Sunday, July 06, 2008

Zimbabwe, ICC and the art of possible

By John Cheeran
More than the moral drama surrounding the future of cricket in Zimbabwe, attention should have been paid at the annual conference of International Cricket Conference (ICC) in Dubai to a decision that will have deep influence on the way the game will be played.
Michael Holding, former West Indies fast bowler and now renowned television commentator, did the right thing by pulling out of ICC’s cricket committee in protest against the decision to alter the result of the Oval Test between Pakistan and England in 2006.
Pakistan was originally ruled to have forfeited the match, something never before seen in a Test, following their refusal to take the field after tea on the fourth day having previously been penalised five runs for ball-tampering by umpires Darrell Hair and Billy Doctrove.
A subsequent hearing cleared Pakistan of ball-tampering and, on Thursday, the ICC took the extraordinary step of altering the match result.
Holding made his point quite clear. He does not believe that the Pakistani cricketers indulged in ball tampering but failure of captain Inzamam-ul Haq and his team to return to the field for the resumption of the match should not go unpunished. I think the majority of game’s followers would share that sentiment.
It is good policy and smart tactic to snub the imperialist moral posturing by indulging in crass, vote politics and there by avoiding the extreme step of banning Zimbabwe from the ICC corridors. But bad behaviour is bad behaviour by any reckoning and Asian brotherhood should not come in the way of upholding the sanctity of the game.
I will not blame the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and its President Mr. Sharad Pawar for supporting the Zimbabwe Cricket Union. Yes, many of us cannot reconcile with Robert Mugabe and his regime. But banning Zimbabwe from the ICC is not going to have any impact on that country’s political and economical situation.
But much leading sport organizations such as IOC and Fifa have not banned Zimbabwe from their fiefdom. Zimbabwe is competing in Beijing Olympics. They are taking part in World Cup qualifiers. So the moral outrage in England, Australia and New Zealand over Zimbabwe cricket is uncalled for. By getting rid of Zimbabwe from the ICC, the Western bloc would have succeeded in denying the Asian Brotherhood a crucial fifth vote by Peter Chingoka.
But where the ICC has erred in is letting expediency overrule over the integrity of the game such as in the Oval Test outcome.

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