Paul Wright | The 'It's only wrong if you get caught' mentality
The Greatest Show on Earth is on! The first week of this month-long extravaganza has seen everything that football fans from around the world have come to expect. Of the 32 teams presently on show in the first round of the competition, speculation is rife as to who will win the competition, who will score the most goals, and which footballer will be the Most Valuable Player (MVP) of the tournament.
When you are faced with the reality that in the many years of the competition, only eight teams have won, the betting reflects that startling fact. The favourites are, in no particular order, Brazil, Argentina, Germany, France and Belgium. Local flag sellers have been making a few dollars encouraging fans to "pick a side" and "buy a flag." So, flags are adorned on cars, trucks, buses and bicycles.
Unfortunately, some of those sporting flags of their so-called favourite teams are the well documented wagonists, who ditch their 'team' at the first sign of problems. What else can explain a 'fan' at the traffic light at the intersection of Old Hope Road and Tom Redcam Drive last week who came out of his car and forcibly removed the Argentina flag from his radio pole, minutes after 'his team' drew the match with lowly Iceland?
FOULED 10 TIMES
After only one match, those that love Cristiano Ronaldo from Portugal have already declared him the MVP of this edition of the World Cup. The Lionel Messi haters are having a field day, hardly able to contain their glee at his penalty miss and less- than-average showing against Iceland. Brazil's Neymar Jr, who was fouled 10 times in the match against Switzerland, was understandably unable to perform at his best, coming back from a foot injury. He needed all his natural skill and ability to merely ensure that he will be able to play in Brazil's next match! So, let the games continue! After one game in the opening round, Argentina have one point, Portugal have one point, and Brazil have one point. Round two begins today. Go, Brazil!
Football is not the only sporting activity taking place involving local and regional teams. The Windies cricket team is involved in a three-Test series against Sri Lanka, and drew with the Asians in the second Test, having comprehensively beaten them in the first. This surprising victory has ignited the West Indian fans to once again wonder if we have turned the corner.
This comprehensive victory seemed to unnerve the Sri Lankans, to the extent where after the close of play on the second day of the second Test, umpires Aleem Dar and Ian Gould reviewed tapes of an on-field incident involving Sri Lankan captain Dinesh Chandimal, and decided that there was evidence of ball tampering. They changed the ball and awarded the Windies five penalty runs. This did not go down well with the Sri Lankans, who refused to take the field for over two hours, until convinced by their superiors to continue playing under protest. The umpires saw on-the-field activity that aroused their suspicion and requested and reviewed tapes that apparently convinced them that the Sri Lankan captain had tampered with the ball. It is reported that the tapes confirmed the fact that Chandimal was seen putting a sweet in his mouth, and then using his saliva to vigorously rub on one side of the ball before tossing it to the bowler. The effect of this activity is designed to facilitate 'swing'.
This method of ball tampering was first reported by Australian seam bowler Nathan Bracken in 2005, who stated quite clearly that in England, during county matches, players would be given mints to keep in their mouths during matches. He said that the purpose was to use their saliva to rub one side of the ball, using the high sugar content in saliva to smooth the surface of the 'shiny' side of the ball. This was supposed to fill in tiny scratches in the leather, resulting in increasing the turbulence around the circumference of the ball as it travels through the air creating a 'lift' similar to that seen in a boat sail or an airplane wing. The result: an exaggerated swinging of the ball bowled by seamers.
In the Ashes series England vs Australia also in 2005, the two England swing bowlers, Andrew Flintoff and Simon Jones, ended up with 42 wickets, while no other bowler, except spinner Shane Warne, got any movement of the ball for the entire series. Ball tampering is now an illegal activity based on current ICC rules. The investigation will commence now that the second Test has ended.
It seems as if the win-at-all-cost mentality is still prevalent in the gentleman's game of cricket, whereby if you can't beat them by fair means, then do what you can to win. Just don't get caught. If you do get caught, depend on fellow players and officials to support you, no matter what!
How did we ever get there? What can be done to return the game of cricket to a game where fair play and integrity matters? My solution: investigate ALL instances of unfair and illegal play. Whoever is found guilty of bringing the game into disrepute, ban them for life. Let the saying "that's not cricket" actually mean something to be emulated. Let's bring back cricket to the zenith of sporting integrity.