Forging an identity of their own

ALL of us, unwittingly I suspect, forge an identity for ourselves. Like an address it defines us and we carry it wherever we go.


Rashid Latif... using the moral platform to state a case at the risk of his own career.-Pic. N. BALAJI

ALL of us, unwittingly I suspect, forge an identity for ourselves. Like an address it defines us and we carry it wherever we go. At times it becomes our raison d'etre, it certainly influences the way people look and react to us. Sachin Tendulkar's identity for example, is crafted around his strokeplay and his silence, Jagmohan Dalmiya seeks to find his way around things or to counter-attack, Malcolm Speed needs to look tough and force his point of way through even against irrelevant observations.

I thought of this when I read Rashid Latif's letter to the ICC. It is important to know what captains of cricket teams think about the game and sadly we get too little of that. Press conferences achieve little; indeed most of them use a lot of words to say nothing; which is a bit like heaving a ball for no run. But Latif has always been an interesting character, one who has used the moral platform to state his case, often at great risk to his own career. Ironically, his identity centres on the issue of match-fixing. For all his skills as a wicket-keeper, a batsman and captain, the world will always associate him with his stand on match-fixing. That is the uniform he will always wear.

And that is why his letter merits interest. He says: as he has done before that "... bookies started to influence outcome of the games by approaching players and even captains with hefty bribes to influence the results of the matches." And even more strongly he states, one assumes about his team "..there was no challenge left in the game — despite working hard, the outcomes of matches were being fixed by outside elements."

A lot of people have tried to look the other way about match-fixing and sadly that included a few cricket boards. England is the name that springs to mind immediately and it is ironical that while a lot of the media in that country gleefully threw muck this way, and still do, they could do little to influence more action in their own country. The ICC did its bit, certainly the posturing was strong enough to deter a lot of people, but even they have admitted that the time has come to move on.

It is a dangerous thing to admit for match-fixing, will never really go away. Just as frauds in the stock markets and conniving politicians never will. And Latif admits that a variation of match fixing, a poorer cousin if you will, is already back. He calls it "fancy fixing" and believes that 15 over scores, and similar passages of play, are where the new threats lie. Alarmingly he says, " The top order players are usually aware of such fancy bets; they have an opportunity to make good money and are even approached by bookies to accomplish such a task" Clearly he knows this is happening though in an unusually defensive style (or was it the ghost writer at work) he says "I am not accusing any team and /or players of indulging in this. I am merely identifying a loophole... "

His suggestion therefore is to go back to the old rule we had on the sub-continent where teams had to have four fielders inside the circle at all times and in effect, take away the 15 over rule. And he wants hefty fines for teams that do not bowl the necessary overs in each session, another area of betting that he has identified. While the future of field restrictions has been talked about for a while, most notably in Australia, it is a bit infeasible to keep changing rules because somebody is either betting on them or paying cricketers to create conditions that will allow them to profit. A crooked mind, and Latif has clearly seen many, will always find new sources of profit!

He makes a couple of interesting points though and I think one that the ICC could well look at as an experiment to be used in domestic cricket in some countries is a suggestion to allow a bowler to bowl 12 overs in a 50 over game. It will allow a team to play four bowlers and six batsmen and that might just make it a little more competitive. In fact, for a start, it might be a good idea to allow a bowler 11 overs and try and fit six overs in somewhere rather than ten, as we now need to do. There are passages in play in one-day cricket today where things are too easy for batsmen and any move that looks at correcting the balance needs to be encouraged.

Meanwhile in India we have a new fitness trainer (Gregory Allen King) for the national team. There was much breast-beating over allowing Adrian le Roux to go though I think Sourav Ganguly got it right when he said "it is everyone's dream to be part of his country's team." Adrian was a lovely man and I think he has shown his class, and professionalism, in the manner in which he helped find his successor. He didn't need to but he went out of his way to and once a man was indeed identified, he was given all the team notes that Adrian had built up.

That meant the new man would not have to spend time doing something that had already been done and Indian cricket could save a lot of time. That is what being professional is about and you can already see how much Indian cricket is benefiting from surrounding itself with the right people. Now if we could do that with the office bearers in our state associations, we would go a very long way!