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ICC has to do away with pariahs

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South Africa won the second Test against Pakistan, whatever way they can, to keep their seven-year unbeaten record in away-home series intact. Yes, in the record-books South Africans will go home unbeaten but their achievement has been eclipsed with stigma of being cheats. Though they say their act was un-intentional—a public oratory that made many laugh. The ball-tempering by their T-20 captain by Faf du Plessis has rendered the champions blemished. Their clean image is gone once for all. Plesses has escaped major punishment of ban or suspension—thanks to Aussie match referee, who using his discretionary powers, slapped the most lenient fine of 50 per cent of the match fee on guilty player. The soft decision of a Test veteran match referee stunned millions of lovers of the game who proudly refer it as a gentlemen’s game and left the many former cricketers fuming who gave a furious reaction. Since illegal act of ball tempering came to surface years ago, the world governing body—the International Cricket Council—came down hard on the wrong-doers. Harsh punishments and severe penalties that mostly included suspension, ban and fine were awarded by the ICC officials in bid to keep the game clean.

Pakistani, Indian and the British greats like Waqar Younis, Shahid Khan Afridi, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar and Michael Atherton became the worst victims of the ICC policy against the cheats. The ruling also irked the chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board who has decided to contact the International Cricket Council, seeking explanation of inconsistency by match referee in application of ball tampering rules. Over the years, unwarranted leniency of the ICC officials has attracted heaps of criticism over the growing inconsistencies particularly against the poor cricket playing nations. Even umpiring decisions are also increasingly becoming questionable despite optimum use of technology. The rich cricketing nations are ruling the roost. Their hegemony over the ICC has reduced it a gutless body.

Partisan application of cricketing laws had jaded the beauty of the game. Thus apart from revisiting the ball tempering rules, the ICC needs to revise its policy of the selection of umpires and other officials to supervise the international events to ensure impartial implementation of the laws. Only strong, honest and impartial ICC officials can maintain the integrity of the ICC otherwise, the time is not far when the growing insecurity amongst smaller cricket playing nations may induce no confidence in the toothless ICC. The discriminatory decision of the match referee in Faf du Plessis case owes an explanation from the governing body, and an apology from South African cricketing authorities for employing dirty tactics in the game of gentlemen.

The beauty of the game will remain intact if the game is played with extreme degree of sportsman spirit and well within the prevalent rules and acceptable code of conduct. It can happen only if the pariahs of cricket, irrespective of race and origin, are dealt with iron hand, making sure that there is no room for double standard and selective morality in dealing with cricket affairs.

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