The “Spirit of Cricket” Lecture That Wasn’t

By thecricketcouch
On June 28, 2012 At 2:01 am

Category : Featured, Miscellaneous

Responses : 23 Comments

The Spirit of Cricket. It is a nebulous idea, many would claim. It has been abused, beaten in to shapes that would suit select narratives and used to hammer away at perceived injustices. But the essential core of that vague but brilliant idea, the essence of it, is fair play, honor and honesty. It is an ideal that the millions, who play the sport, professionally and otherwise, should aspire to. It is as fragile a concept as society is.

It is within this construct that I believe that the “Spirit of Cricket” lecture delivered by the former England captain Tony Greig under the auspices of MCC on June 26, 2012 to be falling way short of that ideal.

No, it wasn’t the messenger. It was the message that I have issues with. There was a larger point to the lecture delivered but was undermined by the contradictions, sweeping generalizations, blanket statements and factual inaccuracies that formed the edifice on which a very valid point resided. The lecture did not advance the discussion on the current state of affairs within cricket but instead drove an additional wedge in to an already polarized cricket world. People who already had established views that aligned with the general theme of the lecture felt emboldened that a speaker at such a magnificent platform was taking up their cause, and those who began the day thinking that the speaker had an axe to grind would have walked away from it with their notions reaffirmed. Thus, it was a wonderful opportunity lost by Greig to make nuanced arguments based on clear and accurate facts that could have furthered the discussion, and to bring both sides of the aisle a little closer.

Any other person that did not have the baggage of Kerry Packer and World Series Cricket could have delivered the lecture but if they had produced what Greig did in this lecture in terms of “Spirit of Cricket”, I would still have the same issues, regardless. For all I care, it could have been Stephen Hawking’s speech generating device delivering the lecture.

I believe Greig may have found a newer venue outside of the Channel 9 commentary box and Twitter, in the Nursery Pavilion, but the message has stayed the same. Anyone that had been following cricket in the last few years beyond a cursory level of interest would have immediately identified the central theme of the lecture as soon as it was announced that Greig was going to be the 2012 speaker. It is for this reason that Greig needed to carefully make a well thought out criticism rather than walk the well trodden path of BCCI is the be all and end all of problems facing cricket.

When he said, “India’s apparent indifference towards Test cricket” did he mean the BCCI or the Indian fans? If it is the former, then, how? Is Greig appalled by the lack of comfortable facilities for the spectators in Indian stadiums that may be discouraging them from coming through the turnstiles? Is he aghast that BCCI only sent a shadow of their first XI to play a three test series against the West Indies in 2011, because of a cramped calendar of an IPL tournament following a world cup tourney? Or does he believe BCCI just does not schedule sufficient number of tests – which is not the case? Or was it the fact that a home test series against West Indies had a test starting on a Monday, and only 2 days (out of the 15) where the cricket was played over a weekend? If he had qualified his statement, there would be significantly more takers.

He made a laundry list of disappointing decisions by India (by that I think he means BCCI): “its indifference to the urgency to introduce anti-doping rules; the rumoured corruption hanging over the IPL; its attitude to the Decision Review System; and its role in the lack of due process in stopping former Australian Prime Minister John Howard being appointed vice president of the ICC.”

Each of these accusations needed to be qualified because that would have been the fair thing to do. If you are not going to give due diligence to the various claims and a fair shake to the ones you are criticizing, and just make one sweeping statement, then what is the whole point of having the pulpit at MCC and the attention of the cricket world?

BCCI was opposed to the “whereabouts” clause (giving deference to their players’ privacy and security issues) of the WADA’s anti-doping rules and not the whole legislation itself; He accuses of corruption in IPL based on “rumors”; Howard’s nomination was already opposed by 5 full members not named India (Pakistan, Zimbabwe, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and South Africa). If he was aggrieved that India did not use its clout in ICC to push forward Howard’s nomination, isn’t that just ironical? And DRS is the system that the ICC tried to shove down its members’ throats without any level of independent scientific scrutiny.

