What's next for international cricket??

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  • Wednesday, September 8, 2010
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  • It has been a bizarre week for world cricket, one which has seen the gentleman's game plummet to depths unheard before, fall prey to growing greed, an inevitable consequence of the sudden infusion of fast cash into the game, and finally, it has seen a sovereign state suddenly trying to take over reins of Pakistan cricket, making the PCB look completely redundant and toothless.
    Yes Pakistan cricket was always politicised, but now the thin veil that existed has been completely destroyed.

    The question doing the rounds is what now for world cricket?

    Frankly, the way forward looks grim. With the Pakistani political establishment coming forward and saying that it will indeed stand behind its 'morally upright young men', considered by the rest of the world to be cheats, it has certainly been a bad week for cricket. The unfortunate reality is that the ICC, the ECB or even the growing clamor of public opinion looks totally powerless against the might of a sovereign state.

    Given the current state of stalemate it is only likely that Pakistan will want to diffuse the brewing crisis and with no legal charges labeled against the tainted trio of Asif, Butt and Amir, reinstate them at the conclusion of the current tour. If they do so, there's nothing the world cricket fraternity can tangibly do, for the charges are all driven by calls of conscience and there's a major difference between the legal and moral territories in this case. There are different codes of morality for Pakistan and the rest of the world, different definitions of proof and what constitutes proof and finally different yardsticks of judging 'morally upright young men'. Also, Pakistan is closed to accepting media evidence as proof, an act that appears perfectly logical in a court of law but certainly not laudable in the world of fan emotions and passions.

    With World Cup 2011 just round the corner, the crisis is rather ill-timed. At a time when we need the sub-continent to be one in hosting cricket's biggest-ever competition, we are actually witnessing the worst phase ever in India-Pakistan cricket relations. Conspiracy theories against India are being thrown into the mix by the minute and even the ICC has been labeled biased because an Indian is at the helm of affairs.

    Should the ICC take matters into its own hands and suspend Pakistan? Can it actually isolate the PCB? Will Pakistan then take this case to the court of arbitration in Lausanne? Can the evidence garnered by the ACSU hold up in the court of arbitration? Unfortunately, with every passing day, the list of unanswered questions keeps growing with very little coming out to tick boxes and feel a sense of hope.

    One thing, however, is certain. The ordinary fan is feeling a sense of outrage, a feeling of disappointment that can only result in him or her staying away from buying exorbitantly priced tickets and making it to the stadium. And ultimately, it is the passion of this ordinary cricket fan that finally translates into all the riches cricket can now boast of. Unless the ICC and the host boards are able to address the concerns of this minor stakeholder, cricket, especially in the long term, will be the real loser.

    The only positive I can think of is this situation is a final opportunity for the ICC to get its act together. For long the ICC has been castigated as a body that has been slow of the blocks, has always been extremely politicised, incapable of strong decision making, driven by political rather than sporting considerations and finally a body that is known for dithering in the face of impending crisis. Sharad Pawar and Haroon Lorgat can sure rewrite history if they stand up and deal wit this crisis head on. It is not good anymore to say the ICC has a zero tolerance policy against match fixing; it is time we see the talks translated into action. The next few days are extremely crucial for world cricket. It will decide whether a sporting establishment constituted by cricket boards from across the world run it or will state power, ruthless and premeditated, take over the control of the game in the coming years. If it's the latter, this might well be the beginning of the end of the gentleman's game.

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