Michael Jeh August 21, 2008

Come together

If cricket is to become a truly global game to remotely rival soccer or tennis, it's future lies in taking a leaf out of the Olympic spirit and start revelling in greatness, regardless of whether it hails from Brisbane, Bangalore or Barbados

I'm sure many Indians loved watching Wasim Akram whilst at the same time cursing him for every Indian wicket he ripped out © Getty Images
The great thing about the Olympic Games is that it brings the world into sharp focus. You get to appreciate athletes who transcend patriotic jealousies and petty rivalries based on nationality. Sometimes, genius does not deserve to belong to any one nation - it is a joy for anyone who loves great performances.

Depending on what happens over the Champions Trophy, cricket fans might soon be part of a political game of tit-for-tat which will have one common casualty - watching the best players from all over the world in action.

Since Bradman became the first global colossus of the game, we've seen a few players who have been adopted by genuine fans who can truly put aside their loyalties and simply recognise wonderful cricketers for what they are. In my lifetime, I immediately think of players like Shane Warne, Adam Gilchrist, Sachin Tendulkar, Brian Lara, Muttiah Muralitharan, Michael Holding and Malcolm Marshall. I'm sure other readers will have their own favourites from countries other than a blind allegiance to their own.

IPL may represent a watershed in this regard. A bit like what county cricket did for the great West Indians, Pakistanis and other overseas players, IPL's model of bringing the great players of the modern era to Indian franchises and global television coverage will hopefully bring about a cultural shift in the minds of cricket fans all around the world. Imagine a team that might one day have Brett Lee and Shoaib Akhtar bowling in tandem. Andrew Symonds and Harbhajan Singh winning a thrilling run-chase and embracing in delirious joy. OK, OK, now I'm getting carried away!

Every four years when the Olympics come around, it reminds me that the world of elite sport is exactly that - the world! Sure, I get excited when an Australian is competing and I sit a bit further forward in my seat but that's only natural. When someone like Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps takes to the starting blocks though, the sense of genuine pleasure is palpable. I'm not sure why because I have no real reason to cheer on Jamaica or the USA except for the fact that these guys just strip away my sense of identity. For a few minutes, they make me a citizen of the world.

Likewise with cricket, I have never understood people who can't see beyond their own local heroes. I'm sure there are many Indians who loved watching Wasim Akram whilst at the same time cursing him for every Indian wicket he ripped out. When I was a young boy growing up in Sri Lanka, I adored Allan Border to the extent where I'd even wear my lucky shirt every time he batted (until he got out cheaply and I threw it away in disgust!). Later, after moving to Australia, I remember 'hating' Gower with a passion during the 1985 Ashes Series but was still unable to switch off the television at three a.m. on a school day.

When I lived in England more recently, I chanced upon an encyclopedic statistician who refused to acknowledge that Shane Warne was arguably the greatest spin bowler of all time. When that same person later announced that Ricky Ponting was a flat track bully who only scored runs against poor bowlers, I immediately discounted him as a credible companion. He was just a sad, misguided soul, carrying a Wisden Almanack who missed his calling as Minister for British Propaganda.

Watching Michael Phelps last week was an exercise in shedding prejudice and just embracing a supreme human being. It was just good to be a part of the same species. Likewise with Usain Bolt - for those 10 seconds (9.6 to be exact), Jamaica shared him with the world. Revealingly, Bolt himself confesses that one of his biggest heroes is Matthew Hayden. Anyone who accuses Bolt of being disloyal to his fellow countrymen just misses the point totally. Some things in life go beyond Passport Control. If cricket is to become a truly global game to remotely rival soccer or tennis, it's future lies in taking a leaf out of the Olympic spirit and start revelling in greatness, regardless of whether it hails from Brisbane, Bangalore or Barbados. How many of us care whether Roger Federer is Swiss? Perhaps he has an Australian uncle somewhere.

