Samir Chopra September 24, 2010

The summer that went bad

The tour began as a showcase of England's hospitality and Pakistan's desperately-in-need-of-a-showcase cricket

One of my favourite cartoons shows two couples sitting in a living room, on couches facing each other. The female half of one is saying to her spouse, "What do you mean 'we should get going'? We live here!" Yes, indeed, when guests overstay their welcome, things do get a little prickly.

I'm reminded of this cartoon as Pakistan's tour of England comes to an end. I doubt whether there has been any tour in the recent history of cricket, whose downward trajectory from the giddy heights of Mount FeelGood to Acrimony Canyon has been quite so steep. Like the desperately put-upon hosts in the cartoon above, England must have wanted the tour to end, and soon, even if it meant they would be the ones leaving (possibly to Spain, and not necessarily on a budget flight, to catch the end of the holiday season in Ibiza, where Jimmy Anderson could meet up with his many new friends).

The tour began as a showcase of England's hospitality and Pakistan's desperately-in-need-of-a-showcase cricket. It ended with talk of lawsuits and possible police complaints, and the Pakistani and English captains, both now safely ensconced at home, speaking of the stresses and strains they underwent, during the Summer Horribilis of 2010. No good deed, the English will ruefully note, goes unpunished.

Along the way, we had accusations of match-fixing, undercover stings, epic, unhinged rants by senior administrators, calls for suspending Pakistan (Nasser Hussain and Ian Botham being at least two of the worthies that have made this suggestion) and possible brawls in nets (the similarity to cage-fighting is uncanny, don't you think?). And that was all off the field. Cricket, a staid sport? I think not.

In the midst of these quasi-facetious ramblings, a serious note must be struck. Plenty of damage has been done to cricket. Weeks after the initial allegations of spot-fixing, we are no closer to knowing what, so to speak, went down. A bright and exciting talent like Mohammed Amir in whose praise I penned a paean in these very pages has earned the tag of "cheater." And another cricketing country has been placed in the slot marked "Severely Dysfunctional", rendering speculation about the future of international cricket an even more depressing exercise than before.

My hope in the past, when confronted by a depressing turn of affairs in cricket, has been to hope that a good Test match will show up and take care of everything. I still have faith in that regard, for Australia have landed on Indian shores. And despite the depressing lack of pre-match press-conference sledging from Ricky Ponting, the series promises to deliver some thrills and spills. Of course, there are only two Tests, and they will occur at times that could not possibly be worse for this East Coast resident. Still, I'll take them and hunker down. The alternative is to read more about Pakistani outrage and English counter-outrage. And that option scarcely bears thinking about.

Samir Chopra lives in Brooklyn and teaches Philosophy at the City University of New York. He tweets here