May 16, 2015

Ain't no time to hate

There's too much negativity and strife in the international game. We need to restore cricket's lost integrity pronto

The damage caused by the latest Kevin Pietersen imbroglio will take far too long to repair © Getty Images

There are warnings firing off all over the place. The cricket world is in a precarious state, and unless the warnings are heeded, the consequences could be catastrophic.

The hate that abounds in the game is extraordinary. The ECB and Kevin Pietersen fight has split English cricket in half. The lack of respect is startling. Trust is built over time, but respect should be a natural common denominator for acceptable harmony, or both parties are in the wrong game - which they clearly are today. It has become the perfect storm, with Pietersen's score-settling book providing the tsunami wave that knocked them both out. That book, and its 300-plus pages of immaturity, sits alongside the 300-plus mature runs he scored in what was probably his last meaningful innings in his adopted estranged country. They are the ultimate bookend to a career that threatened greatness and ended in tears.

This story is among the most controversial of all the sagas England cricket has endured over its history. The recurring nightmare has set back the natural evolution of their game; it will take more time than one might think to restore. It has led to the ECB taking its eye off its sole purpose: to present an important pastime during the summer months that can lift the spirit of a nation and take their minds off the everyday struggle.

In the last few years the board has forgotten its role of patriotism. The ECB aren't representing their patriotic fans anymore, just their self-serving egos, to match that of Pietersen. If Pietersen is a strong patriot - which one must surely be to qualify to play Test cricket for a country - then I have seen nothing of it. He is on a personal crusade, and always has been. They are as bad as each other, and therefore there is only one solution.

Forgiveness. Colin Graves needs to tell Andrew Strauss, Peter Moores, KP and Alastair Cook to grow up and go get the Ashes back for the people of England. Put all of the culprits and egos back in the room together, proving once and for all that they do care about the hard-working folk doing the hard yards who need something to cheer. Forgiveness is all that is required. Every single person must forgive. It's all useless history to carry. There is an urn to be won, and Joe Root is the man with no fear to lead this team out.

Take a leap of faith, as Nelson Mandela would suggest, and pull off the greatest cricket story ever. You can tell your grandchildren that despite all the odds, you won the urn back, together. Now that is the meaning of sport.

Warning: you are potentially missing the strongest opportunity ever given to boost a nation's spirit.

Australia have reignited their patriotism under Darren Lehmann. The trouble with that is that he is a "boof". This means Australia will play ugly and behave immaturely. And if the other teams are self-destructing then Australia will gladly bully them down and stand gleefully triumphant.

Warning: the next generations are being fooled into thinking this is the right way, the Australian way. It isn't. Australia are simply masking their fears of going down the gurgler again, as they did between the last two 5-0 whitewashes of England. Being boof-headed is no way to entertain your nation.

South Africa will continue to not win World Cups or similar events as long as they adopt a racial policy.

Warning: this is not the Mandela way either.

New Zealand have been to hell and back in two years. They were so bad in late 2012, that everything had to be rehabbed. Everyone in the cricket community pulled their head in and pushed in the scrum. We all forgave and believed in the now. The rise to third place in the world in Tests, and a breakthrough final appearance in a World Cup final, spoke of a restored soul. Last week, however, one of the best men you could ever wish to have work for you, Bruce Edgar, the national selection manager, was waved off in inexplicable circumstances. He must be reinstated.

Warning: having filled up their fruit bowl recently, NZC have to watch that no apples are starting to rot.

West Indian cricket is the most saddening breakdown of its kind. Petty parochialism and small-time greed, following big-time greed in the form of Allen Stanford, have left the Caribbean desolate. Cricket was designed for West Indians, and now they can only find designs to trip up the man next to them, who they should be brothering.

It does no harm to remind ourselves of why we play the game: for the love of entertaining every fan. We play to satisfy our pride of place, where we live

Warning: As Martin Luther King said once, "We must live together as brothers or perish together as fools." He then went on to say, "Life at its best is a creative synthesis of opposites in fruitful harmony."

Pakistan is threatened by terrorism, and therefore an inability to play in front of their countrymen. It's an impossible assignment. There isn't a hope in hell their game will reach past glories anytime soon.

No warning: this is a lost cause.

India are being proactive and have a good handle on what they want. They just couldn't give a shit about anyone else. One day, they might just only play with themselves.

Warning: this is a general alert.

The ICC, as we know, is an oligarchy. It's ruled by a dictator and two mistaken identities. It is in serious trouble, given the present cast on stage.

Warning: we are all very tired of warning this lot.

What we can strive for is to restore our sport's lost integrity and loving feeling, so the fans can be lifted once more from their daily grind. International cricket, nation v nation, is about patriotism and a bit of tribalism, but not hate. It does no harm to remind ourselves of why we play the game: for the love of entertaining every fan. We play to satisfy our pride of place, where we live.

Someone wake me when it's done.

Warning: I'm done on this hate stuff.

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

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