Being an England fan, I think it was difficult to at first acknowledge the role of Ricky Ponting in the Harbhajan affair. After all, England, in a time that seems so long ago, overcame sledging etc in the 2005 Ashes Series by playing them at their own game. Of course, it didn’t work just over a year ago in the Australian backyard.
Becoming so accustomed to that type of behaviour, it now seems natural — ‘The Spirit of the Game’ transformed; the “anger” Nasser Hussain called for the England team. The persistent appealing towards two underwhelming umpires (in the case of Bucknor, one consistently underwhelming umpire) at first masked by the racism row, is now beginning to be realised. Gamesmanship is now the issue, with Harbhajan taking a back-seat. Even notable Australian-based cricket journalists such as Peter Roebuck are calling for his sacking.
Steve Bucknor, who was to umpire the third Test in Perth, is now no-longer doing so, and has been replaced by Billy Bowden. Malcolm Speed, chief executive of the ICC, bowed to the pressure of India.
And, by being nocturnal and watching ND-TV on Sky (channel 513 in the UK) at 4.30am this morning, where a studio audience was drafted in and a panel who repeatedly talked about the honour of a nation being besmirched, it’s easy to understand why.
His consistent poor decision-making has stirred a nation to the point where memories of the colonial past are now coming back; views that the game of cricket cannot afford to be subjected to – again. Comments on that eponymous feature of all news channels — the ticker, were all calling for the sub-continent to form a ‘super association’ that is totally independent of the ICC. It’s all rash talk, but rash talk that will frighten the ICC.
Cricket is entering yet another shaky period. This row, as well as the ensuing impasse over England touring Zimbabwe, are making that ominous Hadlee vision a reality.