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Sehwag showdown takes world game closer to split

Published: Sunday, November 25, 2001, 20:20 [IST]
 
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London: A major split in world cricket moved closer to reality on Wednesday when India included banned batsman Virender Sehwag in its 14-man squad for next week's first Test against England in Mohali.The International Cricket Council (ICC) has given the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) until 06:30 GMT on Friday to confirm if Sehwag, who it says is still to serve a one-match ban for excessive appealing imposed in South Africa, will take the field in the Test.A split in world cricket has been the fear that dare not speak its name among generations of administrators.Now there are real concerns that BCCI president Jagmohan Dalmiya, the controversial former ICC president, will try to use the Sehwag dispute as a pretext for launching an Asian breakaway from world cricket's governing body.To many in Asia, which boasts major cricket powers in India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, all of whom form the Asian Cricket Council, the fact that the world game is still run out of Lord's is incomprehensible.Sri Lanka has so far refused to offer whole-hearted backing to Dalmiya's stand over Sehwag but his powers of persuasion should not be under-estimated.He has a receptive audience in Asia where many are angered by the actions of match referee and former England captain Mike Denness, who issued bans to five other Indian players including national hero Sachin Tendulkar following the second Test in South Africa.This provoked charges of racism, which in some quarters were compounded by Denness' failure to take action against even one South African in the same match.It was another England captain, Douglas Jardine, who caused cricket's first major international dispute.On the 1932-33 tour of Australia, Jardine, who made no secret of his loathing of Australians and was in turn hated by them, instructed his fast bowlers to aim at the batsmen's bodies, mainly in an effort to curb the phenomenal run scoring of Don Bradman.The plan was that batsmen trying to fend off the ball would give a catch to a battery of leg-side fielders.Jardine, famously described by an Englishman as "a man who might win us the Ashes but lose us the Empire" led his side to a 4-1 victory with "bodyline" bowling playing a major role.A cable was sent by the Australian Cricket Board to the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), then responsible for the England side, making clear its view that bodyline was "unsportsmanlike".Back then, when cricket still had a reputation for decent behaviour worth preserving, this was the gravest possible charge and provoked outrage in Britain.It needed high-level diplomatic interventions from members of both governments to diffuse the row with bodyline declared illegal and Australia and England at least maintaining cricket relations.However, it was a different story between England and South Africa come the D'Oliveira affair of 1968.Basil D'Oliveira was a Cape coloured South African who, in the apartheid era, had to come to England to make his name as a professional cricketer.His selection for England's 1968-69 tour of South Africa caused a bitter row, with the South African government refusing to let him into the country. MCC called off the tour saying it was not prepared to have anyone else select its sides and South Africa's cricket isolation had begun. It lasted nearly four decades.Money, not race, was at the heart of the Kerry Packer-inspired World Series Cricket that started in 1977.The Australian media mogul was frustrated by the refusal of domestic authorities to grant him the rights to broadcast Test matches.Packer took advantage of the fact that international cricketers were then generally underpaid compared with their sporting contemporaries.He signed up 13 of the 17 Australians who toured England that summer, virtually the entire West Indies side and, from England, several key players including South African born captain Tony Greig.Following a failed court attempt by the ICC to have the Packer players banned from all future Tests, the 'circus' lasted two years before Australian authorities relented and gave Packer his sought-after television rights.But many of the innovations pioneered by Packer coloured clothing, floodlit matches and fielding circles are still part of the game today.The Denness affair may too lead to permanent changes in world cricket, not least a procedure for appealing against a match referee's decisions, which presently does not exist.But with the corruption scandal still casting a shadow, never has the phrase "it's not cricket", denoting unsporting behaviour in other walks of life, seemed so hollow.

AFP
Copyright AFP 2001

Extras:
BCCI snubs ICC, Sehwag picked
ICC hopeful of reaching negotiated settlement

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