In view of the looming crisis on the Champions Trophy front, it behooves all parties involved to realise that cricket cannot survive a global split along party political lines. World cricket needs to find a sensible compromise or else the Champions Trophy might be called that in name only.

Michael Jeh is an Oxford Blue who played first-class cricket, and a Playing Member of the MCC. He lives in Brisbane

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • testli5504537 on August 31, 2008, 12:45 GMT

    Nationalism is natural. As humans, we're still animals and by nature, territorial. These are basic instincts, much like food, sex, learning and the like. Exceptions aside, one cannot change nature.

  • testli5504537 on August 29, 2008, 17:42 GMT

    I think Einstein said it best: "Nationalism is an infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind." George Orwell is perhaps a close second: "Nationalism is power hunger tempered by self-deception."

    The nation-state is just another tool for whipping up support for a cause that can't be justified by any rational means. I'd contend that a notion that leads people to use the word 'hate' in relation to sportsmen from another country has rather a lot to answer for.

    Why can't people just appreciate people and their abilities regardless of where someone drew a line on a map some considerable number of decades or centuries ago? I just imagine a time when I'd prefer to see Australia win the Ashes 5-0 than England win 2-1.

  • testli5504537 on August 28, 2008, 8:23 GMT

    Cricket is a nationalistic sport. Everyone is patriotic by heart. So its very difficult to appriciate opoosite country's great player because he is playing a major role in your sides defeat. Now thanks to various sports channels and youtube etc. There skill can be truly appriciated. As a Indian , i hated greats like Wasim Akram, Glenn Mcgrath etc because they were playing a big role in India's defeat. . Thats why i loved IPL because it broke down nationalistic barrier and gave the world a chance to see some high quality contest that were missing in inter country match. I loved when brett lee was clocking 150+ in seeing heat against gilchrist and other ausi who were trying to maul him. As a delhi daredevil saupporter i was cheering for glenn mcgrath and mohammad asif, something that was unthinkable few years back. There might be odd downside to it, if this trend grows. I once met a english fan, during Fifa world cup who wanted England to lift world cup but did not want Beckam to score.

  • testli5504537 on August 24, 2008, 15:50 GMT

    Daniel, you're spot on mate. Much easier to like players who respect common decencies. Guys like Brett Lee, Hussey and Gilly fall into that category. Likewise Lara, Tendulkar, Sangakkara, Jonty Rhodes, KP, Vettori, Flintoff etc. Lots more good guys around but there are those 'other' players who just make it difficult to be loved, whether they are from home or away. I feel that way sometimes with Harbajhan, Andre Nel, Moin Khan and the younger McGrath (and others).

  • testli5504537 on August 24, 2008, 8:23 GMT

    I think you enjoy the game more when you can appreciate the class and skill of an opponent while he's destroying your team. Although, as an Aussie, that hasn't happened as much to me as to other fans around the world in recent times!

    It also helps if the player is not a complete imbecile. For that reason it's hard to admire Harbhajan Singh or Botham (I can understand people putting Hayden in that category) and easy to enjoy the performances of Akram, Tendulkar, Lara and Muralitharan.

    Disappointingly there are two current bowlers whom I love to watch, but I might never see them in international cricket again: Shane Bond (wake up to yourself, BCCI) and Mohammad Asif (oh dear). Bond always saved his best for games against us.

    I should also point out Ponting's runs scored on very un-flat pitches in Sri Lanka against Murali, England against Flintoff, Harmison etc, and South Africa against their seamers.

  • testli5504537 on August 23, 2008, 23:47 GMT

    The odd thing about cricket is that is, at least in my view, more impressive when seen from the losing perspective. I'm an Aussie who became a fan when the West Indies were thumping seven shades of the proverbial out of us in the early '80s.

    eg Australia would get three WI batsmen out cheaply. Feverish thoughts of a rare victory would fill my head. And then Viv Richards would swagger in, chewing his gum and magnificently and memorably destroy my hopes. If it wasn't Viv it was a Gower or Hadlee.

