One-match tourneys do no good for the game

Published: Monday, August 30, 2004, 19:19 [IST]
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The just concluded tri-nation series in Holland was the most ironical one. Before the tournament started, cricket scribes cried out that the venue is going to be a bowlers' graveyard with short boundaries. They spoke about chasing mammoth totals of 450 plus. And Pakistan's coach, Bob Woolmer announced that he will be using Shahid Afridi, the big hitter.

But, look what happened? The high profile tournament never began, it just ended with a final, where two teams filled with run machines struggled on a quicksand pitch where dust raised as balls pitched. And the versatile Shahid Afridi shone as a bowler than a batsman!

The fastest and only fifty in the final was made by Matthew Hayden in 104 balls! It must have been the slowest innings ever played by Hayden in One-dayers.

The famed Indian batting collapsing and getting all out for 127 in 25 overs in a rain-shortened tournament opener was just the sign of the things to come.

Well, the question is, if the goal of holding a high profile tournament in a non-traditional venue was to globalise cricket, what purpose does Amstelveen tourney serve? Rain ruled the roost in almost all the matches except final, but by that time, it had done enough damage to the pitch and the outfield to make cricket impossible at the highest standards.

Those in Holland who are new to cricket cannot be blamed for thinking cricket is a game of trying to touch a zigzagging ball with a club and running for dear life to the other end. For the final, in which two of the most talented teams in world cricket played, was just that.

If the cover-drives, square-cuts and those beautiful strokes which make cricket a beautiful game quite different from the barbarism of base ball or the brute force of tennis are absent, those spectators who came from as far as the United States cannot be blamed for thinking twice when the next tournament comes up.

And the rain... Reports said this was the wettest rainy season experienced by the Netherlands in five years. It is true that even the most sophisticated system cannot predict weather with hundred percent accuracy. But the International Cricket Council (ICC) could have ensured the tournament does not fall in the wettest time of the year. Think of all those cricket lovers confined to their hotel rooms. They would not think favourably of another cricket pilgrimage in future.

The Amstelveen tournament was considered to be a warm-up event for the ICC Champions trophy. Consider the condition of the pitch in the final between Australia and Pakistan. It would have been a disaster for Australia or Pakistan, had any of their players been injured. And the match referee's shadow was long and at anytime, there was chance of the match being called off due to the risks faced by batsmen due the unpredictable nature of the pitch.

Batsmen had to put their skills in cold storage and had to wander around the pitch trying not to get injured. Remember the comic stance of Darren Lehmann jumping from one end of the crease to the other end appearing to be a frog-killer than a batsman. One thing is for sure; such a comic apparition is not appealing for someone new to cricket. He or she will dismiss cricket as a game played and watched by fools.

ICC will have to ensure that at least the pitch, the outfield and weather are conducive for playing cricket before moving to non-traditional venues in a bid to globalise cricket. Never mind the spectators in the stadium, but television viewers and broadcasters, who are so important to the game, too are turned off by matches held under poor conditions. Make hay while the Sun shines, but please don't kill the goose laying golden eggs.

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