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?Us? vs ?Them?

india Updated: Aug 22, 2006 17:15 IST
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Is the cricket world in danger of getting torn asunder by a new global order that is increasingly getting polarised in stark shades of black and white?

If the South African withdrawal from the tri-series after a bomb blast in Sri Lanka left the host nation fuming, Pakistan's having to forfeit the Test against England due to a perceived or real slight by umpire Darrell Hair has put the ICC in a bind.

On the face of it, the South African withdrawal and the Test being granted to England after Pakistan did the unthinkable by not taking the field are perfect decisions that can't be faulted.

But, in a world that is becoming more and more polarised along the lines of religion, without having sorted out the problems of racism, there is a danger of cricket too becoming a victim of the politics of hate and prejudice that is sweeping the world.

This fight between 'us' and 'them' and the 'civilized' and the 'uncivilized' world now has the potential of tearing into the roots of a world cricket order that, at best, is a fragile one struggling to put its house in order.

Who can forget the Black and White split post the Mike Denness affair, after he suspended six Indian players, including Sachin Tendulkar, for ball tampering in South Africa in 2003? Mercifully, the whole issue was amicably resolved in the end with India's financial clout playing a major role in humbling 'white' pride.

The danger as of now seems far greater to me. In a surcharged atmosphere, where passengers can have two fellow passengers off loaded from a plane just because the poor guys were speaking in Arabic, the Pakistani cricket team, which has always suffered from being 'unfairly treated in England' over the years, can legitimately claim to be victims of one man's prejudice against a whole race (in this case, Hair).

One need not scoff at this feeling of being victimised, as there is a history of teams from the subcontinent being treated unfairly by the White world. Ask Muralitharan, ask Sourav Ganguly, ask any Pakistani player and ask any fan from this part of the world how he feels about the other side of the world. The answers will in most case be, 'cheated'.

It is for this reason that the ICC needs to tread very cautiously in whatever follow-up action they take in Pakistan's case. Justice should not only be done, but should be seen to be done.

Fortunately, ICC's new president, Percy Sonn, who, as a Black lawyer was at the forefront of South Africa's struggle against apartheid, understands this feeling of victimisation and the centuries of 'White prejudice' better than most.

It may be a difficult task even for him, but for the sake of cricket's unity, it has to be done.

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