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If I can just give to the world more than I take from it, I will be a very happy man. For there is no greater joy in life than to give. Motto : Live, Laugh and Love. You can follow me on Twitter too . My handle is @Raja_Sw.

Friday, June 04, 2004

Politics, Cricket and Cricket Politics

It has been a quiet month for Indian cricket and the public and media focus in India has shifted to another favourite pre-occupation of many Indians – politics. While it is probably true that politics no longer holds the same passionate appeal in the minds of the masses as it did in the days of the original Madam Gandhi, nothing non-cricketing rakes up a frenzy in Indian minds as much as a general election drama to decide the country’s leadership for the next five years. The media does its bit, the psephologists and astrologers play demi-Gods, celebrities jump onto whatever political bandwagon stops at their doorstep - and the cricket-starved public laps up this fare wholeheartedly with little else to compete for attention.

Mind you, I am not complaining about or belittling the process – India is the largest democracy in the world and, despite glitches in the election process, on balance the process works. It is no mean task to conduct elections in a country like India with its billion-plus population and tremendous geographic and socio-political complexity. Despite these practical difficulties, the process rolls on. Indians should be proud of the fact that their country allows them a mechanism to decide their fate for themselves – whether they choose to exercise this right or not. Many countries in the world do not have this option.

But what has all this got to do with cricket ? Quite frankly, nothing.I just could not resist a comment on the hottest topic in India at the moment – the elections. Having followed the political fortunes of many leaders and parties over the last thirty years (yes, from pre-Emergency days to the current day), it has always been fascinating for me to follow the evolution of the political process, more than just the results of elections – which in themselves have sometimes been quite remarkable. I have followed closely the forming of parties and alliances, the splitting of parties, the rise of “upstarts” and the making and breaking of issues on the political agenda of many a party. Politics may have gone high-tech over the last decade or so but the underlying Machiavellian methods to political survival remain as strong as ever.

Now, onto some cricketing matters. If I had to pick the two hottest subjects in the cricketing world at the moment, they would undoubtedly be the Murali chucking issue and the Zimbabwe drama. Since there is not much cricket going on, these two items occupy centrestage in virtually every cricketing discussion on at the moment.

I am not a cricket expert but as a follower, I will share with you my humble views on these.

First on Murali. His getting to the world record has obviously drawn increased attention to his bowling action but I wonder what the ICC has been doing all this while. Now it says he must stop with the doosra but why did it not come up with this statement when he started bowling it a while ago ? Heath Streak says that all Murali’s “doosra” wickets should be disallowed and while he may well be right, it is not a practical suggestion. What has happened, has happened and you cannot go back to changing the record books. Murali was cleared years ago on his bowling action by the ICC, he has taken tons of wickets thereafter, now his doosra has come up for review and has been disallowed. Fine, he stops bowling the doosra and gets on with the rest of his arsenal – unless the ICC finds anything else irregular in his bowling. In that case, it is upto the ICC to step in IMMEDIATELY and prevent further damage – to the game and to the individual. It is not my place to make a judgment call on the legitimacy of Murali’s action, it is that of the ICC to make this call. While it dilly-dallies, many notable current and former players, from Bishen Bedi to Dion Ebrahim, have freely lambasted him – with due respect to all of them, it is not their call either. In my opinion, the most sensible comment on this whole story has come from one of my favourite cricketers, Anil Kumble. He is quoted as having said "Whatever needed to be done should have been done much earlier. You can't keep pointing fingers at Murali every time he takes a wicket." I couldn’t agree more.

Now, onto Zimbabwe. The politics of the Mugabe government have been a matter of discussion for a few years already in many an international forum. It was inevitable that this would spill over to sport and to cricket in particular, where Zimbabwe has an international presence. Already the cricket world cup last year saw a lot of tension and some very unpleasant incidents, what with England refusing to play in Zimbabwe, Nasser Hussain baring his disgust (at the ECB) in public, Henry Olonga considering himself as a “marked” man after refusing to take the field. For what was an otherwise very well-organised World Cup, this was clearly something that should have been prevented in the first place from happening. We are now more than a year down the road, Zimbabwe continues to be an enigma and the ICC continues to twiddle its thumbs on the matter, claiming it to be an internal Zimbabwe problem. True, it began as a Zimbabwe problem but it has now become a cricketing problem in general, what with the game being reduced to farcical proportions with Australia being virtually “forced” to play a second-string Zimbabwe side due to ICC regulations. It is the ICC which sets the rules for international cricket and it is upto the ICC to review its rules and modify them, from time to time, in keeping with changed circumstances. They claim to be the caretakers of the game – if they indeed have this role, in my opinion, they are not doing a very good job of it. Unlike the Murali controversy, the Zimbabwe controversy could not probably have been prevented by the ICC entirely but the embarrassment and impact could have been drastically reduced if the ICC had taken some firm steps and decisions when the controversy started instead of letting it escalate.

That’s it for now. I would welcome any feedback to the views expressed in this article.

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