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Tuesday, 7th June The PCB moves in a mysterious way, its blunders to perform. Not so long ago, Ijaz Butt proposed an amendment to the ICC constitution, making possible the suspension of any cricket board that allowed political interference in its affairs. And a good thing too. Umar Gul doesn’t tell president Zardari who should be foreign minister, so why should El Presidente decide who gets to open the bowling.
It is such a good idea in fact, that the casual observer is immediately suspicious, the proposing of good ideas being not, as a rule, Mr Butt’s modus operandi. Perhaps it was the work of a rogue stunt double, hired to take the flak for Butty at public events. One who bluffed his way into an ICC meeting and went on a common-sense spree, running amok with dangerously sensible suggestions and alarmingly far-sighted ideas.
Anyway there is only one thing to do when your proposal is adopted and you realise you shouldn’t have proposed it in the first place. Sue the Butt off someone. And in the absence of any suitable candidate, the PCB chairman has today issued himself with a showcause notice, promising to drag himself through the highest court in the land if necessary. As a leaked memo from his office reveals, this brings the number of people against whom Ijaz has contemplated legal action into double figures:
1. Mr Shahid Afridi 2. Mr Shahid Afridi’s cat 3. The ICC 4. The ECB 5. The man who made that rotten biryani I ate last Friday 6. The tailor who keeps selling me those shrinking shirts 7. Mr Mike Gatting 8. Mr Henry Kissinger 9. Mr Elvis Presley 10. Mr Ijaz Butt
Wednesday, 8th June I’d like Mohammad Amir to be given just one more chance. I wish he could be let off with just a tousling of his floppy hair and a proper talking-to, because I can remember what it was to be 18 and sillier than a coach full of inebriated clowns on a day trip to Euro Disney. But really, there are limits.
Club officials told you it was all right to play? By club officials, you mean the collection of accountants, small businessmen and retired farmers whose administrative duties extend to committee meetings once a month and organising the annual fund-raising quiz night? Are these people best placed to judge whether you might be violating your ICC ban? And isn’t listening to glib assurances that everything will be just fine precisely how you got into this mess in the first place?
Now his ban will probably be extended to dice cricket, the reading of Alastair Cook’s biographies and the forward propulsion of any vaguely spherical object, including tennis balls, oranges, pomegranates, rock cakes and ostrich eggs.
And for what? For the grubby thrills of the Surrey Cricket League Division One. For an hour or two running round a badly mown oval, where the claps of fielders ring out across an unpopulated boundary edge; where tailenders take it in turns to don the oversized umpires coat and lunch consists of soggy egg mayonnaise sandwiches, slices of Battenburg and lukewarm tea. Was it worth it?
Maybe it was. Maybe he just can’t keep away. Maybe it proves his love for the game, albeit in a forlorn, not-going-to-help-much-with-his-appeal kind of a way. Maybe it shows he’s human. Or maybe it just shows he’s a fool, after all.
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Andrew Hughes is a writer and avid cricket watcher who has always retained a healthy suspicion of professional sportsmen, and like any right-thinking person rates Neville Cardus more highly than Don Bradman. Providing his ransom demands continue to be met, he has promised never to write a whimsical book about village cricket. @hughandrews73