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Twenty20 cricket starts today

Twenty20 cricket, the mockery perpetrated on the game by the International Cricket Council will be called ‘play’ in former apartheid land South Africa from today.

Just four months after the 50 over World Cup fling in the Caribbean, the mockery that is the Twenty20 has been slapped on the cricket playing nations who without a murmur have agreed to take part and swell the coffers of the ICC.

The ICC while not having done anything worthwhile for the game, if the Twenty20 is an indication, is apparently on the way to making a joke of the time honoured game.

The mockery that was the final of the World Cup in the Caribbean, where the final was played in almost pitch darkness, was one of the greatest injustices done to the game.

While the ICC was quick to take action on the umpires Steve Bucknor and Aleem Dar, match referee Jeff Crowe and his supporting staff there was nothing that could be done to even censure the ICC.

After all the umpires, match referee and the rest of the staff are employees of the ICC and as such the governing body should also be a part of the staff that went to make a joke of the game that day.

If what is happening and what happened in Barbados that day is an indication then with the ICC allowing individuals to tinker with the game, it won’t be long before they attempt to introduce playing cricket in the dark like what happened in the World Cup final.

When I was on a tour of Australian covering a visit by Sri Lanka, I had the good fortune of meeting the late ‘Tiger’Bill O’ Rieley and discussing cricket, especially the limited overs game.

This is what the great bowler said: I would rather turn my chair and keep looking at my back wall, rather than watch the game being made a joke and a mockery.

Had O’Rieley been alive I wonder how he would have described the Twenty20 fiasco. India at one time showed reluctance to figure in this game. But subsequently changed their stance and are now in the starting line. However they don’t seem to believe in this style of game, or the money that will flood if they were to win it and have held back some of their top players. Ditto with Pakistan.

Today it is the ICC’s greed for money that is allowing the game to be taken to low depths. And the ICC does not care a damn for the time honoured and established Test cricket which is what the game is all about.

Instead of trying to make Test cricket more attractive and get the turnstiles creaking for more spectators, the ICC is determined to introduce gimmicks.

President Rajapaksa’s master stroke

President Mahinda Rajapaksa will earn encomiums for setting in motion an inquiry on the dropping of Upul Chandana and his subsequent retirement from the game.

The wiry leg spinning allrounder who is one of the rare allrounders in cricket today was forced to give it up in sheer frustration.

Allrounders of the calibre of Chandana rarely shine in the cricket firmament. And when they do shine, the cricket selectors have a knack of spinning them out of the game.

President Rajapaksa was spot on when he got the cricket authorities to bring back the blasting ‘black superman’ Sanath Jayasuriya who was forced into retirement by two cyclopic selectors. And how Jayasuriya repaid the faith reposed in him by the President is history now.

Likewise if Chandana is resurrected, he could do another Jayasuriya.

Finding leg-spinners in the game the world over today is like looking for a needle in a haystack. And once they strike that elusive leg spinner, they don’t treat him kindly and with the respect he deserves.

That is because not very many captains have confidence in leg spinners. Leg spin-googly bowlers once they strike a length can make batsmen look fools. Having been one of them I can vouch for this.

On a Test tour to Australia, Chandana made the Aussie batsmen look novices and he came in for admiration and high praise from the knowledgeable there. But that success does not seem to go in Chandana’s favour. Sad.

Chandana has credentials to show. There are some who continue to fail, but have the luck of being persisted with until they click.

There was an opening batsman who continued to fail.

Instead of dropping him they pushed him to all batting spots possible until he scored in the middle order and now he is smiling, and become a permanent fixture in the team.

This proud son of the South Chandana does not seem to be having the right connections to go places, that probably is his failing.

Now that the President has decided to take strike, one hopes that Chandana would make a re-entry to the game and cock a snook at his detractors. With important Test tours ahead for Sri Lanka, if Chandana decides to come back he will add nerve, sinew and muscle to the Lankan team. As a fielder he is like a Jonty Rhodes. As a bowler he is a Warne and as a striker of the ball he is a Flintoff.

Is there another cricketer with these natural abilities? The cricket authorities will have to explain this.

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