Thursday, September 02, 2010
They all sell out in the end by Mark Steel
But even so everyone in charge of cricket seems to be shocked at claims of Pakistani fiddling, in which the honour of the game was allegedly sacrificed for vulgar cash. The English Cricket Board must be especially horrified, because when Allen Stanford, on trial for fraud involving $8bn, offered several million if they took part in his Stanford tournament, they waited an honourable three seconds before replying "Ooooooh, yes, please, ooooh, of course, Mr Stanford, we'll change the rules if you like and play with a beach ball or play naked or allow a fielder to prod the batsman with a cactus anything you like, oooh, you're so rich would you like to grope the players' wives? We could have words with Mrs Flintoff. Oooh, so much money."
So their complaint about the Pakistanis must be "damned fools to bowl deliberate no-balls for £10,000. They should have held out for fifty". The current chairman of the England Cricket Board is Giles Clarke, who became a millionaire through investment banking, so you can imagine he must be appalled at how anyone could ignore the long term social implications of their actions and only consider short-term selfish gain.
Because cricket is about fair play and not trying to obsessively enrich yourself, which is why another recent chairman was Lord MacLaurin, former CEO of Tesco. Presumably they said: "This chap looks ideally suited as he's got an average of 14. That's nothing to do with his batting, it's his average place on the Sunday Times Rich List." If Richard Branson fancied it, he could probably wangle a place as England's wicketkeeper.
To be fair, this attitude isn't confined to England. The president of the International Cricket Council is Sharad Pawar, the richest politician in India, who's warned the Pakistanis should drop the suspected cheats because "if you have tainted players taking part it might lead to people not watching the matches and that has a knock-on effect for sponsors and marketers". And it is horrifying that players care more about money than the beauty of the game, with no thought for how hard that makes it to attract young impressionable fans such as npower.
The cricket authorities' current mania for 20- overs cricket is similarly driven by short-term gain, and it seems they'd promote whichever form of the game the sponsors and marketers demanded.
Next year they'll take advice from World Wrestling and players will all have characters, like "Wild Boy Pietersen" who bats on a horse, or "Secret Swanny Spinner" who wears a mask as he's bowling and sometimes the opposing captain tries to rip it off. Then the whole thing can be fixed as commentators yell: "Oh my goodness, the twelfth man's brought the drinks out but he's got an axe and he's swinging it at the batsman, who's complaining he can't see the axe because of bad light and now the third umpire's driving onto the pitch in a tank, have you ever seen anything like this, Sir Ian?"
The decision to sell the TV rights to Sky was based on short-term profit, although it removed the game from anyone who doesn't pay for Sky Sports. If the Playboy Channel offered a couple of million more, the English Cricket Board would take it, and the opening bowlers for the Ashes would be Candy, 25, and Ginger, 19, who'd promote the matches by sitting on the pitch giggling: "We can swing it both ways in the right conditions."
The philosophy that controls world cricket is the one that controls the world; to make as much profit as quickly as possible and never mind about what happens later. Perhaps the accused thought they were only following the rules of the game.
First published in The Independent on 1st September 2010