May 26, 2014

Step up, captains

We can't trust administrators or politicians to get us out of the current crisis. Captains, both current and former, need to take the reins

To be or not to be. That is the question around cricket.

It pulls at the gut to know that a gentleman's summer game, a beautiful outdoor sport, a recreation kids love to try, or a passionate pastime that you have devoted your life to, is nothing but a prison to others. It's the weirdest feeling.

To bat at Lord's or the Adelaide Oval or the Basin Reserve on a sunny warm calm day, oh man, nothing beats the joy of being. And yet those others, those small reckless few, can only find joy in making a quick buck out of the game.

Did they think to care about the kids who dream of being them one day, or even their own proud mums and dads, or the devoted fans, or former players, or their own team-mates? No, they didn't. Those freaking fools forget what joy they gained from picking up a bat or ball when they first tasted the game of cricket. To be banned for life from a sport you once thrived on must cut deep.

Somewhere and somehow, they lost the reason for sport. One day they lost the very thing that gave them meaning. And now they not only are destroying a sport, at times sitting on the brink, they have virtually given up on society as well.

In truth, they don't care for the consequences, just the short-term greedy gain. They are angry with the world, but mainly with themselves. They may crave the money, yet in the cold light of day they really must hate themselves. Why take it out on the game?

To put on the same uniform, to practise and talk cricket and yet know that everyone around will try and you won't, to work in secrecy to kill the contest, is simply incomprehensible.

As of today, we now truly know that the game has changed forever. The game has always reflected society. Alas, in this moment it is revealing it no longer is protected nor controllable under the rules by which it is governed. Yes, the game will survive and continue to evolve, but it will be dressed differently. Society, we sense, as time marches on, is becoming stressed and stained. Cricket today is officially stressed to the max.

It is pulled by one too many formats, too many magnets, agendas, meaningless matches, mercenaries, and politickers - too much sledging, greed and controversy - too little leadership, inspiration and soul. It has lost its equilibrium, its grounding, its history and its spirit. Cricket is an open wound.

We can't trust administrators, politicians, nor the dark unknown. So here is the deal.

The captains need to take the rein. There needs to be a captains' union, a leadership pact, a meeting of minds. Now.

With help and funding from the MCC, let's form a special group of five former captains and leaders to join all international skippers and start spreading the word about integrity

Together they, the best-proven leaders going around today, have to save the game. They have to come to the summit and plot the way forward and pledge the movement. They have to lead in the closing up of the sordid, cancerous bleeding that exists, even if caused by a reckless few among the ranks, fast.

They can sort out so much together. We should call on Ian Chappell and Mike Brearley, Graeme Smith, Stephen Fleming, Rahul Dravid, and all present captains to mastermind the new march forward. Collectively they could solve the technology and umpiring dilemmas, the low-catching debate, the sledging, the sportsmanship, and the spirit of the game.

Then the captains could all go back to their teams and demand a commitment to work towards a cleaner, fairer, quieter contest between proud cricket nations. As simplistic as it sounds, wishful maybe, surely we have to aim for and demand a better cricket society that oozes proper values.

It's time to circle the wagons against the underworld. Slowly we have to decelerate the pace of betting and corruption that is appearing to gain traction by the day.

Forget the ICC, it's a sham. It has no chance of correcting its wrongs, and we all know it. So with help and funding from the MCC, let's form a special group of five former captains and leaders to join all international skippers and start spreading the word about integrity. Then take it back to each individual country and work the oracle there, using the reliable players associations' support to educate and convince, one by one.

Let's fight back. If we don't do something, we all know what is coming. Anarchy. It's on our doorstep as we speak.

While mafia lords are patrolling the dark alleyways, let's gather our finest ambassadors who have played the game, who have led their teams out, and let them form a counter-attack, one that is sustainable and deep in support, out in the open, out in the middle.

This latest match-fixing saga may well provide us all the heart to regroup. Cricket has got to change for the better, and that time has arrived about now.

Martin Crowe, one of the leading batsmen of the late '80s and early '90s, played 77 Tests for New Zealand

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Kalyan on May 27, 2014, 14:24 GMT

    admirable sentiment from crowe, but with MSD being captain of india - and that means by default the most powerful captain today - crowe's idea is a nonstarter.