    Later on it was Ambrose, or even Flintoff.

    Great memories.

    In a strange way I envy the fans of other countries who got to see Adam Gilchrist do the same thing to them batting at seven.

    Oops. I forgot Botham. Damn, there goes my whole argument. Aaargh, that infernal man!

  • testli5504537 on August 23, 2008, 21:39 GMT

    It's bit incongruous to read an article that begins "The great thing about the Olympics " and find that it's about cricket -the only major sport excluded from the Olympics. Let's don't kid ourselves, outside of the cricket world noone knows Tendulkar or Bradman's names - however Phelps's face has been all over the world recently. Cricket must strive to be a part of the 2012 Olympics, or risk falling further behind.

  • testli5504537 on August 23, 2008, 14:43 GMT

    All of them want to be No. 1, and that is part of what makes them great. I would say Imran's record as a fast bowler and as a batsman is good, but he has the edge with leadership. He is far and away the best, there is no doubt about that. He has a strong will, a good cricket mind, and a good cricket brain.

    I would put Botham next because not only did he get a lot of wickets, he could also bat very well, like Imran. I think they rank really close together.

    Between Dev and Hadlee, I think Hadlee was a slightly more destructive bowler. He is the best line-and-length bowler I have ever faced at pace - not just medium pace, but genuine pace. You would be lucky if you got one ball to hit for a four in eight overs. He carried the New Zealand attack just like Kapil carried India. India haven't had a great seam bowler after him. They have had one or two good bowlers, but he was a great bowler. He could swing it on flat pitches, and he was a destructive batsman at times.

    long live CRIC

  • testli5504537 on August 23, 2008, 14:40 GMT

    One-Day Internationals

    Most sixes in an innings

    Player Runs Balls 4s 6s SR Team Opposition Ground Match Date Scorecard XM Marshall 157* 118 11 12 133.05 West Indies v Canada King City (NW) 22 Aug 2008 ODI # 2749 ST Jayasuriya 134 65 11 11 206.15 Sri Lanka v Pakistan Singapore 2 Apr 1996 ODI # 1088 Shahid Afridi 102 40 6 11 255.00 Pakistan v Sri Lanka Nairobi (Gym) 4 Oct 1996 ODI # 1125 MS Dhoni 183* 145 15 10 126.20 India v Sri Lanka Jaipur 31 Oct 2005 ODI # 2290 MV Boucher 147* 68 8 10 216.17 South Africa v Zimbabwe Potchefstroom 20 Sep 2006 ODI # 2420 ML Hayden 181* 166 11 10 109.03 Australia v New Zealand Hamilton 20 Feb 2007 ODI # 2527 BB McCullum 166 135 11 10 122.96 New Zealand v Ireland Aberdeen 1 Jul 2008 ODI # 2727 Ijaz Ahmed 139* 84 10 9 165.47 Pakistan v India Lahore 2 Oct 1997 ODI # 1236 Shahid Afridi 102 46 10 9 221.73 Pakistan v India Kanpur 15 Apr 2005 ODI # 22

  • testli5504537 on August 23, 2008, 13:51 GMT

    Thank-you. Finally some balance. As it has become easier to follow the game worldwide via the net it could only be the most one-eyed fan who can't see what is obvious to most of us i.e. that truly great players can come from anywhere. I have been really disappointed with some of the nationalistic drivel that has been written on cricinfo over the last couple of years,and I'm not just talking about the respondants.Some authors have taken upon themselves to stir up as much discontent as possible between fans of different nations.Whenever a player reaches a significant milestone in their career there is always some drip saying " but such and such from my great nation did it faster or better or with more style...blah,blah,blah." Any onfield incidents are seen as opportunity to stir the nationalistic pot. Just get over it. I'm an Aussie but my favourite players (Chanderpaul,Yousef,Laxman,Tendulkar, Sangakkara,Ishant Sharma and Murali)are all OS players) Oh, I forgot that "flat track bully".

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