June 16, 2014

Why cricket's future is bright

Cricket has suffered many evils recently - fixing, chucking, mankading and sledging, to name a few - but it will emerge from the darkness stronger, wiser and better

Don't you get the feeling that cricket has been through an almighty tornado lately? The ICC has shot itself in the foot again, as seen in the Big Three revealing their true colours. Then there have been more match-fixing tales involving well-known players, as well as burnout, depression, ugly sledging, chucking reports, mankading, and players choosing a quick buck over an international legacy.

Yet through all that upheaval the game marches on, showing its deep-rooted resilience. You sense that soon the game will begin to enjoy a rich period of balance, consolidation, growth and good old-fashioned fun again. From the gloom, light appears.

All these devilish happenings have exposed nasty boils that need lancing. These open wounds, some of them cancerous, are godsends and blessings to aid a sport that needs constant balancing. While the wounds are attended to and the healing goes on, the game gets more immune and enriched with new wisdom and enlightenment. All this crap we have endured lately is actually a great thing.

The Big Three have tripped up nicely enough for all to notice. Their leaked position paper exposed their overall motive - more of this and lots of that for them, because they have muscle. That they excluded themselves from any possible demotion under a proposed two-tier Test format was a ripper. India's demand of a humongous slice of the pie was no surprise, but the threats to form its own breakaway body were hilarious. India needs to sort out its leadership fast before it can expect the rest of the world to truly acknowledge its rightful position.

The Big Three won't get away with bullying any longer. The masses are anticipating their motives and moves. They will win here and there but the way of the world will ensure they are pulled in often and hard. The cricket media and the overall cricket community are a hardy bunch of men and women who know a rotten scheme when they smell one. The game is superbly policed, if not governed.

The match-fixing bracket will cop enough through this recent highly public laundry of dirty deeds, and back off a little. While anything is illegal, men will operate in foul ways to prosper. But don't you sense that players are going to be harder to con while the pay is reasonable for playing clean?

Mankading is not so much about spirit but about not breaking the rules. The umpire should give the repeat offender out, taking out the friction between teams altogether

This latest series of investigations, from the Supreme Court in India to the High Court in London, will send out a clear message to stitch up that hideous deep cut in our game. It finally appears that a necessary move by governments to pass greater penalties for fixing and give teeth to the anti-corruption bodies to prosecute in tandem with law enforcement will eventuate in due course. All a result of this painful public airing.

The Cronje affair brought in the Anti-Corruption and Security Unit, and now the various cases dominating headlines will bring about the proper power to deal with the corrupt. While it's never a guarantee that chemotherapy will forever snuff out the cancerous cells, its worth is undeniable. Harsh jail terms must be introduced.

The ICC cricket committee is waking up to the chucking pandemic. It realises now that if it doesn't act quickly then in ten years half the bowling attacks around the world will either be illegal or downright ugly to watch. While the officials are fixing bowling actions, maybe they could tackle bat thickness and boundary size to bring the balance of the game back to its rightful position. With a bit of thought and a collective effort to do so, the game will benefit greatly.

When players see that the game is in solid shape, that fewer one-dayers are scheduled, and a better balance of all three formats is in place, they will be blinded by the need to take every opportunity to play international cricket over wanting IPL riches, to create a legacy and a meaning for all those to follow. This, I believe, will all fall into place when the storm passes and the calm, balmy days arrive.

I am confident leaders and captains will soon come together and form a pact. The MCC has a world committee that should be downsized to make room for a special annual captains' run, where representatives from each country - captains, vice-captains or player-association bosses - meet and suss out the main issues of the game.

They can tidy up the overly personal sledging that tarnishes the game, and especially the ugly image that wrongly influences the young of how to dominate matches. This must be discussed and mutually settled, along with mankading, ridiculous referrals for 50/50 lbws, and those low catches, which should be sorted out on the field instead of in the 2D review room.

Mankading is not so much about spirit but about not breaking the rules. If a non-striker is trying to gain an advantage the umpire must communicate clearly as to the consequences, if repeated. The umpire should give the repeat offender out, taking out the friction between teams altogether.

All this and more can be worked through when the captains pledge an oath and combine to fight for a better spirit and a clear regard for the rules. This pact idea is not a romantic fool praying to the heavens. It is is a bloody necessity.

These dark times are nearly at an end. I see 2015 and a sunny yet combative World Cup looming as the greatest platform on which to launch a new era for the decades to come.

Life throws up pain and tough times to ensure a balance is sought. It can't all be roses and bloom. There has to be a bit of devil and gloom to remind us to not be complacent and to not take anything for granted. These last 12 months will serve us well.

A year from now, we will experience a new dawn.

