Notes from the pavilion for October 20th

Links of note from the past 24 hours:

Notes from the pavilion for October 17th

Links of note from the past 24 hours:

‘World cricket all but paralysed’

You know your sport’s in a real mess when, in the space of 12 months, it can host a disastrous World Cup; investigate a murder; have an umpire take the game’s governing body to court; host a much more successful World Cup six months later but not call it a World Cup. Oh, and racism has popped up its ugly duplicitous head again.

The ICC has lost all credibility. I don’t know of another governing body in any sport which is quite so dysfunctional, and this latest spate of racism will further divide the Members unless the ICC – and India – act now. I refer you to Patrick Smith’s excellent column:

WORLD cricket is all but paralysed. The ruling body cannot make a decision that is not compromised. Bowling has been reduced to throwing, umpiring to the art of convenience, racial abuse to a point of view. Player behaviour teeters on the brink of violence.

Sri Lanka’s Muttiah Muralidaran is outside the law, so change the law and not the action. The ICC considers Darrell Hair umpires by the book and is not a buddy of the players. Sack him.

Pakistan and India refuse to appoint officers to investigate racism in the sport. The ICC has been reduced to writing letters that are ignored and beating the heat in Dubai. Apparently Pakistan and India players and supporters can only be offended and never offensive.

Racial vilification has been redefined. What is said is no longer critical, but who says it to whom is at its heart. So Symonds is vilified by Indian supporters and it goes unheard and ignored. CA whimpers its concern but fails to report the matter officially.

I don’t believe any sport is rife with racism. Not at all. But sportsmen are as much members of society as the rest of us, and we are living in a confused and fragmented world these days. Sport can reflect that with uncomfortable clarity.

Darrell Hair under the spotlight

Darrell Hair, the rotund Australian umpire, returns to the back pages of newspapers and homepages of websites next week when he appears at a London tribunal. Hair is suing his employers, the ICC, for racial discrimination – and here’s a brief overview of why.

England v Pakistan, 4th Test, The Oval, 4th day. August 20, 2006. Five penalty runs are awarded to England when Hair signal to the umpires of his conviction that the ball has been tampered with.

An early tea is taken, but Pakistan stage a protest after the interval and refuse to play. Hair, his colleague, Billy Doctrove, and the two England batsman walk out alone and wait for 15 minutes before the covers are brought on signalling the end of play.

Pakistan eventually do make it out onto the field, but by this stage Hair and Doctrove have already decided that the match has been awarded to England.

Cricket’s Law 21.3: “in the opinion of the umpires, if a team refuses to play, the umpires shall award the match to the other side.”

The match was then forfeited, England winning. In the following days it seemed likely that Hair’s position was increasingly untenable, with the Asian bloc threatening to gang up on him. So he responded in a quite remarkable manner by offering to leave, but only for a retainer of $500,000. This was a huge mistake and the ICC exploited his greed by revealing all, as they should have done.

In November he was banned from umpiring in internationals, owing to immense pressure from the Asian bloc who voted for his removal. England, Australia and New Zealand were the three who wanted him to stay. Billy Doctrove’s career, however, could continue and he was not banned.

In February he instructed his lawyers, Finers Stephens Innocent, to issue an application to the London Central Employment Tribunal alleging racial discrimination.

And this all kicks off on Monday, so I thought it best I get my head around it all beforehand. And there’s another twist: Inzamam-ul-Haq, the former Pakistan captain, has been summoned as a witness. If he doesn’t turn up – this is Inzy, remember – the tribunal have the authority to issue sanctions which could then lead to his arrest.

Nasty times. Keep your eyes peeled on Cricinfo for the latest.

Racism schmacism; get on with the cricket

Chris Broad has a fairly unenviable job and much of his blog is a diary of the standard of airport lounges and hotels he comes across. All jolly interesting, but this latest post was much more like it: his handling of the Herschelle Gibbs ban.

Almost half the SA side accompanied Gibbs into the hearing which made things very cosy because I also had the Pakistan management and the captain in our small umpires’ room. There was a lot of frank discussion with SA defending their man but Pakistan saying how hurt they were by the remarks. After 45 minutes of chat and counter chat both side had just about finished so I adjourned the hearing so that I could get my head around what had been said and come to a decision. I made that decision after calling the players back to the room and I could get away from the fact that the remarks, however provoked were racial and were offensive to the Pakistanis. I was left with no option but to ban Gibbs for 2 Test matches. This is the worst part of my job because I was very passionate about the game when I played and I sometimes boiled over at instances that happened but this has to be stamped on as racial abuse, whether it’s player on player or crowd to player or player to crowd, must be eradicated.

I trust this will be the last we hear of this subject in this series and I hope Cricket SA take the case of crowd control very seriously because this is how the whole ugly incident began!

Indeed so.

Racial issues are understandably eggshellish. And while everyone and their uncle rightly wants it stamped out, it’s somewhat complacent, irresponsible and naive to just state this without any suggestions as to how it can be achieved. It irritates me that the ICC, in particular, tend to puff out their moral chests and beat the anti-racism drum…without actually doing anything about it. However, in their defence I don’t necessarily believe the that this is cricket’s problem. It’s far, far wider than the sport; this is about a confused society.

The disappointing aspect is that cricket, often the bridge between cultures and societies, seems to be acting as the catalyst. Or worse, a forum for other people’s warped opinions and abuse.

Broad is right. Cricket SA need to get hold of these supporters and never let them back in. However, just don’t let them, or any other board for that matter, mirror the dictatorial practices enforced by Cricket Australia…

Yeah, but what was he doing in the broadcast box in the first place?

