Monthly Archives: September 2010

Pakistan Victory Dilemmas

Despite all odds, Pakistan has just won two consecutive ODIs on the trot. Assume, contra Ijaz Butt, these victories were legitimate. Without a doubt, they’ve been absolutely thrilling; there’s little that can compare with winning under floodlights on the back of incisive, late-swing bowling.

But is this what Pakistan needs? Commentators have pushed a storyline that Pakistan — for all its current troubles (match-fixing, floods, forever political turmoil) — needs some good news. I don’t dispute that, but I wonder: will a series victory undermine the case for change?

Like other South Asian teams, Pakistan has set the standard for inconsistency and muddling-through. The worst thing that could happen from the spot-fixing scandal is a repeat of what happened in the late 1990s/early 2000s: rounds of finger-pointing; rumor-mongering; a few life bans — and then nothing more. Systemic change first requires an admission that the status quo has failed, and if Pakistan wins, then where does that leave us?

Let me be clear: I’m loving this series so far. If Pakistan wins, then they do, and good for them. But I fear the consequences. The storyline will shift from, “Dismal Pakistan lose Test, ODI series; Calls for Change increase” to “We’re not so bad, huh?”

Ijaz Butt Peddles His Unconscious

The seriously strange thing about Ijaz Butt’s outburst to Cricinfo — the thing that most captures just how unbelievably unhinged this man may be — comes in this small detail in the story:

In a prepared statement read out to ESPNcricinfo…

“This is not a conspiracy to defraud bookies but a conspiracy to defraud Pakistan and Pakistan cricket,” Butt said. “We have taken it in hand to start our own investigations. We will shortly reveal the names of the people, the parties and the bodies involved in this sinister conspiracy and we also reserve the right to sue them for damages.

Someone in the PCB actually put pen to paper and wrote these incredibly daft thoughts for public consumption. Granted, the craziest part of the exchange — when Butt accuses the English of throwing the third ODI for money (because not even the Pakistanis’ own chairman believe the team can win legitimately) — is improvised, but the whole bizarre episode is a little gem of insanity. I increasingly understand why Pakistan cricket is what it is.

Should We Care About The Champions League?

Because, really, I’m not sure I do. That explains the paltry posting rate this September (at least partially — headed off to another vacation in a few days).

The logic of this tournament runs something like this: part of its exceptional charm, cricket has always run along international lines. With the advent of the IPL, however, some see a future dominated by franchises — a vision undermined by the corporate shenanigans of Modi-Gate (and the newness of the teams).

So, as a consolation, we have the Champions League, where the best of each cricketing country’s T20 talent battles each other. There are a couple of problems: some of the teams are clearly not as good as others (you can pick best and worst yourselves); the IPL teams get three berths (an obvious sop to the Indian audience); certain foreign players on contract with the IPL have to play with those teams, rather than their “home” ones. (Complicated, no?)

Which brings me back to square one: who is Team Victoria? Or Team Wayamba? Are there any stakes here for me, a fan with no team? Obviously, I like the IPL squads, but that’s only because I know them a bit more than the others and understand some of the plot twists and history. The rest? Not really. What does it matter to me that Victoria beat Guyana — I might as well watch Team X play Team Y.

The League has one virtue, though: its brevity. Can’t wait for this to be done so we can head off to another great India-Australia Test series.

The Wrong Way To Investigate Spot-Fixing

The spot-fixing allegations have unleashed a full-blown media spectacle, which means editors around the world are trying to “advance the story” every day. It’s an odd feature about journalism, based on the mistaken premise that readers and news consumers only want to talk about one major item per allotted time period, even if there aren’t any new developments attached to it.

So, we had some great journalism from News Of The World that broke the Pakistan story. Audio tapes, no-ball footage, sting operation stuff — all excellent. Then, we heard relatively little: the police aren’t entitled to say anything; the Pakistanis are sticking to a “denial isn’t just a river in Egypt” strategy, and no one has admitted flat out to doing anything wrong.

What’s an editor at, say, The Australian supposed to do? Well, there are plenty of angles — what does this scandal mean for the ICC anti-corruption unit? If it happened in England with Pakistan, did it happen with other teams? Have other players been approached? (Turns out almost everybody has, including hapless Bangladeshi players.) OK, but what else? How about an absolutely ludicrous, anonymously-sourced, shoddy excuse for journalism? Begin excerpt:

Two IPL officials from India independently verified that a leading batsman had played so suspiciously that they could not explain his behaviour.

When The Australian asked direct questions about the batsman both officials agreed that his performances were highly suspect. They did not want him named for fear that it could be traced back to them and lead to retribution in India.

What’s wrong with this paragraph? A few things: first, we don’t know who’s giving the paper this information. We don’t know their agendas (anti-IPL? anti-BCCI? anti-Indian batsmen?) so we can’t evaluate their evidence. Which brings us to point 2: there isn’t any evidence, and point 3: we don’t even know which batsman they’re talking about. This is the opposite of responsible journalism; instead of informing and providing the truth, we have innuendo and alarmist rumor-mongering.┬áSpike this story.

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