Saturday, January 12, 2008

...howwwzattt mr. umpire???


A FRIEND who knows little of cricket enquired of the week's unrest: "What was it all about?"

It's a good question and one that would be answered differently by different observers. Peter Roebuck, who earlier in the week called for the sacking of Ricky Ponting as Australian captain, saw the Sydney Test match as a specific conflagration. I would suggest, having followed the match from afar, it was more a culmination.

The public intervention this week of John Bertrand, Herb Elliott and Rob de Castella was, I suspect, not the result of a spur-of-the-moment reaction but of a growing frustration.

The same applies to the letters that have filled the correspondence columns of newspapers.

Four years ago, a story appeared in The Age reporting that Cricket Australia had confronted its players with the division of opinion they
were arousing in their community.

A CA switchboard operator was summoned to describe the sort of uncomplimentary feedback she was regularly forced to deal with.

At around this time the players committed to their Spirit of Australian Cricket manifesto. Since then they have consistently asserted that their conduct is governed by that commitment.

It refers to "playing hard but fair", describes "banter between opponents and ourselves as legitimate tactics", but also states that "we do not condone or engage in sledging".

This was undoubtedly well intentioned, but such black-and-white documentation was never more than an invitation to competitive young men to find their way around it. Apart from the fact that distinguishing "legitimate banter" from "sledging" might test the best legal minds, how do you define the spirit of a game?

This is what has brought Australian cricket undone this week. It has been playing by its own book. It lays down its rules and then stretches them. The events in Sydney that sparked the week's crisis are but manifestations of an established attitude.

An example is the matter of appealing. The Spirit of Australian Cricket refers to the acceptance "of all umpiring decisions as a mark of respect for our opponents, the umpires, ourselves and the game". But what of the matter of appealing for decisions players know, or at least suspect, would be unjust?

Did the Aussies really believe Rahul Dravid edged the ball to Adam Gilchrist on the last day in Sydney? It might have won them a 16th straight Test but was it worth it? Apart from anything else it has led to the sacking of a distinguished umpire for the next Test.

The other matter that has inflamed India is Ricky Ponting's decision to report Harbhajan Singh for using racist language.

The Australian captain did as he had been encouraged to do by officialdom. He may also have been influenced by his awareness that indigenous AFL footballers have been urged not to hesitate in making a complaint if they are racially vilified.

Unlike the AFL, though, the ICC has no mediation phase within its process. Upon a complaint being lodged, it lays a charge. A guilty finding brings a penalty from two to four games. Harbhajan Singh received three.

Presumably, Ponting failed to realise that within such a volatile environment this could have serious consequences. How the hard-nosed Aussies would look complaining against their underdog rival appears also to have escaped the skipper.

Being an international cricket captain these days requires some sophisticated thinking.
The crisis that was unleashed has produced other unedifying responses.

The CEO of Cricket Australia, James Sutherland, opted for unity over statesmanship and took issue with Bertrand and company. He sought to justify the team's behaviour on the basis that it is not playing tiddlywinks. Neither, though, is it fighting a war.

India's reaction to the issues of Sydney was equally unworthy.

Amid all the cultural differences within, international sport has always stood one universal truth: the role of the umpire as impartial arbiter is inviolable. That the tourists breached this by refusing to play under Steve Bucknor in Perth is to their shame.

Then, of course, there was the International Cricket Council. It assured us that Bucknor was not replaced for the third Test "due to any representations made by any team or individuals".

Is it any wonder cricket's players are less than perfect when its bosses treat them, and us, as fools?
*Note: The piece was taken from Australian's The Age.

1 comment:

Mirumi said...

hehe.. Mirumi tak tau apa langsung pasal kriket. Masa darjah 2 nan 3 dulu, turun je dari bas sampai kat sekolah kumpul kawan-kawan, main rounders tak sedar diri sampai la bunyi loceng kena masuk kelas. Memang syok sangatttt...