I can't make heads or tails of the demands of the captains of the Test playing countries that there should be a greater equality in earnings between the rich teams and the poor teams. Of course there should be greater equality in the earning between the rich and the poor team.
There should be a greater equality in wealth distribution between rich and poor countries, not in their cricket teams alone. But to close the gap will require a social revolution. I don't think the cricket captains should be worrying their heads over matters that don't really concern them.
What the cricket captains should be concerned about is how the game is played on the field. There is a world of difference between cricket as it used to be played and the present showbiz parody of it as the fielders rush to embrace one another at the fall of a wicket or a bowler signalling to the batsman when he has got him out, showing him the way to the dressing room in a gesture that just falls short of being obscene. It is the job of the captain to maintain a measure of dignity at all times.
The first issue that should have been addressed was sledging. I think it seems to be getting out of hand and one does not have to be lip-reader to know what is being said. It is clearly visible on the television screens and the day cannot be far off (or should not be) when the telecast of an international cricket match will be preceded by Parental Guidance that the telecast may include some strong language and rude gestures. I am not squeamish about what is considered strong language and use it. But never, not once, have I strayed from the straight and narrow in public, in my particular case, when I have done the commentary.
When Jamsheed Marker and I used to do the radio commentary, I used to write small notes to him conveying what I actually thought of the way a particular batsman was batting or a bowler was bowling and was fairly graphic in the language used but on the air it was milk and honey. I find it a little tiresome to have sledging justified, particularly by the commentators on the grounds that international cricket is a tough game.
In the first final of the Carlton series, Michael Bevan threw the ball at full tilt in the direction of Brian Lara causing Lara to take evasive action. There was an angry exchange of words between Lara and Bevan and the umpire (an Australian) rather than speak to Bevan, spoke to Lara and Lara gave the umpire short shrift.
It should have been Steve Waugh who should have told off Bevan in no uncertain terms. I have seen both A. H. Kardar and Imran Khan come down hard on a member of his own team if he was being extra exuberant and behaving like a hooligan. Rather than cut out sledging, someone like Dennis Lillee recommends that the stump microphone should be removed! Sledging should have been the first item on the agenda of the captains' meeting. The second should have been umpiring.
They should have demanded 'neutral' umpires at both ends and in test matches as well as one-day internationals.
I thought the umpiring left a lot to be desired both in Australia and in South Africa. Considering that both Australia and South Africa (against Sri Lanka) were overwhelmingly superior, I don't think they needed any assistance from the umpires. The third item should have been the front-foot no-ball rule. It really makes little sense and the sooner we revert back to back-foot rule the better. It gives the batsman a better chance of hearing the call in time to do something about it like having an almighty go as he did in the past. The front-foot rule also adds to the work-load of an umpire who has too many things to look at in the flash of an eye.
I don't think the captains should worry too much about the inequality between the rich and poor countries. It is for the cricket boards to do the worrying. Imagine the West Indian team when it had Gordon Greenidge, Desmond Haynes, Viv Richards, Clive Lloyd, Malcolm Marshall, Michael Holding, Andy Roberts, Colin Croft. Imagine the sponsorship fees they would have commanded in the preset day. I can also remember Australia when it was not the cock of the walk, stripped of its players who had joined Packer, Pakistan whitewashed them in Pakistan. I don't think they would have got too many sponsors. Money comes into cricket when a team is good. No one wants to sponsor a loser.
The Pakistan team has arrived in New Zealand and I hope they will not be lulled into a sense of complacency after Sri Lanka made short work of them and won the series with a thumping 4-1 margin. New Zealand won the last match and they played it with a lot of pride at stake. This victory will do wonders for their morale and their body language suggested it.
Cricket is a funny game. This was the same Sri Lanka that was whitewashed by South Africa and looked much the worse for wear. Yet in a matter of a couple of weeks, Sri Lanka has re-grouped and they looked a different team.
New Zealand has been seriously weakened by the absence, through injury, of Chris Cairns. He is to the New Zealand team what Wasim Akram is to Pakistan. Without Wasim Akram Pakistan is half the team. So too is New Zealand without Chris Cairns.
And a final word about the Earthquake Relief. I saw Sachin Tendulkar appear on Amitabh Bachchan's Crorepati programme and he made an appeal for relief funds and urged that the relief keeps coming long after the Earthquake is not in the headlines. I would have been interested to ask him what he thought of his government's decision not to allow the Indian team to play in the triangular that had been planned to be played in Sharjah for this very purpose.