Ian Chappell's remarks on Pakistan team show a deeply entrenched elitism in cricket
Wasim Akram takes a long stride, gets to the pitch of the ball and hits Ian Salisbury against the spin through cover for four. Wasim and Waqar have scored 46 runs for the ninth wicket stand as Pakistan wins the Test match at Lords with two wickets to spare. Pakistan goes 1-nil up in the series.
Waqar and Wasim were in their pomp and winning games for Pakistan at will. But this was an exceptionally violent tour to England, both on and off the pitch.
England levelled the series at Leeds and Pakistan won the decider at the Oval, clinching the battle 2-1.
Wasim and Waqar shared 43 wickets, as it became, and is still, my favourite Test series involving Pakistan. The year was 1992.
It would also become the last time that Pakistan was invited for a Five-Test match series by anyone.
Recently, on the last eve of the third and final Test in Sydney, Ian Chappell lashed out at Pakistan in a match report with Melinda Farrell on ESPN Cricinfo: “Pakistan have now lost 12 Test matches on the trot in Australia, and someone has got to give them a kick up the bum. Cricket Australia have got to start saying, well listen, if things don’t improve, we will stop the invites.”
He went on to say how poor Pakistan cricket was in all departments and that a lot of it boiled down to poor captaincy.
The biggest worry with Chappell’s comments was its accuracy and the horrid reminder of the reality of world cricket.
Pakistan’s Test record in Australia has never been good and is hitting new lows. Pakistan had lost every single Test match in Australia in the last 21 years and every single match to Australia in Australia for the last 12 years across all formats.
In the recently concluded Test series, Pakistan’s bowling was so pedestrian that Australia declared the innings four times out of the five they went out to bat. Australia had the option of enforcing the follow-on in the two Tests it batted first and batted just once when they batted second.
Misbah, who has deservingly received high levels of praise from all quarters of the world (except his own at times), was badly exposed in alien conditions. Runs were hard to come by. His tactics that helped him build a fort on the slow and low pitches of UAE deserted him on the fast and bouncy tracks Down Under.
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Yasir Shah, Pakistan’s ace leg spinner, laboured for 31 overs on the first day of the series. He bowled a baffling leg stump line, over after over with a negative field set. Pakistan’s inevitable demise in Australia was set in motion on day one.
Pakistan dropped so many catches and leaked so many runs that coach Mickey Arthur must have lost count.
Chappell was mostly speaking the truth, but it was his remark on Australian invites that touched a more deep-rooted ailment that plagues international cricket.
The structure of cricket, the distribution of games, rules of engagement, money, power, and anything else that translates into authority has traditionally been concentrated in the hands of a few.
Historically, England and Australia have been masters, or to put mildly, caretakers of the sport. The first international cricket regulatory body was formed in 1909, as the Imperial Cricket Conference (ICC). Membership was open to only nations belonging to the British Empire.
It changed its name to International Cricket Conference (ICC) in 1965 and declared that countries from all over the world could be admitted. However, as in the past, it was run as an exclusive club by English cricket: the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) president was the ICC president and the MCC secretary the ICC secretary.
In 1993, Australia and England lost their veto power, and the International Cricket Council (ICC) was formed. Sir Clyde Walcott became its first non-English, non-white chairman.
Same topic: Chappell’s outburst against Pakistan is misplaced, unwarranted
The next major shift in control came in 1997 when Jagmoham Dalmiya of the Board of Cricket Control India (BCCI), with much strife and the support of his Asian counterparts, became the first Indian president of the ICC.
The Future Tours Programme (FTP) was now being configured and managed by the ICC, with the counsel and consent of its members.
In 2012, ICC’s independent governance review headed by Lord Woolf called for sweeping changes in the administration of cricket, demanding transparency and equal rights for all member nations.
In 2013, the ICC devised a plan to give meaning to Test matches by announcing a Test championship.
The power struggle in cricket was finally finding its balance between members. The ICC was showing signs of becoming a strong, well-represented and independent regulatory body of the sport.
But in a quick change of events, the opposite happened.
In January 2014, Osman Samiuddin and Sharda Ugra broke the story of a secret draft that had been prepared to revamp ICC’s control in the hands of India, England and Australia – the Big Three.
While India led the way, the complying hands of Australia and England took cricket’s organisational structure back towards its imperial past.
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Among other changes, cricketing calendars and series would now be decided through bilateral agreements between different cricket boards.
Even with FTP regulated by the ICC, there was a stark imbalance in the cricket tours between the Big Three and the rest.
While the ICC was always weak in exercising power over cricket boards, it now has absolutely no control over agreements between countries.
Australia or any other country has no compulsion to play another team.
The bias is not just amongst the Big Three. Teams like Bangladesh and Zimbabwe also find it extremely hard to get invitations from countries like Pakistan and South Africa.
A lot of it comes down to economics: the tours between the Big Three are also the biggest moneymakers. Without ICC intervention, cricket has gone back to a free market system where demand determines supply.
Ian Chappell has spent his entire cricketing career under a similar system: by invitation only.
He does not believe in equal rights for teams that are not equal in cricketing measure. He believes that the Australian public pays for and deserves watching quality cricket. Creating a level playing field for lesser teams and developing the sport on a larger international platform is not a priority.
One of Misbahul Haq’s biggest strengths has always been his ability to absorb criticism and remain silent. His replies have usually come in the form of runs and wins. But Australia is the toughest place to tour; it takes a solid crack on you, both on and off the field and breaks even the best of players.
Misbah wrote in his defence that “If we apply Chappell's comments to Australia, does that mean if they continue to get whitewashed on the subcontinent on a regular basis then they should also not travel there? And if Australia does not travel to Asia or the Asian teams do not travel to Australia then how are they going to improve?"
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Misbah makes some valid points, but your voice reaches furthest when it is validated by success.
Pakistan won the second ODI against Australia in Melbourne and would like to add more scalps before leaving the country.
In a post match show on PTV, Wasim Akram said: “I know Ian Chappell closely, he means well for Pakistan cricket. But he does his homework and knows what he is talking about.”
The first and last time Pakistan was invited to play a five-match Test series in Australia was in 1983. This was Pakistan’s fourth tour to Australia in six years.
Prior to it, Pakistan had drawn the first two series at 1-1, and lost the third 2-1. They won a Test match on every single visit.
Since then, Pakistan has won just one Test match in Australia in 35 years.
Pakistan’s current tour to Australia came after a seven-year wait.
The only way to reply to Ian Chappell is through the scorecard. It is the only one that will matter in an increasingly capitalistic world of cricket.
Shaan Agha grew up in a home with sports as its religion and “The Cricketer” subscription of black and white pages as holy script.
He resides in Istanbul and can be reached here.