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