It was reported that the universal application of DRS was not even put to vote in the ongoing ICC meetings in Malaysia. Not one full member of ICC; Not one associate member. There were 16 representatives at the table including 3 members of the ICC management committee and not one thought it fit to even ask for a vote on an issue that has been the polarizing issue in the last 3-4 years and yet, it is the BCCI’s fault!

The ICC’s internal executive was bitterly disappointed that India was responsible for canning the scheduled 2013 Test championship. Unless India embraces the spirit of cricket I wouldn’t hold my breath about the scheduled 2017 Test championship being played.

This is an outright false statement. ICC released a statement while announcing the postponement of Test Championship from 2013, saying “there would be significant commercial challenges in replacing the Champions Trophy without the support and consent of the ICC’s broadcast partner since the financial implications on the Members would be significant.” Since the BCCI is the wealthiest cricket board, they wouldn’t be the one facing any significant commercial challenges, now would they?

I think all players should agree to take lie detector tests and all should agree that if they failed the tests, they would give the officials access to their bank account records and phone records.

Excuse me? How is that fair? How is that within the spirit of cricket? I have detailed my reservations about lie detector tests when Rahul Dravid, during his Bradman Oration, invoked that idea originally put forth by his idol Steve Waugh.

Test cricket is still paramount in England, South Africa and Australia but disappointingly it is no longer as important in India as it once was.

Once again, is Greig talking about the fans of these respective nations or their cricket boards? If it is the boards, how does he justify South Africa canceling their Boxing Day test in favor of a T20, as that would be more of a crowd puller? How about Australia flying all the way to England to squeeze in a few meaningless ODIs before England face up to South Africa in three test series?

While Greig is quick to ascribe blame to India BCCI for all that it may be doing wrong, he is equally swift in absolving the other boards of their actions. Where is the balanced view of the global cricket proceedings? Where is the fairness that is invoked by the spirit of cricket?

I do not disregard everything Tony Greig had to say in his lecture but I take it with a helping of salt. I do believe BCCI has a significant role to play in the shaping of cricket’s future and must cherish that responsibility and take up that challenge. They must begin that at home with the treatment of the Indian fans, the comforts of the fans in a cricket stadium during Tests and ODIs and not just the IPL, and restoring the sacred bond between on-field action and at-home viewer by clamping down on the intrusive ads.

As Greig himself said, “[Spirit of cricket] is about something far more enduring, adhering to a set of values that can elevate you above the hum drum, above the cynicism that can drag you down if you let it.” I want to believe that Greig made the observations and criticisms with the best intentions at heart but the unbalanced level of it makes me think otherwise. It was  a perfect opportunity and the platform for him to rise above his preconceived notions that he has so abundantly made clear to us from the commentary box and on Twitter.

The Cowdrey “spirit of Cricket” lecture needed Greig to be a statesman delivering the message to the cricket world and not just to one nation’s board. If this was “Spirit of Cricket that BCCI needs to exhibit” lecture, Greig would have been spot on, but sadly it wasn’t.

  • http://idlesummers.com Russ

    Just on the ICC Board. The ICC management doesn’t have a vote, and I don’t believe they can put things to a vote as a consequence (though I can’t be sure of that); further, any measure needs a two-third majority of full members (7) in addition to a simple majority of all board members (also 7), so it is completely irrelevant whether the associate members vote on any measure. Clearly on the DRS (as with the test championship), the BCCI offered the right political concessions or inducements to ensure the vote would fail, and as a consequence no vote was proceeded with.

    The board governance is a shambles, because the board is so easily manipulated (not just by the BCCI, the ECB and CA are as bad, just not as good at it), with no voices independent of the full members. Hence the reason the Woolf report was so critical, and why I found Greig’s comments on that matter so egregious. At least he took the time to praise the BCCI, albeit in a manner that made the rest of the world sound like beggars, not partners, and grossly overstates the BCCI’s value, as opposed to the more relevant Indian fan; re-read what he had to say about the spirit of cricket as it applies to associates!

    • thecricketcouch

      Russ – Thanks for the comment, mate. Yes, I’m aware that ICC management does not have a vote but they can call for a vote on an issue, for the members to vote on.

