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Cricket or not?

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One is not quite sure who the Indian government has targeted? Is it the cricketers, the offshore venues or themselves? If one is really honest about it the flaw in this so called ban is there is no consistency or base logic. If it is an indictment of betting and match fixing and all that was negative about one-day cricket then electing to ban only the offshore venues is pretty pointless. That assumes, most falsely, that everything in all the other venues is fine and nobody bets at Mumbai, the Oval or in Capetown. There aren't going to be many buyers for that. So, nothing is resolved by this severely limited copout. Again, if a venue like Sharjah publicly announces it is ready to aid any probe, investigate any accusation and take any action based on the evidence available surely it should be given the chance.

If the aim of the exercise was to take the circus out of cricket then linking Sharjah to the others displays some tangible prejudice and even a little ignorance. To call Sharjah an "irregular" venue after it is the leading one-day venue in the world is to fly in the face of facts. No other venue has paid out $4.5 million in purses to subcontinental cricketers or done so much by way of gracious hospitality to encourage the game in the only bi-partisan stadium in the world. Whether it is Indians, Lankans, Pakistanis, the Windies or anyone else the crowds are always there.

If the aim was to deflect from all other problems on the home front and the fact that it is an Indian web that was weaved across the cricketing world with its insidious strands buying up the faith, then, for a while, the camouflage might be interpreted as a sincere effort by government to clean up cricket. But when the novelty wears off it will be seen as a self indulgent attack on the sport and the result will be a weakening of the Asian entity in the cricketing world.

At what cost has this been done? So many good cricketers lose their purse. A million NRIs living in the UAE are robbed of the pleasure of good cricket and made to feel that their venue has something wrong with it. Not just that but the government to government relationship gets strained when this sort of indictment is issued.

Of course there is nothing attractive about the ban. In fairness to Sharjah, at no stage has the CBFS been asked to explain itself or answer any queries from India. The sad thing is that when sports and politics get intertwined there is a turmoil because politics has more power than the muscle and talent of sport. Wherever politicians have got involved in controlling a sport it has been crippled.

There can be no problem with any country cleaning up its act. But it must be seen to be transparent and upfront. To make such a searing announcement seven days before an international tournament is to begin is to be punitive and unfair. If cricketers like Pataudi, Faroukh Engineer and Chetan Sharma lose their financial honours what justice is served?

If India and Pakistan do not play each other how is the game served? If India allows the ICC to get away with the belief that it is the keeper of honest cricket then it is only a question of time before the Asian cricket playing nations will begin to play second fiddle to the other venues where a few hundred fans come to watch. Who in the world can beat the excitement of Calcutta, the divided tension of Sharjah, the one-day fun and frolic of the smaller venues in the subcontinent. Indeed, cricket at its best is an Asian thing.

And it is time the Asian Cricket Council and the Asian governments rose above their mindless wars and sat down to some serious talking so that the game is saved from the fallout of shortsighted and unilateral decision-making.
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