I was only mildly surprised to hear that Dean Jones had shot himself in the foot and shot his commentating career to Hell by making an outrageous remark about Hashim Amla.

Cricket watchers know Deano is not above making stupid remarks. His commentating career has demonstrated that he is an inexhaustable fund of imbecilic remarks. He covered Australia’s 2004 tour of India and drove me to distraction with his inanities. He mostly talks in cliches. In fact, he can talk in cliches till the cows come home.

In truth, he’s always been a self-centred and rather thoughtless individual who has a poor record of putting his mouth into action before engaging his brain. As a player, he alienated his team-mates with Australia, Victoria and even with Derbyshire. His file as a player, for all his brilliance as a batsman, was undoubtedly scarred with his ‘poor team player’ reputation.

I only needed one day of hearing Dean Jones as a commentator to understand that he was patently unsuitable for the position. He is constantly inflicted on Asian audiences, I guess because of his supposed credibility gained by playing 52 Tests for Australia. However, in those 52 Test matches, he learned nothing about what is required to be a broadcaster.

Quite rightly a lot of the focus of this controversy will fall onto Jones, for his disgraceful remarks. However, his employer, Ten Sports, also deserve a full measure of disapproval, for hiring someone who had a demonstrated inability to perform the fairly important job of cricket commentator with an appropriate degree of professionalism.

No doubt it is helpful to have played the game at at least first class level. However, playing ability is not broadcasting ability. The doyenne of television broadcasters, Richie Benaud, made a point of staying in England after Australia’s 1956 tour of England, to undertake a sports broadcasting course conducted by the BBC. He was also a trained newspaper journalist, in an era when Australian cricketers had to have a separate career. No million dollar salaries back then. So Benaud, who became the model of the player broadcaster, came to the microphone with a thorough and thoughtful understanding of the television industry. Few of his successors as player-broadcasters have had such a background, and it shows.

The appropriate model is perhaps the old fashioned radio model, where a professional journalist does the ball-by-ball comments, and the old player provides the expert commentary. On radio, the old pro has time to gather his thoughts, and thus (hopefully) sparing himself the embarrassment that Jones has put himself though. In one way, I suppose it is sad that Jones has self destructed in this way. But I ask you, what was he doing in that broadcast box in the first place?

The Dean Jones ‘terrorist’ remark

This struck me as the most stupid, irresponsible comment I have heard from a TV analyst on the game since, well…since for ever.

Dean Jones – an aggressive batsman turned chirpy, excitable commentator – said the following (which I put on CI…too tired to rewrite it, sorry)

Dean Jones, the former Australia Test batsman turned TV commentator, has been sacked by his employers, Ten Sports, after being heard calling Hashim Amla a ‘terrorist’ on live television during the fourth day’s play between Sri Lanka and South Africa at Colombo.

When Amla, who is a devout Muslim, took the catch to dismiss Kumar Sangakkara, Jones was heard to say “the terrorist has got another wicket”.

Even if this was said in jest, and there is no indication that it was, you can’t offer such flippant, racist remarks on live TV. Those that know Jones, and I’m not one of them, will no doubt argue that he is not a racist – and, to be honest, such a statement does not make him one either. It’s just bloody stupid, upsetting for Hashim Amla’s family and not something you would expect anyone in the public eye to get away with.

And he hasn’t. He’s been flown back to Australia immediately and has lost his job. Can’t see him ever coaching India, if indeed he wanted to, or working in cricket again.

Scott is going to follow this up in a separate piece some time in the morning. Your thoughts in the meantime are very welcome…I imagine this could go on for some time.

Bath Dodgers to continue to taunt convicts

Big-mouthed banter between English and Australian supporters is set to continue despite hyper-sensitive ICC officials worried about racism.

The Fanatics and the Barmy Army yesterday both vowed to ignore “political correctness gone mad” and continue peppering opposing teams and fans with good-natured banter this summer.

Their comments come in response to suggestions the old barb “Pommy bastard” may fall foul of cricket’s crackdown on crowd racism.

The issue came to a head this week when an ICC report found “premeditated racist abuse occurred toward South Africa and Sri Lanka during the past Australian summer.

But Cricket Australia’s stance on Australia and England’s friendly feud is over-cautious, according to the Barmy Army representative in Australia Craig Gill.

“Where will it ever stop?” Gill asked. “‘Pommy Bastard’ has been used for years and years and it’s going to be used over and over again.

“As long as it’s said in the name of good humour and good banter no one is going to get upset.”

“Bring it on I say … we’ll definitely be singing about Aussie convicts coming here in chains.”

Last night an England cricket spokesman agreed, saying from London: “It would be more of a surprise if we didn’t hear it (Pommy bastard). Some of the lads probably see it as a term of endearment.

“One of the great attractions of an Ashes series is the fierce competition and good spirit.

“But everyone in world cricket is aware there’s a fine line between fierce rivalry and racism that should never be crossed.”

Which gives me the notion that I should distribute bars of soap to the Barmy Army when they come to Adelaide this summer!

BBC close Test Match Special messageboard

Just blogged this at the Surfer, and am posting it here very briefly – will comment on it later in the week when I have time, but it’s fairly big news. The BBC’s cricket messageboard, Test Match Special, has been closed due to a torrent of racist comments. The Times has more. Thoughts?

Crowd behaviour and racism at cricket grounds

We’ve started a new discussion and debate at our popular Wicket to Wicket blog. This time round, racism and crowd behaviour are the topics, and Peter English, our Australasian Editor, has kicked things off. See here, and leave your comments and thoughts at the blog.