Friday, April 11, 2008

Letter to Lorgat

Dear Mr. Lorgat,
First of all, we’d like to congratulate you on your appointment as the CEO of the ICC. That said, it gives us little pleasure to welcome you to this most difficult of diplomatic assignments. Crown of thorns, poisoned chalice, a mixed blessing … call it what you may, there are more than a few reasons – apart from the stated ones – Mr. Patel politely declined the offer to head this toothless body of wildly conflicting interests.

You have graciously agreed to steer the fortunes of an entity with a clutch of very insistent backseat drivers. Not only will you have to reckon with the powerful ‘Principle Advisor’ Mr. IS Bindra looking over your shoulder, but also ensure you’re not weighed down by the whims, fancies and not-so-subtle diktats of a member body that brings in the most revenues for the ICC: the cash-rich BCCI.

Speaking of difficult member-bodies, you’ll have to find a way to salvage cricket from the machinations of Zimbabwe Cricket. There was a time in the not-so-distant past that Zimbabwe was considered among the stronger cricket playing nations in the world. But from the time Zimbabwe Cricket has been taken over by Robert Mugabe and his henchmen, we’ve seen the standard of the game plummet alarmingly. In a world with only a handful of countries that play quality cricket, the ICC cannot afford to let cricket in Zimbabwe go down the tubes.

West Indies is another country whose cricket will demand your urgent attention. Irrespective of which country one supported, watching the West Indies play used to be one of the more pleasing sights on a cricket ground. As the empty grounds and scarce broadcasting revenues over the past few years show, this is no longer true. We all need to find a way to retrieve and revive the game in the Caribbean. If cricket in the West Indies continues to die the slow, inexorable death it is currently suffering, the ICC will - in more ways than one - be considerably poorer for it.

Perhaps now might be an opportune moment to take a little time out and stock up on the aspirins; the thing is, the list of problems that demand your attention is far from over.

Once upon a time, Pakistan used to put out one of the better, if not the best, teams in world cricket. The administrators and the custodians of the game there are now occupying themselves with matters that have little do with promoting the cause of the game and its players. If this state of affairs is allowed to continue, the ICC will lose the services of a team that used to be one of the biggest draws in world cricket. (Put not-so-subtly, more problems for you, Mr. Lorgat.)

That apart, in the recent past, more than a few teams have expressed an unwillingness to tour Pakistan. As a result, cricket in that country is gradually becoming an unviable option. The ICC cannot let the audience in one of its more lucrative markets be deprived of watching their team play at home. More pressure will have to be brought upon by the ICC on its reluctant members to undertake the trip to Pakistan.

Then there is the problem of racism which of course doesn’t exist, but only keeps rearing its ‘invisible’ head at different points in time to stymie or influence decisions on many an important issue, be it umpiring, match-referees, overseas tours to specific countries, debating the granting (or not) of test-status … and the like. No matter what the ‘official’ line on racism, the ICC is today, more than ever before, divided along racial lines.

And of course no cricketing discussion nowadays is complete without touching upon the ticklish issue of a fair sprinkling of top players from England, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, South Africa, West Indies, Australia and even India being less than willing to submit to the grinding schedules being imposed on them by their respective boards and instead opting for the more lucrative, less ‘official’ and less taxing pleasures of the 20-20 cricket leagues.

Fact is, Mr. Lorgat, the ICC is quickly beginning to resemble another world body which has become dangerously irrelevant: the United Nations. As we are well aware, only a stronger UN can prevent unilateral decisions, selective development and global chaos. Likewise, only a stronger, more balanced ICC can guard against the same from happening to cricket. What the world of cricket needs is a better version of the UN. And we’re counting on you to deliver it to us.

With best wishes,
The Custodians of Cricket

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