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For the last decade or so, the princely game of cricket has passed through a mounting tide of indiscipline giving way to criminal tendencies. The players' involvement in several evils like ball tampering, gambling, bribery, match fixing and now, indulgence in the use of drugs has badly tarnished the sacred image of the game.
The prime responsibility for rooting out such crimes lies squarely with administrators of the game. Unfortunately, for saving face, undue publicity and other reasons I feel they deal with the defaulters rather too lightly. They either sweep the cases of in-discipline under the carpet, hush them up through some vague inquiries, or when things become worse they close the cases after awarding minor punishments to the offenders.
It is well recognized that punishment is a deterrent to crush crime. Had the ICC and the Cricket Boards adopted the policy of awarding severe-cum-suitable punishments to law-breakers, I am sure, there would have been little need for establishing an Anti-Corruption Unit headed by Sir Paul Condon and other such commissions set up by the Cricket Boards. The recent publication of the Condon report has clearly amplified this aspect.
Though attention of the cricket world is currently focussed on the Condon Report, the other cases of in-discipline must not be allowed to disappear in the noise over the big issue. The case under review is the 'marijuana smoking scandal' that erupted in Antigua during South African team's tour of the Caribbean last month. An incident also took place in Grenada when Pakistan were touring in 1992-93.
In the recent one, six members of the visiting team, Herchelle Gibbs, Paul Adams, Roger Telemachus, Andre Nel, Justin Kemp and the team physiotherapist Craig Smith were allegedly caught smoking marijuana in a hotel room. Despite the fact that the players were caught on the spot and accepted guilt, no action was taken by the local administration. The team was allowed a clean break from the incident, completed the tour and returned home where the United Cricket Board of South Africa (UCBSA) dealt with the case.
On rendering an apology, "the players were extremely regretful and remorseful of the incident and would like to apologize to the UCBA, the cricket loving people of South Africa and the West Indies for their indiscretion", the culprits were let off with a fine of R10,000 (US$1250) each. On assuring the Board further that 'this was a once off incident and that it will not happen on any South African cricket team tour again' the issue was closed.
The very fact that the Antiguan police and the local administration showed absolutely no reaction to the incident is baffling. I feel perplexed on such leniency especially if one recalls a similar case that happened during Pakistan's tour of the West Indies.
On arrival at the island of Grenada, skipper Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Aaqib Javed and Mushtaq Ahmed visited the beach. Two foreign female tourists and a local man accompanied them. According to reports, having found some marijuana joints lying nearby, the local police hauled them up and took them to the police station on the charge of 'constructive possession of marijuana'.
Since no drugs were found on them they were released on bail and directed to appear in the court five days later. The incident shook the whole team because if found guilty, the boys could have been fined up to $92,500. The funniest part of the story was that the venue of the incident happened to be a public beach open to use by all and sundry. Even at the time when the alleged narcotics were found, a number of people were present there. One can only guess how many other people would have visited the beach earlier. What the Pakistani boys perhaps forgot to do was to sweep the area of garbage and joints around them!
The team manager had to engage a panel of eminent jurists to defend the players and the incident cost the Pakistan team dearly in terms of money.
One can thus really wonder where have the West Indies' strict anti-narcotic laws gone? Or do they vary island by island? In the recent case, the players were found in the state of having taken the drug. Still, the local police took no notice of the offence. One can only surmise, the hotels and beaches in the West Indies are far too permissive and possible sanctuaries for crimes and irregularities?