4th June 2000
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Thoughts from LondonWho is playing dirty tricks in the press!

Reading sections of the British press, one gets the unmistakable impression that all cricket match- fixers and others who have been caught with their fingers in the bottle of jam, come from our part of the world. South Asia is seen as the breeding ground for cricket's dirty tricks department.

The rest of the world- particularly those belonging to the Caucasian chalk circle, or crudely put the white nations- are seen to be as lily white as the colour of their skins which, incidentally, is more a sickly pink than white. But then who really cares.

I was intrigued by an editorial in last Sunday's London "Observer" which was a sarcastic piece about subcontinental cricket and match fixing. As third editorials go, it was a nice tongue-in-cheek piece in which the leader writer obviously took great delight in having pot shots at some of the great names in Indian and Pakistani cricket.

It was headlined "How to fix a Test" and the setting was Eden Gardens in Calcutta.The match was between arch rivals, India and Pakistan. It took the form of a conversation between two cricket commentators.

To catch the real flavour of this short editorial let me quote it at length.

"Welcome to Eden Gardens, Calcutta. Two hundred thousand people, crammed in, every one using one of those mobile phone thingies. What a racket. Anyway, Wasim Akram comes into bowl. He bowls, and I say, the ball has gone over the slips and into the crowd. Six wides. Quite extraordinary, Fred? In my day….

So after this most bizarre start India are six for no wicket. The batsmen are having a conflab in the middle, and….they're walking off! They are walking towards the pavilion and some of the Pakistani players are trying to stop them. Fred. In my day…..

My producer tells me that India have declared at six for no wicket after one ball which has never happened in the history of Test cricket. Fred?

What's going on? Where are the players?

India have declared, Fred….and now here come the Indian fielders followed by the Pakistani batsmen. And it will be Kapil Dev, who has been called out of retirement for this big game, to open the bowling. He lollops up,rather slowly, and bowls…..underarm! And it's a slow, slow full toss and Salim Malik….misses it. And the ball hits the stumps and no-one appeals and Malik is rushing back to the pavilion. Well, well, well Fred?"

Not bad stuff, really. Makes for a good laugh even though the editorial writer does not seem to know very much about cricket. I've still to hear of anybody appealing after a batsman is cleared bowled out- except, of course, the Australians who will appeal for anything and everything hoping to intimidate both the batsmen and the umpires.

But supposing one were to add a little more colour and fact to this Observer editorial. Supposing one were to start at the start which is where one should start to begin with. So over to Ritchie Benaud at Eden Gardens.

"Good morning listeners. It's a lovely day out here in Calcutta and we could expect a good day's cricket. With me in the commentary box is Fred Truman. The crowds are still pouring in and it won't be long before the damned fellows who are locked out begin setting fire to the place. Hey Fred is that Shane Warne who is inspecting the wicket? What on earth is he doing here, Fred? This match is between India and Pakistan isn't it? Australia is not even playing, unless we are in the wrong grounds.

Yes, yes Ritchie it sure looks like Shane. And he seems to be talking to himself as he keeps poking his finger into the grass. You think he's taking to agriculture?

Fred, he is not talking to himself. He's got something against his ear. From here it looks like one of those mobile phone thingies. And for heaven's sake, there's Mark Waugh walking towards the wicket. He is glancing at the sky. Now he's looking around and crouching over the wicket. He's talking to himself too. No, no Ritchie, he's holding a phone too.

Fred, what do you think these two are doing in Calcutta.

I don't know. They've probably been hired by the Indian observatory to provide a weather forecast. You know how terribly unreliable these observatories are. They probably want a couple of chaps out on the spot rather than sending balloons in the air.

For Chrissake, there's Hansie Cronje out by the boundary talking to the South African manager. What are they doing out here?

Oh, probably studying the Indians before the next tour. They have to make a definite decision this time- I mean about throwing a match or two to keep the series interesting. Hold on a minute. Hansie is taking the mobile phone from his manager and walking towards the dressing room. Oh, he's probably trying to call his wife. Shows what a good family man he is. In my day…..

This is turning out to be a veritable feast. Look who's over there? No, no, besides that guy with a turban. It's Dennis Lillee. He's handing over a piece of paper to the Indian. Now the Indian is writing something on it and giving it back to Dennis.

Fred, maybe Dennis wanted the Indian's autograph. And now here come the umpires. There's some rushing out towards the umpires. He is talking to Jeff and handing him an envelope.

Yeah, Ritchie, its probably the hotel manager. Jeff musta just gotta a message from home. Cricket is tough these days. So much travelling, so many games. No time for the family. Only time to place a quick bet or collect one's dues. Now in my day……" 

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