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In these troubled times, cricket needs an Obama

If indeed everything happens for a reason then the recent carnage in Mumbai was a strong reminder of the desperate need for some good old-fashioned, strong, honest leadership, writes Ian Chappell.

cricket Updated: Dec 07, 2008 23:51 IST

If indeed everything happens for a reason then the recent carnage in Mumbai was a strong reminder of the desperate need for some good old-fashioned, strong, honest leadership.

The world is holding its breath in the hope that US President-elect Barack Obama can be the man to provide the shining example that others will follow.

Eventually, we need to have a world where all mankind has a chance to feel included in society. If Obama can set this miracle in motion then perhaps the world can look forward to a safer future.

The mayhem in Mumbai was also a chilling reminder of cricket’s fragility. Whilst on the scale of importance it is way down the list, there’s a similar need for strong leadership so that cricket’s integrity can eventually match its financial clout. This is going to take a collective effort from the players and officials of all major cricket nations.

If ever Sir Donald Bradman’s words, “We are all custodians of the game,” need to be heeded, it is in the year of his hundredth anniversary. The one big difference between the world situation and that of cricket, which stands out like a beacon, is the lack of any leader with the potential and charisma of an Obama. If India and England can play the planned two Test series, it will provide a wonderful example of what can happen when there is a will to cooperate.

However, this show of comradeship needs to be followed up by strong leadership so that the game’s future is a planned, well thought out affair rather than a runaway train with no one at the levers. The cancellation, following the terrorist attacks in Mumbai, of the remaining two games in England’s one-day series, the Champion’s League and the ICL was a wake up call for a game that had become way too dependent on and subservient to India.

The haste with which the rest of the cricket world greedily knelt at India’s wealthy vault without question was never going to have a happy ending. It was like a re-make of the movie Wall Street with Gordon Gecko preaching, “greed is good”.

Then there is the growing disparity between playing standards among even the major nations. Following the India-Australia Test series, which promised much but often provided cynical field placings and slow over-rates, cricket has followed up with two of the most lacklustre contests of all time.

Two one-sided series between Australia and New Zealand and South Africa against Bangladesh has helped highlight the inequity in the Test match arena. Test cricket is shaping up as a mirror image of an Indian society, which is often described as being “the have lots and the have-nots”.

The lop-sided nature of those two Test series was ample proof that there are not enough good cricketers after some good ones have been banned because of their association with the ICL.

If there is to be an all-inclusive approach to cricket’s future following the Mumbai mayhem, then these bans should come under serious discussion.

Then there is the fragile future of Pakistan cricket to consider. Wrecked by political turmoil, threatened by terrorism and lacking India’s wealth, Pakistan cricket has become a pariah. A region that once provided more talented young natural players than most, Pakistan is now in danger of becoming a cricketing backwater.

For a while now Pakistan has felt like they are being discriminated against but in part, they only have themselves to blame for taking a less than honest look at their own approach to the game. However, it is easy to see why they may feel that money speaks all languages but Urdu.

It’s going to require a good deal of compassion and courage to welcome Pakistan back into the fold but every effort must be made. The world desperately watches and hopes Obama can succeed and help make it a safer, more inclusive society. Being played in so many volatile areas of the world, no sport has a greater need for Obama than cricket.

First Published: Dec 07, 2008 23:49 IST