Sports

Bridgebuilding is far better than burning them
Trevor Chesterfield

Bangalore – There is a quotation of C L R James, a famous West Indies cricket writer, author, and among other things noted political activist, that for the sake of convenience is all too often misused.

Some writers, Yahaluweni, prefer to do it this way as they feel it gives their opinions a slickness that hides their ignorance of what James was implying. He later hit at such devious plagiarism. To him it was a form of injustice and hid his original thought, which brought into perspective the initial issues of full West Indies emancipation.

From his book 'Beyond a Boundary' (published in 1963), the quotation is written about the game at Test level and the growing West Indies cultural influence and the long-awaited rebirth of Caribbean islands nationality and identity. This, as he explained in conversation with this writer in April 1962, had been highlighted by the West Indies tour of Australia under Frank Worrell's leadership in 1960/61 that began with the tied Test in Brisbane.

In James's view, it furthered the aims of island identity as opposed to the Caribbean federation that was 'foisted on the British West Indies by London' and where there was no allowance for genuine nationhood.

When he was reworking the book in the euphoria of that 1960/61 tour, the plan was to explain how from icons such as Worrell, Garry Sobers and Bob Marley to the average islander felt: cricket had long been a unifying factor. However, to present the James quotation in its full meaning it says, 'What do they know of cricket who only cricket know. West Indians crowding into Tests bring with them the whole past history and future hopes of the islands'.

So overwritten has become that first sentence of ten words that it has become a sorry clich`E9. It was used here again Saturday in a national newspaper to highlight a remark of Indian captain Rahul Dravid. He was asked to comment on the ball tampering event at The Oval and in a sense, his thoughts on the general overreaction by several of the main actors involved. As with his batting, and being the pragmatist he is it would make sense to adopt a streetwise analytical approach.

As it was Dravid's thoughts were more geographically focussed on Malaysia as the Indian squad, their final practice session at an end, packed to travel to Chennai and on to Malaysia and the triangular starting tomorrow.

'No one wants a game to be forfeited. What I do think is that we need to move on,' was his diplomatic response. 'Look, England and Pakistan are playing a good one-day series and the cricket goes on. The authorities will find the right conclusion to this issue.'

It was the sort of pithy comment that need no clich`E9d comment, but the ten word first sentence of the James quotation was trotted out again. Why is hard fathom?

James, a warm and charming intellectual, enjoyed the cut and trust of political argument and the hyperbole that sometimes develops from such verbal jousting. Later, in Beyond a Boundary, he adds another passage that clarifies the aspirations of those who celebrated that 1960/61 tour and what followed. 'West Indian cricket,' wrote James, 'has arrived at maturity because of two factors: the rise in the position of the coloured middleclass and the high fees paid to players by the English leagues.'

This was accurate when written 43 years ago. The first reference still holds true, the second less so, but the term maturity is the operational word here; the idea being carried forward by a man of the people and by players who were proud of their growing Caribbean islands nationhood.

Yet when we look for maturity beyond the boundary that James wrote about, he was projecting the influence the game had within the West Indies and its unifying factor. At the time (April 1962), he was working on the final passages of a book started almost a decade earlier. This was essentially about a West Indian issue of colour, and agreed in our conversation in his London flat how the topic went well beyond that of identifying island nationhood. It was identifying with the game that gave the West Indians a unified voice.

It was his hope that those reading his book would recognise, in time the universality of the sport to give it a more international character. This remember was early 1962 and at a time when the game's ruling body was called the Imperial Cricket Conference, based at Lord's and was looked on as an 'old boys club'. Four years earlier, Conrad Hunte had scored 260 runs in a partnership of 446 with Garry Sobers, yet along with a majority of West Indians did not have the full rights of universal suffrage.

Or, as James, Hunte and other West Indians would quickly point out the cult image of the game did not mean that it should develop one, as this would create an image problem. Unfortunately, the cult image was developed generations ago by the founding fathers of the modern game (back in the 1700s). Whether this or not has been the intention of those in control of cricket's administration is not the point, it is that they have tried to place themselves above the game and as such the laws and playing conditions through which its played.

This is where the trusted edicts of efficiency, integrity, professionalism and transparency become lost. Walking away from something because there are those involved who lack honesty, professionalism, transparency and competence is not easy. Just as finding the answer to the problem is hidden by implanted suspicion.

Fortunately the Oval fiasco won't go away. But at least Malcolm Speed has done what this writer suggested in this column last week, that corpulent Inzi stop playing the injured hero, zip his lip and get on with playing the game and face up to the law when it comes. If he is fined for a breach of ICC code of conduct, he has had it coming. Darrell Hair and Billy Doctrove, although already judged, still have an ICC inquest on the issue to face.

Several comments posted to my lbwbambrose email address suggest there are those on the island don't like it at all that the Marylebone Cricket Club (a private club), have had control of the copyright of the laws of the game since 1787. Too bad guys. As the laws were framed back in 1722 (known as the London Laws) and the articles of agreement for a match five years later between the Duke of Richmond and Mr Broderick of

It should also be pointed out, that as the two laws being challenged: Law 21, note 3 and Law 42, note 3, have been part of laws for more than 50 years, why suddenly query them now? It is all quite bizarre.

This is when the game displays its ugly face. It becomes sadly entertaining in the way that cricket can do without, farcical and with a touch of irony. Instead of bridge building it becomes bridge burning, or too much being said without a thought given to commonsense and that is not what should be expected of the game's leaders in this century.

It is easy to say it in hindsight, but had Hair applied 'Law 43' which as any umpire would tell you is the unwritten one known as 'commonsense', it would have rescued the game. Whether Inzi would have understood this is another matter. What has been interesting is that in general, the British media have been quite sympathetic towards Pakistan, despite the controversy surrounding the end of the game.

Now for something more positive that emerged while opening emails Friday here in Bangalore. Brian Murgatroyd, the hardworking ICC media manager sent emails that contained the sort of news that should have an enormous impact on the island. First is Mahela Jayawardene's selection in a list of 13 for ICC cricketer of the year; he is also in line for captain of the year honours (an award won last year by Marvan Atapattu), Test player of the year and one day player of the year. The awards are from August 1, 2005 to August 8 2006. This is quite a fistful for a young man who deserves whatever four of the accolades that the ICC may yet shower on him at the award ceremony in Mumbai in November.

The nomination, among others, comes from a panel headed by Sunil Gavaskar with Allan Donald, Arjuna Ranatunga, Ian Healy and Waqar Younis.

As expected, Kumar Sangakkara’s name is in the Test and one day player of the year categories along with Muttiah Muralitharan. What is exciting to see is that names as Malinga Bandara and Upal Tharanga among the eight candidates for the emerging player of the year. Both deserve their place but competition is going to be pretty stiff, and two names, Mohammed Asif and Monty Panesar are not going to be easy to ignore.

Last year it was Kevin Pietersen who won the emerging player award with a younger AB de Villiers edged into second place.

Australian Simon Taufel has won the award the last two years it has been on offer, and with him is another quality umpire from the elite panel in Pakistan's Aleem Dar and South Africa's Rudi Koertzen.

And to answer one query in the emails from Colombo, no it seems to have been forgotten that former Indian captain and spinner, Srinivas Venkat retired from the elite umpiring panel at the age of 58 for health reasons and not as was suggested removed from the panel. Memories it seems are all too conveniently short when they want to be.

 

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