From the publishers of THE HINDU
Vol. 24 :: No. 44 :: Nov. 03 - 09, 2001
CRICKET CORNER -- Bob Simpson Column
Crackdown, a mere window dressing
YET again the ICC have announced another crackdown on player behaviour.
I don't know exactly how many crackdowns have previously been announced, but there have been many and all unsuccessful.
In fact, the general feeling in cricket circles is that they have been purely window dressing to excuse the ICC for the weakness in not tackling this problem head on. And make no mistake about it there is a problem and it is escalating. The unfortunate thing about it, is that with satellite TV coverage it is being picked up and copied by the youngsters throughout the world. How contagious it had become was evident at the under-19 World championship in South Africa just a few years ago. Almost every team in the championship was at it, including some of the minnows of world cricket.
Normally they are the best behaved of teams, for they are seldom exposed to sledging.
Now TV and how it is covered where controversial moments are played over and over again, sledging is now being seen by the youngest of aspiring cricketers in their own lounge room.
No new rule will solve the problem unless those appointed to control the situation have the will and desire to rid the game of this boorish behaviour.
I am not talking just about match referees and umpires, but of everyone who is in charge of a team. Whether they be the captain, manager or coach.
The laws of cricket give the umpires the authority to deal with this matter, but unfortunately few do.
This is why match referees were appointed. Unfortunately too many of these appointments were made via the old boy or mates system and most were not equipped with the desire of strength to do their job properly.
This was also evident with the problem of illegal action, of bowlers where the administrators seem to either want to wash their hands off, or have just placed it in the too hard basket.
At present if a bowler is reported by the umpire or referee it is referred back to the "bowlers" own country for corrective action.
If nothing is done about it by their own country it can take, 12 months before it can be put into the hands of the ICC illegal action committee for them to take action.
Little wonder nothing is happening as both the umpires and match referees feel it is futile to refer bowlers back to their own country, state or county for if they had been fair dinkum in the first place in acknowledging the problem the bowler concerned's action would either have been rectified or he should not have been picked in the first place.
Make no mistake about it, bowlers with problem actions are noticed early by the fellow players or opposition teams and there has always been conjecture about their action as they work their ways through and upwards to higher levels. It is only when they enter the public and higher levels that they generate knowledge about their working, action comes under closer scrutiny.
Then it is probably too late to remedy the action and allow him the skill to be a first class cricketer.
With the inactivity and desire of local administrators not to take action against illegal action bowlers more youngsters are copying their heroes, who, almost with complete immunity ply their illegal actions at the highest level.
Little wonder then with TV beaming unlimited hours of their actions into the homes of impressionable youngsters the ranks of the chuckers are growing everyday.
While most of the publicity about tougher actions appear to have been directed towards a new system of penalties, I hope the ICC at their Kuala Lumpur meeting spent time considering the qualifications of who should do the job and how to make decision making more consistent.
What annoys the players more than anything is the match referee who talks tough, and comes down on easy decisions such as slow overrates, but ducks for cover on the more controversial ones.
Players also complain about the inconsistencies of match referees, where some will make a song and dance about certain behaviour and others will duck for cover on a similar incident.
Above all countries and the ICC must be consistent and support their referees and umpires.
I know personally many, many umpires and referees lack faith in what support they will get from administrators in controversial situations and tend not to take action against infringers whether they are illegal actions or attitudes that bring the game into disrepute.
It was interesting to see the most recent blow up on the international scene when England played Zimbabwe.It was caused by the old chestnut of "walking or not walking" when a batsman thinks he nicked the ball.
In the latest incident new English wicket-keeper James Foster, all of 21, became irate when a caught behind appeal against Andy Flower from a spinner was turned down, and told Flower in no uncertain manner that he should concede his wicket by "walking".
Flower's response was sharp and probably on the lines of "you do the keeping and I will obey the umpire".
England captain Nasser Hussein apparently put his pennyworth in and suddenly a very public dispute was being viewed by millions on TV all over the world.
English cricket have always had the quaint idea that "one" should walk if you know you have nicked the ball and been caught.
I tried it for two or three years and left the crease without waiting for the umpire's decision whether it was caught behind or at bat pad.
All very well until I noticed a certain self professed walker in the English side did it when he got a thick edge or a good score, but turned his back on the umpire if it was only a slight nick.
On several occasions our wicketkeeper had to suggest to this batsman he should look at the umpire and then depart to the pavilion or words to this effect.
After three or four controversies involving this "innocent walker" I decided the best method was to wait for the umpires decision and then depart quickly and quietly even if you didn't agree with the decision.
I still believe this is the right way to go while it would be wonderful to play when everyone walked, human nature being as it is makes this impossible.
This is my view as it is backed up by the fact I have never seen a consistent genuine walker.
The law of averages generally even things out and you must accept the good with the bad.
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