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Stop now, and think

The Denness affair is behind us. It's time to ponder the way ahead, says Sanjay Manjrekar

Sanjay Manjrekar
Sanjay Manjrekar
We don't live in a perfect world and that is something we accept in our everyday life. It's time we did the same with cricket. Our quest for perfection - through technology - is taking us up a blind alley. As a result there is a good chance that cricket in the future may not be as enjoyable or as exciting as it used to be. The happenings of the last two weeks have given us the perfect excuse to take a breather and look at just where we are going.
We should start by taking a cue from other sports. The Hand-of-God incident in the quarterfinals of the 1986 football World Cup provoked outrage, but it didn't bring about a knee-jerk change in regulations. In tennis, millions of dollars - and titles - depend on a single line-call, but that hasn't allowed technology to take over the sport. Cricket, to my discomfort, is starting to increasingly rely on TV. And it is a can of worms waiting to burst open. For starters, remember only the television producer has control over pictures and some of them may not be neutral. What happens then?
The prime task of the ICC is to popularise the game - remember it is only played in a handful of countries - and controversies such as this only ensure negative publicity. It's time to look at the bigger picture; we can labour away on any one aspect of the game, but while doing so, we might neglect some others.
It's only a thought: maybe a high-level committee consisting of former players, current captains, administrators, perhaps even a media representative, could come together for some sort of an intellectual seminar to help chalk out the path ahead. It is far too convenient to blame the ICC for everything. We Indians tend to think of the ICC as an outside body headquartered in London. Let's not forget that India is one of its prominent members; it is also our forum to participate in decision-making.
Today, the role of the match-referee is being questioned. Let's not forget that he is there partly because of the players themselves. Ball-tampering would never have been so carefully defined in the books if it wasn't so prevalent. When the match-fixing scandal broke, I was amazed to see so many fingers pointed at the cricket boards. The blame for match-fixing rests solely with the players: had they not succumbed to the temptation we would never had heard of that particular devil.
The match-referee should look at his job as one with responsibility rather than one with power. I don't think his post should be abolished with immediate effect but it's time to consider handing the power back to the umpires. This would require them to be - apart from excellent umpires - also good man-managers, and very clear about their role: that of making the game healthy again. It will require a very special set of skills and the job must be made lucrative enough to attract people of exceptional standing, capable of shouldering such responsibility.
It is time for introspection, time to chalk out our path for the future and there must be only one aim: to make the game more popular and not merely error-free.

Former India batsman Sanjay Manjrekar is a cricket commentator and presenter on TV. @sanjaymanjrekar