A new power, an old ranter and Ganguly's ins and outs
Interesting times are in prospect with the Indian board's new aggressive policy on its own position in world cricket. With the bulk of the game's income deriving from Asia, it seems fair that it should have a bigger say in what happens. But this could have serious knock-on effects, especially to the Full Member countries on the fringe - and that includes West Indies and New Zealand - and everyone else below. The ICC seems powerless to do anything other than write letters, and it is noticeable that after the million-dollar threats which were repeatedly made against England regarding their Zimbabwe tour, the ICC has not mentioned any penalities should India default on their tour obligations. There is a feeling that we are witnessing a change to the world order. Whether that is good or bad remains to be seen, but certain figures on the Indian board seem far too preoccupied with making money and less interested in the medium-to-long-term effects of their actions on the game as a whole. One worries about the future when the BCCI's Inderjit Singh Bindra told a reporter that were Bangladesh ever to tour India they would receive "meal allowances only" so poor a draw were they. And India were Bangladesh's major supporter when they were trying for Test status.
In my day ...
Lou Rowan, Australia's octogenarian former umpire, let rip at Ricky Ponting who he described as "a smart arse and a disaster as leader." What appears to have rattled Rowan was his perception that things ain't what they used be as far as player conduct is concerned. That would be the same Rowan who stood in five Tests in 1970-71 when Australia's sledging was in the ascendancy. We don't usually print feedback in this column, but thought this one worth an airing. "Perhaps we should just, respectfully, suggest Rowan remove his dentures and go back to slurping his bread-and-butter custard," wrote Anthony from Australia. "At the very least, if he spends his remaining days with his teeth out and mouth full no crap will come out."
In, and out again
Sourav Ganguly's inclusion in the squad for the Pakistan tour supposedly involved all sorts of machinations at the board level. And if sources are to be believed, even his appearance in the playing XI at Lahore owed more to higher powers than a vote of confidence from his captain, Rahul Dravid, and coach, Greg Chappell. Not having had a bat in that game, Ganguly found himself shunted out at Faisalabad with the Indian think-tank opting for five specialist bowlers. Having ruled out retirement as an option, India's most successful captain may just have to get used to such yo-yo treatment in future.
It makes a change in a game of endless tours and meaningless best-of-seven one-day series that the week has been dominated by a string of cancellations. India have been leading the way by calling off a trip to New Zealand, and then stating that they would be too busy to play in the 2008 Champions Trophy. Australia then joined in, scrapping their tour to the Caribbean in 2007. The runaway winners, however, are Zimbabwe, who got so into the new trend that they cancelled all their Test matches for the next 13 months.
The threat of a woefully one-sided series between West Indies and Zimbabwe (assuming Zimbabwe could have raised an XI) disappeared with Zimbabwe's ICC-supported decision to suspend themselves from Test cricket. If that showed common sense on the ICC's part, its refusal to acknowledge the racial and political cleansing of Zimbabwe cricket by the Peter Chingoka-led board is a disgrace. The degree to which almost all white, Asian and anti-government faces have been eliminated became clear with ZC's announcement of their new committees. As for the ICC, it would only offer limp remarks that Chingoka has promised to look into the situation. That has to be the least reassuring piece of internal policing since Stalin promised to investigate Soviet Russia's human-rights record.
Raking it in
There is something a bit tacky about the news that Andrew Flintoff's benefit could earn him as much as £3 million this year. Not because he is taking it abroad with events in India and Australia, not because Flintoff is not entitled to earn as much as he can from his short time in the game. The worry is that as things stand, benefits in the UK are not taxed. Many county stalwarts rely to a large extent on their benefit to set them up for life after cricket, and if Flintoff does earn as much as is being touted, the Inland Revenue is sure to sit up and reassess the tax situation.. While that might not hurt Flintoff and his fellow England players much, it will make a huge difference to the legion of trundlers and sloggers that keep the county game going.
Haroon Lorgat, the convenor of South Africa's selectors, offered support for his batsmen who are struggling in Australia. "van der Wath is a like-for-like replacement for Kallis, although he is obviously not in the same class as a specialist batsman," Lorgat gushed, before widening his attack. "We still have plenty of senior batsmen available and, quite frankly, it is high time that they started pulling their weight." This is the same Lorgat who last year announced the call-up of Andrew Puttick for his international debut by telling the media: "We roped in Puttick as a stop-gap replacement before we decide on the player for Sunday's match." A good man to have behind you when you go over the top.
Less than eight months ago, Graham Thorpe celebrated his 100th and final Test appearance for England. Now he is in Australia on a playing and coaching contract with New South Wales. The only problem is he cannot get a game. He made one outing for his club - UTS Balmain - which ended with him suffering a recurrence of his long-standing back injury. NSW offered him the chance to return to action for their 2nd XI against Queensland next week, but then remembered that the match is for the Gregory Cup, a competition whose rules forbid anyone who has more than five first-class games under their belt taking part. A 2nd XI game against Victoria is the next one in his sights.
Quote of the week
"If the flour is poor quality and the salt is poor quality, the bread will taste bad." Jimmy Adams when asked why West Indies cricket is struggling.
Martin Williamson is managing editor of Cricinfo