September 6, 2012

The importance of cricket awards shows

Andrew Hughes
Saeed Ajmal walks back to his bowling mark, Pakistan v Australia, 3rd ODI, Sharjah, September 3, 2012
As part of his act aimed at getting onto the ICC shortlist, Saeed Ajmal pulls a ball out of his throat on an invisible piece of string  © Associated Press
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In this fractured, divided world, if there's one thing common to all cultures, besides a tendency to want to tell other human beings how to live and a preference for indoor lavatories, it is the belief in the self-evident truth that every form of human endeavour, no matter how trivial, should be entitled to its own annual awards ceremony. Preferably with a band. And champagne.

And why not? An awards bash adds a sprinkle of glitter to our mundane existence. At this very moment, Bangalore's Champion Sewerage Operative 2012 is settling down for the night with his trophy, and the woman who recently earned the title of Basingstoke and District Driving Instructor of the Year is speeding to work, nursing a slight headache and humming "We are the Champions" as she jumps another red light.

The cult of the award ceremony is everywhere. The talent shows that infest our TV schedules are nothing more than extended versions of the bit in the Oscars when an actress fresh out of rehab takes three minutes to open the golden envelope, giggles, drops the piece of card, picks it up, turns it the right way round, falls over, is helped to her feet and then finally, with the support of her co-presenter, puts us out of our agony and tells us who has won the Oscar for best flatulence-based humour.

Of course, the beauty of a sports award ceremony is that, unlike a celebrity talent show, the winners are likely to be talented. You don't get to be ICC Test Player of the Year just because you have a heart-rending back story involving a pet budgie who needs the prize money to fund his cosmetic beak surgery or because you've got a winning smile, a bubbly personality and a very short dress.

Cricket is particularly fertile ground for an awards ceremony. For example, the vote for the ICC's Team of the Year is an organic sprouting from the peculiar compost that is the cricket lover's insatiable desire to compile imaginary XIs. We've all done it. My Poets XI had Homer opening the batting on the grounds of seniority, although if the rumours about his eyesight were true, he might struggle against the new ball. And to be frank, I'm not sure that Dylan Thomas would really have been much of a fast-medium seamer, more of a slow-stagger and vomiter.

Just like in the real world (or the internet, as we call it) sometimes people disagree with the ICC choices, although their squabbles usually come to end with bow-ties, hired tuxedos and dignified applause rather than capital-letter-strewn libel threats, strings of heavily moderated expletives and face-palm smileys.

Should Saeed Ajmal be on the short list for ICC Test Player of the Year? Well, he would be on mine. But then, what do I know? I didn't vote Conservative at the last election. I thought the Olympic logo looked like an accident at a jigsaw factory. And I definitely wouldn't have gone with that hat if it were my Jubilee. What can you do? People made these decisions and people are, in my experience, an untrustworthy lot.

Happily a couple of solutions present themselves. Either the ICC reruns the process, replacing the original electorate with a new, independent voting panel made up of Simon Cowell, Beyonce, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and Sourav Ganguly's hair. Or they just quietly ask Clive Lloyd to write, "and S Ajmal" in his bestest handwriting at the bottom of the list. Problem solved.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England

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Keywords: Awards

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Posted by hasan on (September 7, 2012, 13:32 GMT)

For all those who are saying that awards are not important, yeah right, it really isnt. May be thats why England and Wales Cricket Board went out of line and ended up doing intense labour to get Graeme Swann on that 2010 list. So all the english fans and sympathizers who think awards are not so important, better inquire the English Board first as to why they took such irrational and unimportant thing so seriously?

I think this stand off b/w PCB and ICC is really gonna test the lobbying strength of PCB on international scene. Whether they can convince others to go with them and eventually force ICC to change the decision (like in 2010 for swann) or ICC will keep on ignoring it (as they have stated) and prove that PCB is not strong enough.

Posted by hasan on (September 7, 2012, 13:32 GMT)

For all those who are saying that awards are not important, yeah right, it really isnt. May be thats why England and Wales Cricket Board went out of line and ended up doing intense labour to get Graeme Swann on that 2010 list. So all the english fans and sympathizers who think awards are not so important, better inquire the English Board first as to why they took such irrational and unimportant thing so seriously?

I think this stand off b/w PCB and ICC is really gonna test the lobbying strength of PCB on international scene. Whether they can convince others to go with them and eventually force ICC to change the decision (like in 2010 for swann) or ICC will keep on ignoring it (as they have stated) and prove that PCB is not strong enough.

Posted by vivek mishra on (September 7, 2012, 10:58 GMT)

thanks andrew,saeed's non inclusion warranted this article. smacks of bias against third world. AWARD OR NO AWARD...AJMAL'S GETTIN EM ALL:)

Posted by Abdul Quddus on (September 7, 2012, 7:35 GMT)

Despite of this ceremony and not being nominated while last year Swann was nominated with same rule by ICC I think Saeed Ajmal is currently the best spinner for me. I don't know about others thought and taking him lightly but I appreciate PCB's decision to stand by their player as were done by ECB last year. Though no change in the list is now confirmed we (people) here in Pakistan are not feeling good of this decision (whether you like it or not).

Posted by Vishnu Mohan on (September 7, 2012, 7:33 GMT)

Why, oh why, do they even have to give out such awards in cricket? As Amla said, they have him the second best batter in the world, when he felt he wasn't the second best even in his team. Lets just play cricket. And Sir Hughes, another well written piece

@wasif- know much English? Then maybe you can say in which line Andrew was critising about the whining of PCB

Posted by Ian on (September 7, 2012, 6:55 GMT)

I Love the acknowladgement to how truly awful current tv talent shows are. i dont really care who wins the award, i just want to watch cricket.

Posted by Waqar Qazi on (September 7, 2012, 5:20 GMT)

Why shouldn't we criticize ICC? It's not about Ajmal inclusion, it's about ICC's handling of the matters? This is the second time in a few years when an 'oversight' has happened on such an important selection? does it mean ICC has problems in selecting the right people for the job? We say PCB is just whining but it is whining rightly! maybe they are not helping Ajmal with the award but rather helping ICC getting better. Then again look at the handling of the matter by ICC; they tried to put the blame on the two paksitanis in the jury like everyone was lobbying for his countryman and the pakistanis didnt and why are there only two pakistanis in the jury?

Posted by Yasir on (September 7, 2012, 4:13 GMT)

It’s a bit sad to see that a well deserving cricketer is not getting his due share – apart from stats, his greatness can be summed-up by just following the pre series interviews of all the captains that have played Pakistan in the last one and half year – everyone has mentioned repeatedly Ajmal as a key threat (just ask Aussies if you don’t trust me). Pre series Hype around Ajmal is far more than any of the nominated players (though all deserving in my humble opinion)

Posted by SouthPaw on (September 7, 2012, 4:10 GMT)

@Hughes: You could have saved a lot of time (yours and readers') by posting just the last 3 paragraphs. The preamble, if one can call it that, is uninspired and perhaps even noisome. You have done better before!

Posted by maheshq on (September 7, 2012, 2:11 GMT)

Which would you rather have? The world's best spinner or the winner of some arbitrary award? I know what I'd choose....

I would urge Pakistan fans to dwell on the fate of Mitchell Johnson for a moment. He won some fancy awards only a couple of years ago, and look where he is now- can't even make it into the test squad let alone starting XI.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andrew Hughes
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. His latest book is available here and here @hughandrews73

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