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

  • John on June 20, 2014, 15:23 GMT

    Another fine article by Martin Crowe which in principle I agree with,but if I may be allowed to comment on a couple of items.Backing Up is trying to gain an advantage so if the bowler runs out the miscreant so be it,Batsmen will soon break the habit of going walkabout up the wicket.In Rugby a 10 Metre movement of a given penalty was introduced to stop players questioning the referees decisions,this had the desired effect and nobody questions the decisions anymore,so therefore more run outs of offending batsmen should stop that problem in it's tracks.The other problem is Bowling Actions,it appears that when tested in a Laboratory all is fine and within the allowed tolerances but to the naked eye on the field of play all dosn't look well,unfortunately I'm not sure what the solution is.My final point is the size of the modern day bats which in my opinion are oversized when compared to the bat that Albert Trott must have used to propel the ball over the Lord's Pavilion in 1899.

  • Dummy4 on June 19, 2014, 10:51 GMT

    How about reducing the impact of backing up; our game isn't baseball, after all, is it? Wouldn't (at international level) there be a case for "ball" being called by the standing umpire (or non-standing umpire in the case of a runner) if the non-striker is found to have left his ground before a delivery becomes legal (the landing of the front foot behind the return crease). This would result in 1 penalty run deducted from the batting team's score and a 'dot ball' in the scorebook in the opposite way that a no-ball is recorded.A "no-ball" and "ball" at the same point cancel each other out. Either that or batters just simply stay behind the line and run the full 22 yards as opposed to 18 or 20.......

  • Dummy4 on June 17, 2014, 3:52 GMT

    Great insights from Martin once again.

  • Charindra on June 16, 2014, 12:13 GMT

    A good article, but with two points which are terribly off the mark. Why should umpires get involved in Mankading? Do they warn batters about jumping out of the crease and getting stumped? Do umpires give them out if they do it repeatedly? And what's wrong with ugly actions, as long as they are legal?? "

  • Dummy4 on June 16, 2014, 11:30 GMT

    The author Martin Crowe who himself played cricket knows the current trend and has given valuable suggestions. Crowe himself innovated in 1992 WC by asking Mark Greatbatch to slog in the opening 15 overs when the field restrictions were there and he also opened the bowling with Deepak Patel. It went off well till they succumbed to Pakistan when Martin could not take the field due to a hamstring and John Wright who was the 12th Man in that match captained the side and they lost the match and couldn't go to Finals which ultimately was won by PAKISTAN.

    Here in this article he suggests various ideas including checking of chucking and a host of other ideas. Hope the ICC administrators take these useful suggestions and bring repute to the game which was sullied by the recent MATCH FIXING, Arm twisting by BCCI and others in running the game. If u alllow the things go astray at this point of time, then it may be difficult to regroup. So this is an eye opener and heed to his suggestions.

  • Android on June 16, 2014, 10:57 GMT

    wont agree with u on Mankading being an evil?Then hitwickets and obstructing the field must also be unspirtsmanlike and evil

  • Richard on June 16, 2014, 10:48 GMT

    It's nice to read an article with a very upbeat assessment of the game, many excellent points made. One aspect that is only touched on briefly is grassroots participation in the sport and attendances at games, I think these have to be a big focus as well as the pressing issues at the elite levels of the sport. Clearly the ICC has a duty to the long-term and this should surely involve associate nations playing the fullest possible role and maybe hard cash funding from the big boys to the smaller nations for "scholarships" to retain their best players in their domestic game. Also the facilities at the grassroots level need to be invested in, decent grass pitches, nets and pavilions etc are a prerequisite for the game to flourish. And surely Heston Blumenthal should be recruited to apply molecular gastronomy techniques to traditional village cricket teas (only joking!). The best scone I ever ate was after two hours in the field. After all, this is a game so good we play it for five days!

  • Srin on June 16, 2014, 10:37 GMT

    Why is mankadding a bad thing? It is just like stumping, except at the other end of the pitch. Ian Chappell's column has it right about mankadding. When a bowler is bowling, there exists a pact that the non-striker should keep his bat grounded behind the bowling crease. If the non-striker is breaking this unwritten pact, then it should be he that should be frowned upon and not the bowler for running him out.

  • Srin on June 16, 2014, 10:24 GMT

    Dark times? No, we in India enjoyed an excellent IPL in the last two months. It was gripping and exciting. People from everywhere came together and played. Great advertisement for cricket.

  • Dummy4 on June 16, 2014, 9:18 GMT

    Guys, if you read the article carefully you'll see that Martin Crowe is being critical of the non striking batsman who leaves his crease while backing up. He's saying that umpires should take more responsibility to warn the non striker, and even give them out, to remove the need for the fielding side to take matters into their own hands and effect the mankad. Now that would take a brave umpire!

  • No featured comments at the moment.