Red Cards and Faces in Cricket
There are plenty of occasions in sport these days when the pronouncements of governing bodies leave you glancing at the date to check whether it’s April 1.
FIFA prompted that reaction recently with their absurd stance on the wearing of poppies and IOC officials frequently open their mouth only long enough to put their foot in it.
Yet, when it comes to the so-called governors of a game positively revelling in addle-headed priorities and not so much taking their eye off the ball as wearing a blindfold, you really have to hand it to cricket.
This, after all, is a sport with a vast global dilemma: one where there are too few elite nations on the Test circuit with an ever-decreasing audience for its purest form.
And it’s an activity where domestic competitions in some of the major countries are in danger of slipping into irrelevance or insolvency, as we have seen in England and Australia.
So naturally, it’s only right that the MCC’s world cricket committee has just convened in Mumbai and decreed that the story which they would focus on was the introduction of red cards for international players who abuse opponents or officials.
Pause for hollow laughter!
Honestly, this matter shouldn’t be high on the agenda of any congregation of such luminaries as Rod Marsh, Kumar Sangakkara, Jimmy Adams, Sourav Ganguly, Mike Brearley, Ramiz Raja and Ricky Ponting? The latter tried to argue it was time to tackle the perceived spread of unsavoury incidents across the Test circuit, but there was no meat on the bone, other than nebulous assertions about how elite players could be sent off if they threatened umpires or resorted to violent conduct of their rivals.
Now, let’s be honest, is this a crucial area for the MCC? We all know there are individuals – such as Ben Stokes, David Warner and Angelo Mathews – who are capable of turning any minor altercation into a full-blown diplomatic incident. But the existing regulations already mean people who overstep the mark will be fined and face the prospect of match suspensions if they persist in similar transgressions. If these punishments were doled out properly by the ICC, that would be sufficient.
In any case, there’s something slightly ridiculous about the likes of Ponting and Marsh indulging in these deliberations, given that neither exactly posed any threat to Kofi Annan in his role as UN secretary.
I’m old enough to remember when Marsh regularly engaged in Winter Olympic-class sledging behind the stumps, while one of his team mates, Dennis Lillee, and Javed Miandad tried to re-create the Rumble in the Jungle on one notorious occasion.
By comparison, and although there has been a lot of histrionic appealing and macho posturing in recent series, especially the Ashes contests, red cards are unnecessary. Indeed, you could argue, given the proliferation of cameras at major contests and endless scrutiny of every incident, no matter how trivial, that players are monitored closely enough already.
Worst of all, amidst the banner headlines about sending-offs and bat sizes, there was no mention of how the panjandrums plan to try and develop cricket in new territories and throughout the Associate world.
And yet, if this issue isn’t addressed seriously and the emerging countries are not offered a true pathway to progress, the Test milieu will continue to contract and state sides and county organisations will plummet ever further into a financial black hole, which won’t be solved by endless T20 competitions.
As a Scot, I had hoped the wider world might have noted the recent retirement at just 29 of Preston Mommsen, whose enthusiasm for the game he graced was gradually eroded by the lack of opportunities for the Associate members. I was waiting for some recognition that the ICC’s decision to reduce the number of teams at the 2019 World Cup sent out all the wrong signals to those outwith the sport’s cosy cartel.
But there wasn’t a word about that. Nothing to suggest the M in MCC shouldn’t stand for Myopic!
Perhaps it is some of these former stars – out of their depth as administrators and policy makers – who should be sent for an early bath!