animus against Dalmiya today, he will have to deal with reality pretty soon.

It may be a good idea for the two Malcolms to go checking out cake shops and finding out where they can buy some humble pie. They'll have to eat it pretty soon so it's good to be prepared.

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