  • Dummy4 on May 27, 2014, 10:33 GMT

    Big money has set the stage for the uglier side of cricket both from the individual cricketer and the corporate structure administering the sport. That is the reality we face. Fighting this insidious part of the game is the responsibility of all who play a role in cricket, be it the ethical administrators, coaches, captains and players, and when criminal activity surfaces, it should be prosecuted to the hilt. If the professional in the game is given more control over their livelihood from a monetary point of view and with the proper checks and balances in place, cricket like any other corporation can minimize the corruption within their rank and file.

  • James on May 27, 2014, 7:12 GMT

    An admirable article. It is bit late, however. The restriction of Pietersen, one of the game's greatest attractions, blurred for reasons legal otherwise, says the game is moribund. For cricket to be popular, it must have audiences. So these are the people who need to settle on the captains Martin envisages being enlisted. Selectors are impresarios but only the public can make the stars. It is what really leads cricket. Assuming the public is the source of the present decay - and I personally believe it is - we must asked whether the public really wants what a traditional view includes, things like grace and decorum in traditional guises. If the public did in fact now want and know how to bring these appealing, to me, values to cricket it would have done so. Restorations are never the natural, spontaneous things that have a future. Mostly, the public wants 70 hit or 20 balls. That is now, in broad, what cricket is. Test cricket is a different thing.

  • VENKATACHALAM on May 27, 2014, 6:14 GMT

    Wishful day dreaming, Mr.Crowe.

  • James on May 27, 2014, 2:38 GMT

    jw76 & jakespin, comparing aggression on the field to corruption is like comparing an argument to WW2. There are no captains"committed to sledging", & it has nothing to do with corruption. There has always been verbal aggression. But corruption at present levels is something completely new. Further, sledging on the field is hardly out if control. There are 2 umpires present who can easily discipline players as they see fit. Most of the crying about sledging occurs from fans AFTER their team loses. It's ego-compensation. We got thrashed, but hey, we are morally superior. Corruption on the other hand is very real, very complex & very difficult to deal with.

  • Dummy4 on May 27, 2014, 0:03 GMT

    It all comes down to this - do the players regard cricket as a proud sport or as a cheap game? And the easy way to tell which they think it is is to see whether they engage in sportsmanship or gamesmanship.

  • Dion on May 27, 2014, 0:03 GMT

    I think this is a good idea but it is not enough.

    The ICC have to announce that they will plant agents to approach players from now on. Any player agreeing to cheat and going through with it gets an automatic life ban, assets stripped and jail. It is the only way to make players really question an approach.

    The soft approach has not worked and the riches are too great for some to say no.

    Fans are growing tired of this and some fans I know are starting to lose faith in the game as we no longer can trust we are watching real contents anymore. The ICC and all fans have a great deal to lose if this continues. It has been an issue for far too long and efforts to date clearly have failed.

    Time to get tough!

  • Dummy4 on May 26, 2014, 13:56 GMT

    The whole thing of "sport" at the moment is a complete lottery. We all believed that Lance Armstrong was in it for the love and kindness he'd received throughout his illness and he proved to be a con artist. Warnie was the loveable larrikin but he took a performance enhancer whilst the Australian board dumbed down their bookie scandal. We all hope that Usain Bolt is going to be the real deal but, then again, so much of what he does is super human. Too many people are happy with a bit of short-term gain at the expense of just being involved.

    Imagine if players had been accepting bribes to let Bradman or Lara score a few more runs per session........

  • Jake on May 26, 2014, 13:31 GMT

    Another beautifully written article, Martin. Not sure I'd necessarily have Ian Chappell on my committee to do away with excessive sledging, however....

  • kent on May 26, 2014, 11:37 GMT

    Martin, your analogy of the problem is quite competent, I share your frustration and also your passion. However I am not sure about the solution. "We cant trust administrators" (quote), but these administrators appointed the captains. Captains cannot be divorced from them,since they are functionaries of the Boards, just like managers and coaches. "The game has changed forever", "the game has always reflected society" (quotes) In there is the problem but also the solution. Players are now demanding more compensation for their play, lets neutralize the match fixer by giving the players a bigger cut of the pie, while putting measures in place to police the players and maximize the penalties for the offenders. A player's added earnings plus the risk of him being banned for life or jailed for life could be enough to deter him. Of course the support and lobby of prominent past and present players can also help, but it must be complimented by the individual governments to enforce the law.

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