Not cricket, old boy!
Cricket, the Gentlemens Game has steadily declined during the past three decades to one of the bookies and now worse, of politicians. Every cricket-playing nation has become a victim of these twin evils. Englishmen who started it all and the gentlemanly traditions associated with it, too have succumbed to these evils and now are in the vortex of the crisis that may wreck the World Cup series and do untold damage to international cricket.
The worm in the wood, has been Tony Blair and his government which for political reasons, do not want to play in matches that have Zimbabwe as the venue. The official reason cited by the British government has been the security of the players. Earlier neither the players nor the English and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) had any objections to playing in Zimbabwe. The strong stand taken by the British government, however, appear to have swayed the players and finally the ECB itself, which appealed on Thursday to the International Cricket Councils six- man technical committee to have the matches scheduled in Zimbabwe shifted to South Africa. This committee, the final authority, unanimously dismissed this appeal made on the grounds that the allegations were: unclear in origin and of uncertain reliability, relying on hearsay and reports in newspapers and radio. The final appeal of the ECB is to be heard by a South African judge.
While security is the reason cited the British government, its spokesmen have referred to giving legitimacy to the Mugabe regime by playing there. What Mugabe is doing, seizing land of white farmers and handing them over to the indigenous inhabitants in dire straits, is not to the liking of the British Government and most probably most Britons. Nor are Mugabes actions being approved by Australia and New Zealand that were colonised by British and European settlers, leaving the indigenous people little or nothing to live on. Australia and New Zealand too have cited Security reasons for their reluctance to play in Zimbabwe but it is quite clear that all this is motivated by the antipathy towards the Zimbabwean president.
The British, with a stiff upper lip say: the games the thing and all that. But they should have known better not to mix politics with the game. It could well be that many countries in the tournament are fully opposed to the war which Britain and the United States are about to launch against Iraq. They might as well decide not to play against Britain in the tournament and not undertake tours of Britain if they disagree with the foreign policies pursued by the present and future British governments. All international sports will grind to a halt if politics is a criterion in international encounters.
In 1979 the United States decided to boycott the Moscow Olympics because of the invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union and the Soviet Union boycotted the Los Angeles Olympics that followed in retaliation. Mercifully, these political criteria went out of international sports and now what Tony Blair is attempting to do is to return to it. If Third World nations decide to emulate Mr. Blair, the repercussions on international sport will be inconceivable.
Of late, there appears to be another factor creeping into international cricket-the haughty attitude of the Big Brothers of the game and their inability to take defeat gracefully from less fancied nations. The boorish attitude of the Australians when playing Sri Lanka was quite evident when Sri Lankan players were abused in vile racist language unbecoming of those of a civilised nation. The fuss created on Muralitherans bowling action and futile attempts to have him banned are further examples of this Aussie boorishness and fear of defeat.
We do not endorse what is happening now in Zimbabwe where white settlers are being forced to leave their farms by black Zimbabweans. But those who are experienced with the process of de-colonisation will realise that Robert Mugabe held on for 20 years giving the white settlers only two per cent of the population to live off the fat of the land while the native landless population lived in abject poverty. The majority of the people, like in all former colonies, wanted to taste the fruits of Independence and Mugabe whether he liked it or not could have done little about it.
The post Independent history of former colonies is a story of the elites of the colonial times being deprived of their privileges and attempts to pass on their wealth to the underprivileged. Twenty two years after Independence in Sri Lanka, the first JVP rebellion broke out and the immediate reaction of the government in power after the revolt was crushed was to attempt to distribute the land of the Sri Lankan capitalists and aristocracy to the poor even though the poor ultimately were not the beneficiaries. The foreign owned Sterling Company estates were taken over only after the Sri Lankan elite lost theirs.
In India, the Maharajahs lost their kingdoms and palaces! The elite in Zimbabwe cannot be an exception and soon despite Nelson Mandelas charms and persuasive powers, he will not be able to hold back the blacks in South Africa from claiming plantations of the whites - tens of thousands of acres in extent.
The British, the most wily and experienced of ex-imperialists, should have known better on how to have avoided the Zimbabwean crisis .
Banning cricket matches is simply no solution to the crisis. Its simply not cricket, old boy! Tony Blair should be told.
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