March 10, 2010

Cracking the whip

Cricinfo staff
In the wake of the bans on three former Pakistan captains, Cricinfo looks at some other instances of player bans and boycotts


The relationship between the West Indian Players' Association (WIPA) and the board had been rocky since 2005, mostly over a new contract with sponsor Digicel. The situation flared up sporadically with isolated strikes and considerable ill-will, but it reached a flashpoint in July 2009, when the entire first-choice team pulled out of a home Test series against Bangladesh.

The entire first-choice squad - thirteen players in total - including Chris Gayle, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Dwayne Bravo and Fidel Edwards, who were part of the battle with the board over annual retainer contracts, had not signed those contracts since October 2008.

While WIPA claimed the players had played four tournaments in a row in 2009 without the contracts, the WICB said the demands of the players are unjust. The 'second-string' West Indies team, led by Floyd Reifer, went on to surrender the Test and ODI series, and even as the strikers and made themselves available for international duty following the appointment of an arbitrator to settle their dispute, the board decided to stick with the depleted squad for the 2009 Champions Trophy in South Africa that followed.

Rebel Tours

It is too easy to forget how the spectre of South Africa haunted international sport through the 1970s and 1980s. Increasingly isolated as the stranglehold of sanctions tightened, the authorities in the republic used money to attract sportsmen who were willing to turn a blind eye to what was going on. The idea was to bring sport to an entertainment-starved (white) public and to give the impression to the world that things weren't so bad after all. Across eight years, various rebel teams toured South Africa with impunity.

The first to land were Graham Gooch's 1982 team. West Indians, Australians - twice each - and Sri Lankans soon followed, and all were welcomed by the majority of the white South African establishment. The final batch of rebels led by Mike Gatting had assumed they were trading cash for a three-year ban, the punishment meted out to the 1982 squad. But no sooner was the venture revealed in the summer of 1989 than those involved found themselves vilified in the British press and rounded on by the public.

At the end of it all, there were big heads which rolled. These suspensions ended the careers of more than half the 1982 squad including Geoff Boycott, the world's leading Test run-scorer at the time. John Emburey, the English spinner,was twice banned for three years and both times returned to play for his country. Australian captain Kim Hughes, who had accused the ACB of fostering dissatisfaction among the players, thereby easing the recruitment process for the rebel tours easy, never played international cricket again. However, Terry Alderman, Trevor Hohns and Carl Rackemann returned to represent Australia in later series. The West Indians - Lawrence Rowe, Collis King and Sylvester Clarke among them - and Sri Lankans had a far more wretched time. Banned for life and socially ostracised, for some it destroyed their lives.

Packer saga

Kerry Packer, a 39-year-old media magnate, had been trying to secure TV rights for his Channel Nine network in Australia but was thwarted by a cozy long-standing relationship between the Australian Cricket Board (ACB) and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. In 1976, after his offer was turned down even though it was worth more than the ABC's, he decided to set up the World Series Cricket for his channel.

From late 1976 through to May 1977 Packer set about signing players (at the time of the launch in May he had 35 contracted), from Australia, West Indies, England, Pakistan and South Africa, who were in sporting isolation. The Australians - including leading players such as the Chappell brothers, Dennis Lillee and Rod Marsh - were banned from all official cricket, including state matches, and while initially England wanted to do the same (to the likes of Tony Greig, Alan Knott, John Snow and Derek Underwood) the hardline approach at the county level was unsustainable in view of the High Court ruling.

No Packer players, though, were picked for England after 1977. West Indies opted not to pick some players (Desmond Haynes, Deryck Murray, Richard Austin) leading to the remainder (including Clive Lloyd, Viv Richards, Andy Roberts, Joel Garner, Colin Croft) walking away, while Pakistan were perhaps in the biggest mess with a major split in their ranks over how to treat players .

Qayyum report

With the match-fixing lid blown off after the Hansie Cronje scandal in India, the radar turned towards Pakistan. Justice Malik Mohammad Qayyum, a Pakistan High Court judge, headed an inquiry that eventually handed fines to Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Aaqib Javed and Mushtaq Ahmed, and life bans to batsman Saleem Malik and fast bowler Ata-ur-Rahman from the game.

Despite it being the result of a comprehensive and wide-spanning inquiry, the report, made public in May 2000, received some criticism for being too vague in its findings, implying involvement of players in the team by imposing fines but not confirming it beyond reasonable doubt. However, Qayyum regretted the fact that his investigation into games under suspicion at the 1999 World Cup - Pakistan's loss to Bangladesh foremost among them - was blocked.

Zimbabwe boycott

The sacking of Zimbabwe captain Heath Streak as captain in 2004 sparked a boycott from his team-mates, plunging Zimbabwe cricket into another crisis. Streak had presented the Zimbabwe Cricket Union (ZCU) with a set of demands, including a condition that all selectors have first-class experience, and said he would consider quitting the game if they were ignored. The ZCU response was to remove Streak from captaincy and announce his retirement.

In protest, 15 players (including Grant Flower, Stuart Carlisle, Craig Wishart, Andy Blignaut and Ray Price) refused to represent the national team and signed a petition, calling for the instatement of a minimum wage and the establishment of a players' association among other demands. The boycott resulted in the formation of a makeshift team, and the board, faced with a declining player-pool, announced a withdrawal from Test cricket in 2006, which stands to this day.