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     Volume 7 Issue 22 | May 30, 2008 |

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A spectre is haunting cricket, if only it was as revolutionary as communism. An as of yet undefined spectre hangs over cricket, and while its properties have not been classified, its effects are plainly visible. Cricket has gone through its revolutions and changes without losing its soul before, yet now its resolve is being tested in the sternest way possible. From underarm bowling to overarm, from two nation cricket to 10 test-playing nations, from four ball overs to eight ball overs to six ball overs, from bodyline to sledging, from uncovered pitches to covered, from the friendly fifties to the factitious eighties, from test cricket to one day internationals (ODI) cricket has survived it all and eventually (this may be open to discussion) come out the other side stronger than it went in. But that does not seem to be the case in the 21st century as the moral foundations of the game have crumbled under the pressure of money and power.

A packed stadium braying for runs, this is what cricket has become.

The revolution of ODI cricket was initially met with scepticism, it was prophesised to take over the game and relegate test cricket to a mere sideshow. Reality did not align itself with the prophecies, test cricket survived, and the competition from ODIs streamlined test matches into result-oriented games. Fewer dull draws and faster run rates are what define the current test match while the one day game still offers a quick fix. Recently, another form of the game has been added to the mix and all for a quick buck. 20/20 cricket is the latest fad, and it seems destined to take over the game, but why is that?

Test match cricket offers a struggle between bat and ball, it separates the men from the boys while one day cricket provides a test on a smaller scale, it leaves us with a question-- what does 20/20 cricket test? Batsmen are taught to score by whatever means necessary, and bowlers are just happy not to concede 10 runs an over. There is no doubt that in terms of entertainment, 20/20 cricket succeeds like nothing before it, one can basically turn on and tune out. Every game is jam-packed with runs at a frenetic pace and within three hours there is a result, nothing can compare with it. But at the end of it all, it's just entertainment, it's a sitcom compared to a Truffaut classic. The problem is that in a few short years it has taken over the sport completely, the Indian Premier League (IPL)now offers life-altering sums of money and the best in the world have been pried away from their respective countries. Recently New Zealand set off for their tour of England without three top players who were allowed to miss the fist game due to IPL commitments. Therein lies the problem, with money being dangled before the modern cricketer the priorities of an international cricketer are being tested, and in a small way as New Zealand has done, they have shown their preferences.

The face of modern cricket, garishly clothed, swatting everything in sight with a 20 million dollar formula one car in the background. Seemingly the show never stops.

Aside from 20/20 cricket trying to take over the sport the general business practices of the game are also under serious scrutiny. The money-spinning IPL was launched to smother the first real world 20/20 league the Indian Cricket League (ICL) and it was all done in rather bad taste. After announcing the ICL the Indian Cricket Board immediately denounced the tournament as unsanctioned and a break away. Anyone who signed up to play for that league would not be able to play any other representative cricket in India again and with their power in international cricket, all other boards bowed to their demands saying all ICL players would be banned for life. The business practice was downright anti competition on an unimaginable scale and only because the Indians wield all the power everyone gave in. The result is that close to a 100 cricketers who signed up for the tournament now find themselves with an uncertain future and it is all down to the greediness of the Indian Board. What they did in response was to set up a 'sanctioned' league of their own in an effort to muscle out an idea they wished they had come up with in the first place. If something as anti-competition as this was tried in the European Union then suffice to say the Indian Cricket Board would be sued out of all the money it ever had. But here in the subcontinent, the heart of the cricket world, the mafia rules apply, those with power can do anything to anyone and competition is only as much as the godfather allows.

Tests could soon be exhibited in museums, with a lonely few showing up to see the great game it used to be.

Could cricket have sunk any lower, money and glitz trying to edge out the real game? The answer is yes. The bigwigs in the ICC also feel it is acceptable to still let corrupt Zimbabwean officials siphon off money at will. When Malcom Speed took exception to what was going on he was sent into early retirement. Issues like this have been swept under the carpet while sledging has taken up an inordinate amount of time, effort and energy of all concerned. It seems as if riling up an opposing player is more important than corrupt officials of a repugnant regime trying their best to sabotage the game in their own country. In the courtroom that is cricket, players are found in contempt when showing disappointment at the decision of a judge and to this day one wonders why. Seemingly the ICC would like to write a rule book spelling out every emotion a cricketer should feel on the field and everything other than those should be banned. What would have happened to the likes of Lillie and Ian Chappell if the code of conduct existed in their time? God only knows how far their careers would have gone.

Amidst it all, cricketers end up playing an inordinate amount of cricket a year, leading to burn out. But while the likes of Australia and India play 15 tests and 30 ODIs a year, Bangladesh and New Zealand would be lucky to play 8 and 15 a year. The cricketing scales are not balanced and the way things have been going they will not be for some time. The state of cricket is dire, entertainment seems to be the only thing on people's minds while the real game is neglected. Cricketers are pimping themselves to the highest bidder as corrupt officials plunder the finances gives to them. Nothing quite epitomises betrayal like the phrase "Et tu, Brute?" and in a way cricket has betrayed us. It has sold out, gone Faustus on us and left us with nothing to say but et tu cricket?


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