The news that the ICC has banned the three Pakistan cricketers – Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir – for 10, 7 and 5 years respectively comes mostly as no surprise. The ICC had made its views on the issue quite clear if a guilty verdict was reached and the point needs to be made again that the ICC’s proceedings, although participated in by various people with legal qualifications and experience, are not those of a Court of Law. If the tribunal finds that the ICC’s rules have been broken then they have the right to impose whatever sanction they see fit within their published rules.
The ICC (supposedly cricket’s governing body) has found itself in the spotlight with the rejection of former Aussie PM John Howard from the post of ICC President. World cricket has its factions, at least when Lalit Modi isn’t throwing a strop and the boards are falling into line like good little sheep (and I could use a far stronger word here), and Howard’s rejection has opened up some debate on those factions and the reasons for it.
The reactions themselves are generally predictable but there are two which deserve highlighting for their crass stupidity and one for its spot on analysis.
The BBC has been crowing about how the Ashes home series are “set for free-to-air return”. Let’s take a look at the reality of the situation and some of the different ways cricket is broadcast in the UK.
England won the Ashes in 2005 in what must rank as one of the best moments in sporting theatre for many years. I cried with joy when Rudi Koertzen and Billy Bowden lifted the bails from the stumps at the Oval to signal the first home Ashes win since 1985. But this was a series shown on Channel 4, not the BBC. If memory serves, the BBC didn’t bid for any rights after Channel 4 won the rights. So we had good coverage, good commentary (Mark Nicholas may be seen as a smoothie but from what I’ve seen of him he’s a nice guy, Simon Hughes is excellent, Geoff Boycott tells it straight, Tony Greig and Michael Slater added raw emotion and hype) and highlights at a reasonable (and fixed) time.
People will debate the rights and wrongs of Giles Clarke’s decision to then award the rights to BSkyB. The money received at grass roots club level was sorely needed. Sky’s cricket presentation has improved over the years and is now excellent.
Faraz Sawat’s opinion piece in Cricinfo makes a very good case for the removal of Ijaz Butt from his position as Chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board. Regular readers will already know my feelings about Mr Insensitive, a man for whom firing cannot come soon enough.
Faraz gives us a brief history of PCB chairmen. None of the last three chair holders have covered themselves in glory and their foul ups are mentioned. Shahryar Khan is rightly criticised for his performance in the Ovalgate fiasco where, if memory serves, he preferred to sound off on the radio rather than be where a leader should have been, in the Pakistan dressing room sorting out the issues.
Back to Mr Insensitive.
As bad as all of this was, any of Zia, Shahryar and Ashraf are preferable to the utter ineptitude of Ijaz Butt.
If I’ve noticed and written about it, surely others closer to Pakistan cricket and its power bases have too? Yet Butt somehow remains in post despite being clearly and demonstrably unfit for purpose.
Mere days in the job and it was clear that Butt was opinionated, unfair and indiscreet.
See my previous point. We’re not talking about rocket science here, we’re talking about the basic good sense and good standards one would expect at the very least from a leader.
While Butt did well in principle to get former players involved, his choices have ranged from questionable to downright wrong….
Butt has fallen out with Javed Mianadad (sic) and Aamer Sohail. While both were always committed cricketers and no one doubts their sincerity towards Pakistan cricket, they are also known for their volatile personalities. Appointing them to any post was always going to be risky.
Javed Miandad must surely be one of the most abrasive, inflammatory cricketers there has been.
Then of course…
The lowest point of Butt’s brief reign has been his handling of the aftermath of the attack on the Sri Lankans in Lahore.
The least the chairman could have done was call a press conference immediately, express condolences for the victims and clarify the PCB’s sphere of responsibility. Instead, Butt alternated between being bullish, defensive and occasionally outrageous, as when he called for a life ban on the match referee, Chris Broad, for speaking about what he perceived as inadequate security.
Faraz’s comments about ICL players turning their back on their countries smacks of those who said similar things in the World Series Cricket days. The fact is that the ICL came before anyone else had put a Twenty20 league together and only the BCCI’s bullying tactics forced the ICC and national boards to ban players. Quite wrongly in my view and I will forever hold Justin Vaughan of New Zealand Cricket in very low esteem for being the BCCI’s puppet.
I do agree with the majority of Faraz’s piece, particularly the last line:
So low has the PCB fallen that almost anyone would be better than Ijaz Butt.
Who the hell do the BCCI (that’s India’s national cricket board) think they are? Lalit Modi clearly belives that he is a law unto himself as the BCCI seem determined to oppose the ICC’s signing up to the World Anti Doping Agency code. That is the code which applies to the vast majority of sports throughout the world.
The part the BCCI doesn’t like is the part dealing with out of contest testing. Players need, just like athletes, to declare in advance to WADA their locations so that they may be visited for testing. “Oh no, we don’t like that, we can’t tell someone where we will be!” comes the response. Why not? Top level cricketers get paid huge sums and have agents, managers and administrative staff. It’s not rocket science that’s needed, just plain and simple sensible organisation.
“Some of our players have had death threats made against them,” comes another counter. Hey Lalit, let me tell you something you might not know. That’s what the Police are for. You get a death threat, you pass it on to the Police. Again, the agent and administrative staff should surely be trusted with knowledge of the player’s whereabouts or else they shouldn’t be in the job!
My views on drugs in sport are set in stone. There should be none allowed and those who fail tests should be banned for life. I have no sympathy with those who missed tests. This is the lifestyle you signed up for. As a top level athlete you have a duty to be a role model and to be seen to be adhering to the testing regime. Again, it’s not rocket science that’s needed, just plain and simple sensible organisation. What is wrong with that?
If cricketers won’t abide by the WADA code then there is no place for them in the game. Those who back the anti-WADA stance have no place in the game either.
Again we see the BCCI trying to be bigger than it should be. BCCI stands for Board for Control of Cricket in India. Not the world. Just like Pakistan cricket provided a poor example in the “Ovalgate” test match when the team refused to take the field, the BCCI is providing another poor example here.
Begs the question is there a drugs problem in cricket?