New Battle Fronts In The Cricket Arena 
It Is ICC Versus BCCI Now

By S Zeyaur Rahman

We Orientals can be forgiven for believing in all kinds of superstitions and jinxes. In fact we are supposed to harbour a couple of them. So I can be forgiven in believing in some kind of jinx in the cricket relationship between South Africa and India. In the last two years two major controversies have shaken the cricketing establishment to the core. The first was the match fixing scandal and the second one is the seemingly unmanageable trouble arising out of the decision taken by the ICC Referee Mike Denness. In both these cases a series between South Africa and India was the catalyst, the immediate cause.  

It would have been great if we could give such simplistic explanations for every complex problems and people were naive to believe it unquestioningly, accept it ungrudgingly. But my friends, we live in a world, which has been enlightened at least two centuries ago and there is no place for romanticism like these. Things, events, acts have to be accounted for, explained, justified on the parameters of reason and needs to be accepted by the others as well.

At the moment of penning down this article, the entire issue had been blown out of proportion and it would be rather difficult for me to take an impartial if not a rational approach. It has been termed as US versus THEM with all hues of colour and all shades of regionalism joining the fray, and despite all the media ethics I have to take a side and I will take one.

I do not feel the necessity to reiterate the exact chain of events. That has been told and retold n number of times in all possible way through every conceivable medium. That is the snow of last year, so to speak. What he have now is the dark clouds looming large over world cricket and a major crisis is about to precipitate if we do not take the necessary damage control exercise.

We can debate endlessly on the reasons that made Mike Denness behave the way he did. If we go by the picture of angst painted by the Indian media we might well end up mistaking Mike Denesss for some devil incarnated. The grass on the other side is not so greener this time because, even if a miniscule section, but still there are voices that are in consonance with the stand taken by the ICC referee. Why go further, our own Raj Singh Dungarpur sees nothing fundamentally wrong with Denness.

The kind of consensus that is emerging around the controversy surrounding Sachin Tendulkar is that he was not guilty of lifting the seem of the ball but doing so without the permission or at least the knowledge of the umpire. The followers of the cult of Tendulkar do not agree with the it and say that even body does that and without the consent of the umpire. Another school of thought says that everybody does that but does not get caught on the camera. Lifting the seam of the ball or cleaning it, is an accepted phenomenon despite being against the laws of the game.

The second objection is that Denness acted suo moto on the matter. Normally he acts on such matters after his attention is invited by the officiating umpires. It is not clear if acting suo moto is beyond his jurisdiction. The referee is there to assist the umpires in the smooth functioning of the game and you can interpret this clause in as many ways.

One has to really think hard as to the motives that drove Denness to take such a step. I am sure he was aware of the consequences and the ramifications that his decision was likely to cause. Was it a desperate publicity stunt? Did Denness want something happening in life rather than just follow the beaten track? One cannot question Denness for upholding the laws of the game but he comes under the ambit of suspicion because his act has neither consistency nor precedent.        

The banning of Sehwag and penalizing five other members for excessive appealing is not questionable per se but as per the context. It is not Denness’ problem if Justice Ebrahim chose to be lenient or any other referee for that matter acts according to his gut feeling. What we should question is has Denness been taking such radical stance in his capacity as a referee all these years. The answer is no. Then why it is this time and only agibnst the members of one of the two teams in question? It is here that Denness finds himself in the dock.

Anybody associated with cricket has seen more vociferous and intimidating appeals than Sehwag is found guilty of. But that has become a part of the gentleman game. I find it difficult to believe that Denness had a revelation that he was the chosen one to cleanse the game of all the ills that it had accumulated over the years and based on this divine providence he acted at the earliest possible opportunity. I would be satisfied only after he has explained the reasons for his over activism bordering on missionary enthusiasm and is rather close to abhorrence of anything slightly out of order.

Let us come to the second angle of the problem, which to me appears more problematic. The players apparently have been found causing disrepute to the game. But the manner in which the officials have conducted themselves and gone about the issue has undoubtedly caused more damage to the reputation of the game than an entire band of vagabond players could have done.

With these officials I mean people other than Mike Denness. The UCBSA Chief has not been equal to his task. He had handled the matter pretty casually to begin with and all of a sudden became pretty severe when things went out of hand. His Indian counterpart assumed himself to be the unofficial kingmaker of the world and spoke on behalf of all the wronged against people of the world on whom this discrimination had suddenly dawned. No doubt India is a cricketing power, at least off the filed, but the direct collision course that Mr Dalmiya chose to follow and later retreated has not done any good to the image of Indian cricket already severely scathed by the match fixing episode.

As of now all consensus has eluded the warring factions and the polarization is increasing. It would be too rudimentary to see it as a Black vs White issue. Certainly the colour factor is definitely there but it is not the only point of contention. The focal point of cricket has been drifting from London to the subcontinent and it had sounded warning bells to the traditional custodians of the game. No matter how much they resent the increasing prominence of erstwhile non entities, they cannot do anything to stop the power slipping away from its hands. India on its part must realize that Delhi cannot be substitute for London or Eden Gardens for Lords. The shift in power has begun but not yet been completed. More importantly, the affinity and unity that Australia, England and New Zealand are a privy to is a distant dream at any given time when one talks of the same in the sub continent.

The best way to resolve the impasse is to tone down the rhetoric and lower the stakes. Any further fossilisation of the radical stand will make the possibility of a respectable solution all the more improbable. It will definitely lead to a major embarrassment for either of the parties, which is definitely not good for the cricket community.




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