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Of surrender and prejudice

It’s ridiculous not just that India had threatened to go on their own but that ECB and CA took it seriously

Of surrender and prejudice

The revelation last week that along with Australia, England caved in to the threat of India breaking away from ICC to form a separate body must have made a certain Winston Churchill turn in his grave.

The man who delivered that stirring ‘Blood, Sweat and Tears’ speech would today agonise over how far England have come from the bulldog spirit when he promised that Britain will never bend against Nazi Germany, which had swept through Europe and was now threatening to conquer the island.  He had roared in the House of Commons on June 4: “…we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.”

Perhaps this speech was lost on Giles Clarke, the ECB Chairman. He apparently was more like a Neville Chamberlain, a predecessor of Churchill who in 1938 had compromised with Hitler to keep him quiet even as Churchill screamed that this would never happen.

What would pain Sir Winston is that Giles Clarke surrendered to the Indians, the very nation that he despised from the core of his heart and had threatened to slaughter thousands of rebelling Indians than give them freedom. The second half of Churchill’s promise that day had been:

“…and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this Island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.”

Yet it was financial expedience that led to the surrender by ECB and CA, having no faith like Churchill had that if you stood firm riches will eventually be yours. These two boards did not have the stomach for their cricket to starve a bit were it not to play India, nor the guts to call the BCCI bluff. As Ehsan Mani has correctly pointed out, had they asked India to give in writing their proposal to the ICC than to verbally approach them with the threat of breaking away, BCCI would have thought again, fearing humiliation had the other countries bonded together when Australia and England were not yet committed.

It’s ridiculous not just that India had threatened to go on their own but that ECB and CA took it seriously. I mean, without England, Australia, Sri Lanka and Pakistan, would their sponsors and broadcasters have paid them the money they claim comes from Indian companies? Would India playing against Zimbabwe and Bangladesh excite the Indian audience, let alone the global?

The sad part is that Srinivasan is set to become the ICC chairman despite being kept aside in BCCI and under investigation for match-fixing. If he does become the ICC Chairman, as appears quite likely given that ECB and CA have raised no objection despite the ongoing investigation at home by the Supreme Court, then it will be clear that both England and Australia have either no qualms about looking away from a crime or don’t have the courage to confront it.

On the home front, I was quite shocked at Younis Khan being degraded to Tier 2 of the contracts (Younis was later pushed to Category A). It is of course no compulsion to sign it and whether you’re contracted to PCB or not doesn’t guarantee or exclude one from the selection. It’s just an assurance that you’ll be looked after financially and otherwise should you not be allowed to take a stint with any side abroad; or for an exhibition game. I would have thought that considering this may well be the last year or two for Younis he would have been given the status he’s worked hard for all his life, possibly the hardest along with Misbah. The reason is that these two players have made it despite the odds stacked against them because of egos and favouritism. Also, the fact that these two are the fittest at 40 should be enough to give them a thumbs up in front of the youngsters.

That his degradation was rationalized because he is a Test only player should not hold back from a place in the top category. After all Shahid Afridi does not play Tests and he is in Category A whereas Younis has not been ruled out completely from limited over cricket. And if he has and that holds water with Moin & Co. then how has Mohammad Hafeez retained his place in the top tier? After all he has been dropped from the Test side recently. And the way Azhar batted in the third Test and a pathetic batting average against even ordinary bowling that Hafeez has, should be a factor that he does not deserve to be back in the side.

It is absolute injustice to other contestants if he is still in the running for a Test place. Are the influencers still looking for that one knock that will give them the reason to pull him back in? Otherwise both Khurram Manzoor and Ahmed Shahzad should be given a year considering how much Hafeez has been given; his quality of batting should in no way be seen above Younis, Misbah, and even the other contenders at least in the next twelve months for which the contracts are valid. This rules him out as he has always claimed to be a top order batsman.

Also, contracts are given keeping the future in mind, not the past. Which is why keeping Faisal Iqbal and Taufiq Umar out of the contracted players (ludicrous considering Imran Farhat, who hasn’t featured in the Pakistan side recently, is in), is nothing short of a biased outlook. I bet it is to save a Test place for Hafeez in the middle order; something he doesn’t deserve ahead of Faisal Iqbal. Even otherwise Fawad Alam should be the next man in for any vacancy in the Test middle order, if not both in case of a double vacancy. Imran Farhat has probably been placed to placate father-in-law Ilyas to counter him from taking on PCB in court if Zaka is not restored. Otherwise his selection makes no sense considering the opening options we now have.

Sad too that Sarfraz Ahmed, who spearheaded Pakistan’s chase in that final Test in January against Sri Lanka has been placed below Adnan Akmal, who has disappointed with both his glovework and batting. At best the two can be considered equal.

The other absurd announcement I have heard is that since only Misbah and Younis have passed fully the fitness test, the others granted the top tier or two will be demoted if they do not meet the fitness standards set for them. Shouldn’t it be the other way around? I mean, you give the target as an incentive as it is more transparent. In a situation where people like Moin, Akram and Zakir hold no sway over the chairman or the outside influencers, the results of future fitness Tests if at all they are held, will matter nothing as demotion is an insult, something that our player egos and their handlers will never tolerate. It seems like the old PCB again, despite the new, younger faces. Intikhabism still reigns.

Sohaib Alvi

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