      Regarding BCCI offering right political concessions, which may or may not be true, what was more surprising was that it wasn’t even put to vote. If the nations were so united in having an universal DRS, there should have at least been a vote, for us to see where everyone stood. Whether they put the money where their mouth is. The fact that none of the full members deemed it fit to even ask for a vote shows that they are out to protect their own interests and don’t really care a jot about anything else. Which is exactly what BCCI is accused for. Hence my point about wanting even handed criticism of the boards, rather than paint BCCI as the devil and absolve the others.

      • http://idlesummers.com Russ

        Subash, I don’t disagree with criticising other boards; Haroon Lorgat agrees with you too. His interview in the National was more scathing of the “dependency mentality” of other boards. I think it is naive to expect a vote on the matter in the current climate. My reading of the politics is that four nations have DRS and want everyone to use it, five don’t have it, want it, but aren’t willing to use ICC funds for it given the cost, and India who may or may not want it (the ICC Executive Board was unanimous after all) but may be trying to extract concessions in other areas.

        Politicians don’t show their hand unless they have to, and a vote might make it more difficult to bring up at subsequent meetings. Better to leave it hanging, keep lobbying. The reality is that unless a means is found to pay for DRS globally in a way that won’t impact the bottom line of the financially vulnerable, it is only a theoretical question for most of the full members. In theory, they want it, in practice, they won’t get it anyway.

        Extracting concessions from the BCCI in exchange for votes is how the board operates. From his comments on governance, Tony Greig seems to believe that entrenched privilege is a good thing, but that members need to act like gentleman, for the good of the game. In this, at least, he is fully in tune with “the spirit of cricket”, speaking at a lecture named after cricket’s last gentleman amateur and scion of establishment privilege. We should be more concerned that that concept is utter nonsense, than worrying about perceived slights against India.

        • thecricketcouch

          Russ,

          It is not the perceived slights against India that bothers me. The fact that a speech loaded with inaccuracies, downright false statements is passed off as “spirit of cricket”. I only used the instances about India as raised by Greig to highlight the not-so-factual, blanket statements.

          My post is by no means supposed to be an “Indian perspective” but the view of a cricket fan who happens to be from India.

        • http://idlesummers.com Russ

          Subash, I don’t disagree with most of your post, which is why I focused on a single element of it. But let me ask you a different question, what do you think the “spirit of cricket” is?

          • thecricketcouch

            Russ, I think i mentioned in the post what “Spirit of Cricket” means to me: Honesty, Fairness and Honor.

  • http://Website DAVID FRITH

    RE THE APPALLING REJECTION OF JOHN HOWARD AS ICC VICE-PRESIDENT, THE FIVE COUNTRIES NAMED – “NOT INDIA” – ARE ACOLYTES OF THAT COUNTRY, AND THAT’S WHAT COUNTED.

    • http://Website MIA

      ZIMBABWE AND SOUTH AFRICA??? ACOLYTES MY A***

  • http://Website Stew

    Just thought I would add this article for balance:-

    http://www.espncricinfo.com/magazine/content/story/570263.html

    Plus almost everybody in the world knows that Pakistani and Indian cricket is rife with corruption, we would be naive to think otherwise, and yet India (BCCI, whoever/ whatever you wish to call it) seem to be above the law in every single aspect.
    Corruption
    DRS
    Players stamping their feet about ball tampering….sachin tendulkar…

    Money talks, and that is why India (BCCI) shouts from th rooftops at every opportunity.

    • http://Website MIA

      hA HA SOUR GRAPES TASTE RANK DONT THEY? FORGOTTEN ARE THE DAYS WHEN THE ENGLISH AND AUSTRAILIAN CRICKET BODIES TREATED INDIA WITH BLATANT CONTEMPT. GROW UP AND DEAL WITH IT!

      • http://Website Stew

        Sour grapes, no I don’t believe so, looking for a little perspective and a less blinkered outlook, yes definitely.

        Indians are fanatical borderline obsessed with cricket, how can impartial views be imparted.

