Martin Crowe
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Former New Zealand batsman and captain

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

Martin Crowe

May 26, 2014

Comments: 18 | Text size: A | A

The captains of the participating teams pose with the Asia Cup Trophy, Dhaka, February 24, 2014
It's time captains around the world worked towards cleaning up the game © AFP

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

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Posted by cricket-india 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.

Posted by   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.

Posted by Clyde 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.

Posted by venkatesh018 on (May 27, 2014, 6:14 GMT)

Wishful day dreaming, Mr.Crowe.

Posted by TheBigBoodha 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.

Posted by   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.

Posted by bobbo2 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!

Posted by   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........

Posted by Jakespin 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....

Posted by kentjones 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.

Posted by   on (May 26, 2014, 11:31 GMT)

Marty, a great peice as usual, but its going to get worse before it gets better. How can the ICC appoint Srinivasan as Chairman. He will head the The ICC Chief Executives' Committee which I understand draws together the Chief Executives of the ten Test playing nations together with three representatives from the Associate Members to deal with operational and management matters relating to the administration and operation of the game of cricket. The game has never been more greedy, dishonest and corrupt than it is now.

Posted by WheresTheEmpire on (May 26, 2014, 11:25 GMT)

I agree with some of the thoughts above and match-fixing makes me nauseous but some perspective Martin, please. There is good and bad everywhere and the ICC is not fit for purpose however cricket has always had scandals and survived and over the past few months there has been some great cricket with the Lankans winning the T20 and the SA-Aus Tests.

A group of current and former captains is fine but cannot be expected to be a substitute for lack of leadership and goodwill within the ICC.

Posted by Emadthegreat on (May 26, 2014, 10:13 GMT)

@Nadeem1976 its not about supporting your country or mine. Cricket is entertainment for us but employment for those who play it. They can not even get a job after they retire at 40 and not all cricketers are as great as Sachin, Wasim etc to earn some more after their cricketing life. Many associates team members do a part time job to support their families because they are not paid good enough. Only if you pay the cricketers of even at the grass root level fair amount they will not go into wrong ways. Pay them good, teach them at the grass root level that this is a wrong way (match fixing and all that). I think many cricketers are sensible enough to know what is wrong or right! As for being a cricket fan, support fair cricket only!

Posted by Warm_Coffee on (May 26, 2014, 9:39 GMT)

I really like how Martin openly says ICC is a shame. We all agree. Nobody has been a fan of ICC and the main reason why Cricket hasn't really thrived as a world sport when really Cricket should be amongst the top 3 by now if the game was govern properly.

Posted by karachikhatmal on (May 26, 2014, 8:43 GMT)

I realise that the comment I am posting here will soon lose all nuance and perhaps launch a pointless outrage, but please bear with me.

I remember when Amir, Butt and Asif were caught fixing, many of us spoke at length about the society they lived in and its failings. Many people with little to no experience of Pakistan also ventured forth to give such explanations. I for one felt that the discussion as a whole was valid, since it helped us understand why the crime took place.

I wish we would have the same discussion now as well, instead of a largely romantic notion of fixers being self-haters. I find that a highly dubious explanation, and one that rushes to dismiss all social causes.

If there is time for anything, it is that we understand fixing as a real world issue and try to deal with it as such. Labelling it as personal problems is not helpful.

Posted by jw76 on (May 26, 2014, 7:44 GMT)

I do agree. But unfortunately there are captains out there who are committed to sledging and gamesmanship, rather than to the spirit of the game.

Posted by   on (May 26, 2014, 4:54 GMT)

@ Nadeem1976: What you're saying leads me to conclude that you're talking about cricket as entertainment instead of cricket as a sport. If I support a team, it is because its a sport and the better team at it wins. If its just entertainment that I want I can watch WWE because they showcase a sport that used to be a sport as entertainment. I don't want cricket to be a former sport and an entertainment for the present or the future. Let it remain a sport, let the best team on the day win, and lets NOT back IPL just because it entertains.

We need to get integrity back into the game, I'm certain Crowe's method won't work...not all the captains would even show up because of the politics involved, but yes, we do need to invest in integrity.

Posted by Nadeem1976 on (May 26, 2014, 3:29 GMT)

why don't we start praising cricket as global game instead of support your country. i am Pakistani and i am supporting Indian team and IPL for last 6 years because i believe that i am fan of cricket only. The time has come where we just watch and follow cricket for fun and entertainment and not for the sake or passion or patriotism because failure hurts a lot. We cannot change the way players and admins play the cricket but we can change how to watch and how to follow cricket. I love watching IPL the same way i love watching Pakistani team cricket matches and do not get hurt if any team loses because for me it's all fun now and no emotions. We need to grow up as fans and start promoting cricket as global game instead of support our own teams.

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