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Controversy: The Trial Of Mark Waugh

Aussie Hostility To The Fore
By S Zeyaur Rahman

The match fixing controversy is assuming enormous proportions with every passing day. From something that was considered to be unavoidable but insignificant, it has come a long way. As the matter stands of now, the match fixing episode is right in the centre stage of all cricketing activities and threatens to decimate the entire structure.

We are getting more and more proofs of the player-punter nexus. That is not surprising but the dates that are being supplied are indeed shocking. The matter is much older than anybody could have guessed. Even more bizarre are the means applied to fix matches. The sex-for-underperformance deal has blown everyone's wits off. One wonders what more lies in store for us.

Does one remember the episode, which made the hidden malady an official secret? It was after Australia's tour to Pakistan in 1995 that two gentlemen called Mark Waugh and Shane Warne accused the rival captain Salim Malik of approaching them and offering a substantial sum in lieu of underperformance. I would like to emphasise on 'Australian Gentlemen' because later on two of them accepted taking bribe from a punter for 'some information on pitch and weather'. A rather decent way of making money.

One of these gentlemen was Mark Waugh, one of the frontline batsmen of his times. Incidentally he happens to be representing Australia, unarguably the strongest team under present circumstances. But quality performance on the field is no guarantee for infallibility outside the field - and should be no excuse either.

Australian Cricket Board has always been synonymous with arrogance. It invariably gets carried away with its hugely successful financial exploits, the reputation of its grounds. The splendid performance of its players and ends up believing that there can be possibly no wrong associated with it. And when somebody tries to show the other side of the coin, he is dealt in a typical Aussie way - with contemptuous ruthlessness.

The match fixing drama has been of an international character. It has spared no country, not even the superpower Australia. Quite a few of the 'chosen ones' feature in the list of the accused. It is significant that till date the Australian cricket establishment has not taken any action against any of the accused. On the contrary it has questioned the integrity of the accusers and has done everything it could to protect its players.

What stops Australia from setting up an inquiry committee looking into the accusations? The fear that something ugly would come up and embarrass it. Something damning enough to throw mud on the face of Australian cricket and tarnish the image of the breed that could no wrong.

Mark Waugh's refusal to appear before the ICC investigator has to be seen in this light. Why is he hiding? The logical corollary is that he has got something to hide. The ego and the superiority complex of being an Australian cricketer comes in the way of exposing himself. The Board has overtly expressed its disappointment over the lack of cooperation on the part of Waugh. But one can rest assured that the ACB
Will do nothing to help Paul Condon in arranging an interview with Waugh.

This is sheer hypocrisy. Even before losing the case, Australian cricket has lost its face. It has lost the right to point a finger at anyone else (if at all it ever had one). This is a very sad state of affair that ACB as a pillar of the institution that is ICC, is not helping in tracing the evil that is destroying its foundations. Not only is the step partisan and narrow minded but absolutely fatal.

Whose Loss And Whose Gain?
Was BCCI's verdict correctly given?
By S. Zeyaur Rahman  

There was hardly an element of surprise in the Board’s decision to award varying degrees of punishment to the tainted players. Remarkably accurate stories were already floating and had kicked up quite a furor. By the time the verdict was handed out the public reacted in away as it does at the end of the film, whose script is too well known.  If there was a surprise then that was in the lack of a surprising element. Our Board is in the habit of providing a rider along with the lot. A decision, which leaves us wondering, emotions ranging from disgust to disappointment.     

Still one has a feeling that it is not the end of the affair, rather the unfolding of another plot in a long drama, nay epic because of the magnitude of the affair. The stage has been set for a spate of counter allegations, appeals in the courts and some more damning allegations on possibly anybody under the sun.  If one reads the Board President’s statement a little deeply, it only strengthens the doubt or the fear of the saga going on endlessly. It says that the Board has decided to act on the basis of the report in order to ‘end its criticism’. If that is the top priority in the scheme of things, I wonder what ends are we going to achieve from it. 

Let us examine the individual cases. Nayan Mongia has been exonerated. This is a respite for the Baroda Wicketkeeper, which would remain confined to the symbolic realm. Sure we do not have a substitute for him but logic would dictate to keep him away from the team.    

The life ban on Ajay Sharma is another symbolic act and like all symbolic things, will remain inconsequential. Neither the Delhi team nor the DDCA will miss him much and he can go back to operating lockers of the people he knows.     

The 5-year ban on Manoj Prabhakar will act as a deterrent to the whistle blowers, which is both good and bad. Bad because not many people would come up with genuine information on malpractices and good because it is a lesson to those, who garb the cloak of morality, in order to protect their own failings. Holier than thou appears to be Manoj’s favorite guiding principle and that explains his disappointment on being equated with Jadeja, a person who had committed ‘more’ crimes than him.     

If an exonerated player stands little chance of playing again, then a player with a 5-year ban has no chance at all. Jadeja’s career is effectively over and he appears to be little bothered with it. India does lose a valuable player and a prospective captain, but in either case the need will not be felt much because of the abundance of emerging talent.     

The rise and fall of Azharuddin is the most pathetic and almost ‘cathartic’. The icon that, he was makes sure that the consequences would be of titanic proportions. It is a tragedy for the game itself. It is the falling of a giant tree and the ground below is bound to shake. One can write Azhar’s epitaph as a player but not otherwise. He had shown his ability of getting back to the centre stage each time after being written off. His studied silence keeps everyone guessing and could be a lull before the storm.     

With the verdict, a scene has ended. A totally avoidable one at that. An aberration in the game of cricket. It is the faith and the trust of the people that has been jolted. The guilty players are definitely responsible for the mess, but the inept handling of the issue by the Board has left a lot to be desired.  The Board’s decision has apparently cleared the stall. There may still be a lit of malice left. But for the time being we can hope to see a genuine game. That is our gain. The spectators will return, like a sobered up suitor in a ‘mehfil’ with the love of the game, but without the innocence of the love. That is our loss.    

One bouncer an over in One day Internationals: A fair deal

The topic that has stormed the current cricketing world is the domination of batsmen in one-day cricket. Not only the cricketing rules favor them, even the pitches are laid down keeping the batsmen in mind. This helps the batsmen to score big innings thereby minimizing the options for the poor bowlers.

If you look at it closely then you would find that except for the LBW rule there is nothing that goes for the bowlers and in that too there are various complications. So, in order to balance the game a bit, some of the senior players and commentators have raised a few questions about the way the rules have been worked out and how there should be a more serious look taken at them. The rule in question is the one where the bowler should be allowed to bowl a bouncer an over. Australian captain Steve Waugh has been the most vocal of all, as he thinks that the 15 overs rule is totally for the batsmen. They have no hesitancy in walking on the pitch even to the best bowlers because they know that the bowler would not bowl a bouncer as it would concede a run and secondly he can’t get out.

The point raised thus sounds fully justified as it would not only give a weapon to the bowlers to work with but would also play on the batsmen’s mind. At the end of the day one does feel for the bowlers as they too work as hard as the batsmen but only a few get the limelight, infact the skilled one’s too have to face the tough times. The authorities are still quiet about their decision on the said subject, but this point has quite a few supporters and it would not be long before something would be done. Lets hope it happens soon enough to bring some sanity to the game called ‘Cricket’.

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