        Burning effigies for example.

        But thanks for the response, not particularly thoughtful.

    • thecricketcouch

      Stew,

      Yes, I read that Mark Nicholas piece. Thank you. Regarding corruption, I’d like to stay out of innuendos. If someone has the proof, they need to produce it.

      • http://Website Stew

        Thanks for the reply, its not solely about corruption, its also about the fact that if something goes against India, the BCCI flexes its muscles and look what happened:-

        ‘The BCCI threatened to call off its tour of South Africa unless Mike Denness was replaced as match referee for the Third Test. The ICC supported Denness[9] but the South African board sided with the BCCI’s position[10] and replaced Denness, who was not even allowed to enter the stadium, with Denis Lindsay.[11] The ICC declared the match to be “unofficial” and classified it as a “friendly five day match”.[12] The series was officially limited to the two matches already completed with South Africa therefore the 1–0 winners.

        ICC upheld the ban on Virender Sehwag for the subsequent test match but overturned the ban on Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly.[13] The subsequent England tour to India was placed in jeopardy when India picked Sehwag in the test squad.[14] Subsequent to this development, ICC issued a warning that any match with Sehwag in the cricket team will not be considered an ‘official’ test match till Sehwag sits out of a Test Match.[15] After negotiations with ECB and ICC and in general interest of cricket, Sehwag was dropped from the team for the first test against England’

        Are you aware of other teams being ‘let-off’ in this way?

        • thecricketcouch

          Denness hands down punishments for excessive appealing, which is quite fine by me but however the match referees need to implement those standards across the board. It is an issue with the ICC on how their officials have enforced the laws of the game. There isn’t a uniform implementation at any point. Stuart Broad gets away with murder and some other player gets fined half his match fees for showing dissent. So, till there is uniform application of laws, one team or another is going to feel aggrieved about how they have been treated.

        • http://Website Shreekar

          I dont see the high handedness of BCCI in the examples you have cited. It is a negotiation between 2 bodies – BCCI and ICC.

          In first instance, ICC conceded ban on Denness and in return ruled the third test unofficial.
          In second instance, ban on Viru was enforced consistently.

          How is India ‘let-off’?

      • http://Website Stew

        My post seemed to be removed ?
        I was merely stating that corruption is at all levels, ie the Mike Denness affair, where Indians (players and BCCI) stamped their foot and got the result they wanted:-

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mike_Denness_and_Indian_cricket_team_incident

        That is surely a somewhat good example of what I was saying.

        Indian people are passionate to the point of obsession about cricket, a good thing, which sadly can move into darker recesses of the mind……such as effigy burning, that this mentality has the majority of power in cricket is slightly concerning.

        • thecricketcouch

          Stew,

          yes, the fans may be borderline obsessed. However, as you rightly point out, it does however cross the lines of what can be construed as reasonable. For every one of those “passionate fans” that burn an effigy, there are several 100′s of 1000′s that don’t. It helps to see from that point of view. There are going to be bad apples but to use that, and paint all Indian fans with a broadbrush is not fair, IMO. I don’t say this as a fan originally from India, but as a fan of sports in general.

          Soccer fans sometimes get out of control but to say all soccer fans are crazy is not fair, either.

      • http://Website Stew

        For some reason, it won’t allow me to respond to this comment?

        • thecricketcouch

          Stewart,

          For some reason, two comments from you were in the spam folder. I’ve rectified the mistake. Thanks for the comments.

          Cheers,

          Subash

  • http://Website soulberry

    Hopefully this article is even read in print across the world. It is essential that it is.

    • thecricketcouch

      Thanks @soulberry. You are too kind.

  • http://cricketnns.blogspot.com CricketNNS

    Greig hates the IPL and BCCI in general. Naturally, he would have unleashed all his fury in any chance he was given to. IMO, I think the BCCI probably were deaf to this lecture and therefore, Greig’s lecture is as good as trash. Sorry Tony! I’m still for the universal DRS, though. Excellent article, by the way!

    • thecricketcouch

      @cricketnns – Thanks.