Fri | Jun 22, 2018

Tony Becca | Different strokes for different folks

Published:Sunday | May 27, 2018 | 12:00 AM
West Indies player Christopher Gayle (centre) dances with Afghanistan batsman Mohammad Shahzad (right) and Afghanistan coach Phil Simmons after a Cricket World Cup qualifier in March. The match was played in Zimbabwe.

Although the world is not as divided as it once was, at least on the surface, there are, in fact, different strokes for different folks, and especially so in cricket.

The International Cricket Council (ICC), originally located in London but now resting in Dubai, stipulates that governments should not interfere with sports, especially and as far as it is concerned cricket, unless, it seems, in a helpful or financial way.

This, however, does not seem to apply in places like Sri Lanka, India, and Pakistan, Nepal, and Kenya.

In Sri Lanka, the government controls things like the presidency of the board and the selection committee; in Pakistan it is the same thing; and in India, the cricket authorities are as strong as the court of the land allows them to be, or so it seems.

Just recently in Sri Lanka, the national team on its way to India was delayed at the airport because the minister of sport was not informed of the members of the team and went on board the plane to get the names of the team members and to release the team before it departed.

In Kenya, Cricket Kenya has recently been dissolved by the Ministry of Sports and Heritage after Kenya, who once beat the West Indies, were demoted from Division Two to Division Three.

And in India, the Law Commission of India has recently proposed that the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) be placed under the Right to Information Act since it performs the function of a public body.

In the confusion, the Kenya government claimed that it had communicated with the ICC. The ICC, however, claimed that it had not heard from the government.

"The ICC has on occasion been swift to suspend membership under such circumstance. Though the ICC's rules against government interference in cricket, administration is more honoured in the breach than in the observance among full members. Associate members are not generally treated with the same indulgence as evidenced by the recent suspension of the cricket association of Nepal."

 

MONOPOLISTIC STATUS

 

In India, the proposal is that the BCCI has "monopolistic status" with "final authority in all cricket matters, including picking national teams and representing India at international platforms".

According to the proposal, these are some of the things that make the BCCI "immune to accountability and transparency".

The administration of cricket has been confusing in many ways. There has been, it seems, two different rules for full members, and more so, for some full members.

Cricket awaits the ICC action, if any, on these things.

West Indies cricket has been on a slide for some 25 years now. Many believe that it is the fault of the administration, but when the governments finally attempted to talk to the ICC about it, about Cricket West Indies president and the administration's performance and about its intentions of getting involved, the West Indian governments were ignored, or rather, put in their place.

It would talk, the ICC said, but rightly so or wrongly so, only in the presence of the Cricket West Indies president.

And the refusal was done, not in a friendly and conciliatory tone, but in a tone suggesting that they would not be party to throwing one of their own under the bus.

India is a full member of the ICC, but so, too, are the West Indies, even if Nepal and Kenya are not.

Up until recently, Afghanistan was not a full member. It is, however, now a full member, but one that is definitely not in the company of England, Australia, and India.

Recently, Afghanistan read from the book to its cricketers, and in particular, Mohammed Shahzad.

Shahzad, born in Afghanistan, went to Peshawar across the border in Pakistan as a refugee. He grew up in Peshawar, he played cricket in Peshawar, he got married in Peshawar, and he spends most of his time in Peshawar.

Shahzad plays for Afghanistan, he played in the recent World Cup qualifier where he won the man-of-the-match award in the final against the West Indies, and he went back to Peshawar where he played a club match and was fined US$4,000 for doing so without permission.

Afghanistan has a rule that Afghan players cannot play in a foreign country without prior permission.

To top it all, Afghanistan, now a full member of the ICC and eligible to play Test cricket, is out of the cold and in a position of strength. It has ruled that Shahzad must return to Afghanistan within one month in order to represent Afghanistan.

Is this a case of "the bigger one gets the more he flexes his muscles", or "the higher monkey climb the more he exposes himself", or is it simply a case of different strokes for different folks?

I wonder if the territories could agree, what would be the reaction, inside and outside the region, if Cricket West Indies took such a line as Afghanistan, or what would the ICC say if the West Indian governments were to propose what the Indian government has proposed.

Or better still, what would West Indians say if the West Indies were to impose, as Pakistan has done, restrictions on the number of T20 leagues that West Indians can play in order to rest for Test cricket, or if the West Indies were bold enough to say to their players, as India have done, that they cannot play in any other T20 league but their own, probably in order to protect the value of their own T20 league and to prevent the burn-out of their Test players?