When cricket lost some of its innocence...

Published: Tuesday, June 3, 2008, 3:35 [IST]
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Bangalore: Cricket is a gentleman's game but cricketers are not. The old adage "Don't send a boy to do a man's job" holds good for modern day cricket - for a hoard of erratic child-like cricketers have corrupted the once-sober game with their antics and unruly behaviour.

The players with the likes of Mohd Asif - detained in UAE for drug possession, Mark Vermuelean - set ablaze the pavilion of Harare Sports Club under the influence after being dumped from Zimb squad, Shoaib Akhtar - a regular drug offender, Gibbs - cannabis addict et al have brought the game into disrepute. These kind of cricketers either need to be corrected or in extreme cases should be phased out from the game.

I wonder how long a board can tolerate the regular offenders. I feel sorry for a governing body of an Asian nation manned by well-bred English speaking gentlemen for their inability to take action on the spoilt brats (your guess is as good as mine on the player and board in question). It is high time for the governing bodies to act.

ICC with its Anti-corruption has registered a fair amount of success in handling the issues like the match-fixing, players' behaviour et al but failed miserably to tackle the monstrous issues that plagued cricket: Sledging and Performance-enhancing drugs/doping.

The notion that the Performance-enhancing drugs spared cricket is a thing of past. Going by the instances in the past five years cricket is no more immune from doping. International Players' Association (FICA) CEO, Tim May believed players may be forced to use drugs in an effort to sustain themselves, given the amount of cricket they play.

"You only have to look at the doping record in baseball to see that recovery, not enhanced power, is the motivation for most drug misuse. The more we push players the more they might look at options," May said in an interview with Wisden Cricketer magazine said.

In fact one school of thought believe that the performance enhancing drugs will be effective only in sporting events played for shorter period like soccer, Basketball, track and field events but has no place in a sport like cricket played for longer periods.

However there is scope for drugs in cricket too. For eg a fast bowler can take performance-boosters in Test match and bowl short spells which can spell doom for opponents or a batsman can rely on the said drugs during a ODIs or T20s. And believe me this is happening in international cricket and even in domestic circuits too.

Going by a report published in the Outlook magazine sometime back several Indian cricketers have used banned steroids. Even the former coach Anshuman Gaekwad adhered to this view but later categorically denied having said this.

Drugs give a player/team an unfair advantage over the others and is nothing short of cheating. It is in infancy stage and it is high time for ICC to act before this turns to monstrous proportions (as in sprint events, cycling-Tour-de-France and lift events)

The onus to clean-up this mess from cricket lies obviously with ICC. The parent body of the sport and affiliations should co-ordinate with WADA -international agency to check drug menace- and make doping test a mandatory for all Test-playing nations atleast at the international level. And creating a facility for doping tests should not be a problem for cash-rich bodies of the once-colonial sport.

Cricket in doping net: Players used to take the pleasure drugs like Cannabis and Marijuana during the Caribbean tours. And performance enhancers were unheard of till the early-half of 2000 when Warne was tested positive for banned steroids. Here are some of the doping instances in cricket.

* Sir Ian Bothom was banned after being caught smoking cannabis in New Zealand in 1986. Beefy, who received Knighthood for his charity works and exploits on field, was arrested once in 1985 for possession of cannabis. The greatest British hero since Wellington and Admiral Nelson was a thorough addict during his playing days and still remained scot free in a country known for justice. In fact Botham and his Somerset mate Sir Viv Richards enjoyed a fine bond and were seen too often smoking cannabis.

* During the 1992-93 Caribbean tour Pakistan bowlers Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Aaqib Javed and Mushtaq Ahmed - were arrested on a Grenadean beach, and charged with constructive possession of marijuana. They were frogmarched to the police station and taunted by officers and onlookers. The said cricketers escaped with a reprimand from Pak cricket board.

* Paul Smith (1985-96), a mercurial allrounder of Warwickshire, wasted his career and owes it to drug addiction. ECB banned him for two years.

* The then New Zealand skipper Stephen Fleming and his teammates Matt Hart and Dion Nash were reprimanded by the Kiwi board after the said cricketers were found guilty of smoking marijuana during a Caribbean tour in 1995.

* The South African cricketers Paul Adams, Roger Telemachus, Andre Nel, Justin Kemp, Herschelle Gibbs and Craig Smith admitted to smoking marijuana in the confines of a hotel room during a Windies tour. The disciplinary inquiry conducted by South Africa Cricket Board (the then UCBSA).

* Australia spin wizard Shane Warne was suspended from cricket for 12 months on Saturday after the player tested positive for a banned diuretic. The 'Sheikh of Tweak' had tested positive for the drugs hydrochlorothiazide and amiloride a week before the World Cup 2003. Warne in his inimitable style called himself a victim of 'anti-doping hysteria'

* The South African cricketers Paul Adams, Roger Telemachus, Andre Nel, Justin Kemp, Herschelle Gibbs and Craig Smith admitted to smoking marijuana in the confines of a hotel room during a Windies tour. The disciplinary inquiry conducted by South Africa Cricket Board (the then UCBSA).

* Pak new-ball bowlers Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif tested positive for Nandrolone a banned steroid allegedly taken few days before the ICC Champions Trophy in 2006. The three-member PCB tribunal slapped a two-year ban for Akhtar and 12-month ban for Mohd Asif. The panel showed some leniency to Asif because he had little knowledge about performance-enhancing drugs.


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