The International Cricket Council have postponed next month’s Champions Trophy for at least 13 months. President David Morgan said that it is hoped that the security issues in Pakistan will have eased and added that the decision is “prudent.”
In typical “fudge-speak” his carefully chosen word is an attempt to paper over ever widening cracks between the Asian bloc and the rest of the world.
South Africa forced the issue last week when their authorities said they would not let their players go to Pakistan, and Australia, England and New Zealand followed suit. As always, West Indies coat-tail India and the latest treatment of Zimbabwe ensures that the Asian majority at top level is as strong as ever.
Despite Zimbabwe being thrown out of Test cricket and being forced to withdraw from next year’s Twenty20 tournament in this country because the Government would be likely to refuse them visas, the small print in a shabby deal allows them to retain a full vote and suffer no financial penalty despite alleged skullduggery concerning their last annual shareout from ICC.
India successfully blocked attempts to publish a damning report from independent auditors and so forced the early resignation of former chief executive, Australian lawayer Malcolm Speed.
The decision to postpone the Champions’ Trophy came after a series of threats and counter-threats to and from Pakistan. Once South Africa made their stand, Sri Lanka said they were prepared to take over the tournament due to be played between September 11 and 28. Pakistan immediately said that they would boycott the tournament if it went to another country.
Suggestions were made that another minor country would replace them, and India ambivalently said they would not oppose a shift of country, but they fully understood and supported the stance of Pakistan. The decision to postpone is the easiest way out for the most impotent of any world ruling body in sport.
The ICC could be a proper authority, but lost any chance when India shamelessly forced through full membership of Bangladesh and Zimbabwe years ago to buy their votes on any issue India wanted. It is a complete reversal of the situation in the 20th century when, not without reason, the Asian countries resented a similar lopsided power bloc comprising Australia, England, South Africa and New Zealand with the West Indies usually on board.
Then came the deserved promotion of Sri Lanka nearly 30 years ago, and Zimbabwe when their cricket was run properly. Bangladesh became an Indian pawn to complete a reversal of the old colonial days and the rest is becoming a messy part of history.
England’s one-day cricketers now have four more games against South Africa in which to push their claims for the tour of India in November and December, although it is only natural that their thoughts are more focused on the Stanford multi-million bonanza in Antigua in six weeks’ time.
The winner-take-all format borders on the obscene with four hours of cricket worth two or three years of centrally contracted cricket, but that is the price ECB are prepared to pay to get the American billionaire on side. If the players really intend to win the lot or come away with nothing, then all sorts of divisive situations are possible.
Selection for one. Imagine someone in the chosen XI breaking a finger in the first over, and any of two or three substitutes used cling on to four or five brilliant catches. Or drop them.
How many outside the chosen XI are included? And what about the bloated coaching staff who are close to out-numbering the players?
Whatever the rules laid down by the promoter, is it really impossible for the players on both sides to come to a private agreement which guarantees a decent pay-day to the losers?
It might take months and a few brown paper carrier bags, but what would any sensible cricketer do if told he would win £500,000 or zilch, or say, £375,000 or £125,000 or any other mutually agreed division of the spoils.
It has been known in play-offs in top tournament golf. Human nature being what it is, and barrack room lawyers being who they are - especially in sporting dressing rooms - good money can be wagered on talks about talks.
It is an unhealthy situation, but what else can be expected from such an unhealthy one-off game?