‘The terrorist has got another wicket’

Dean Jones is one of those many former Australian cricketers who now earns big bucks as a commentator on the sport. Like many others, he has little of import to say, but takes up 700 or 800 words to do so.

Jones was sacked by Ten Sports in 2006 for making a racist comment about South Africa’s Hashim Amla. But he has slowly crept back, with the Melbourne newspaper The Age helping in his rehabilitation by giving him a weekly column.

One would think that a man who goes around referring to Muslim players as terrorists would be shunned by publications that claim to have standards.

But racism is part of the Australian national fabric and The Age is part of that fabric. Not the overt type of racism, no, the covert type that operates undercover and helps keep white people in positions of authority.

Jones most recent column is typical; he meanders all over the place. It looks like the whole piece is suffering from multiple attacks of schizophrenia. But he fills the space and The Age also gets a “name” to write. That he has nothing of any value to say does not seem to strike the owners of The Age, Fairfax Media. Perhaps this is one reason why The Age is rapidly going downhill.

Back in 2006, Jones was heard live on air calling South Africa’s Hashim Amla, one of the better batsmen in the world, a terrorist, during a Test between Sri Lanka and South Africa in Colombo. Amla took a catch to dismiss Kumar Sangakkara only to provoke this comment from Jones: “The terrorist has got another wicket.”

Jones was sacked by Ten Sports. But he has wheedled his way back.

This kind of racial vilification by Australian cricketers is not unusual. Darren Lehmann, now the coach of the national team, called the Sri Lankan team “Cunts, cunts, fucking black cunts,” when he was run out during a one-day match in Brisbane in 2003.

Exactly what Lehmann thinks of Sri Lankans these days is unknown.

And David Warner, now the vice-captain, played the colonial to the hilt in 2015 during a one-day match against India, when he confronted Rohit Sharma and demanded that the Indian batsman “speak English”.

Not that Warner’s English is top-grade. He is your average Bogan, who is crude, rude and lacks any refinement. But still he feels he can lay down the law to the non-whites.

Exactly why media organisations take in retired cricketers as commentators and writers is unknown. It is an entirely different skill to be able to write or talk in an intelligible and educative manner about any sport. But then many journalists, themselves, are fairly crippled in this regard.

Take the case of Aakash Chopra who was crapping on during the ongoing Test series between India and Australia. Chopra suffers from verbal diarrhoea. Yet, he is there to provide expert comment for Australian listeners. The Indian commentator Prakash Wakankar is, by contrast, very good at his job.

And then there is Simon Katich, a man who has a very limited vocabulary and seems stuck in cliches all the time.

Add to that Adam Collins, who must surely be the most biased of callers, and Gerard Whateley, no slouch in the patriotism stakes, and you have all the makings of another Botany Bay invasion all over again.

Bangladesh should never have got Test status

After Monday’s loss to India in a one-off Test, Bangladesh has now played 98 Tests and won just eight, after being given full Test status in the year 2000.

That is a rather dismal record for any team. They have only beaten Zimbabwe (five times), the West Indies (twice) and England (once). You’d have to ask: why were they ever given Test status?

The answer is rather simple. At that time, the late Jagmohan Dalmiya, a Bengali (from the Indian state of West Bengal), was the chairman of the International Cricket Council. He was the man responsible for the current state of cricket, where meaningless matches are played month after month, ensuring that quantity triumphs over quality.

Dalmiya would never have had any chance of influencing the fortunes of the game had not India won the World Cup in 1983, beating the West Indies in the final. That gave one-day cricket a big fillip in the country, and the very next World Cup was held in the subcontinent, with India and Pakistan jointly hosting the tournament.

In terms of numbers, in terms of fanatical interest, in terms of ensuring crowds for even lowly games, no place is better than the Indian subcontinent. Dalmiya could only press for being given hosting rights after India’s win because with that he could boldly say that there was sufficient interest in the one-day game in his part of the world. Until then, India had rarely been given a chance in the shorter format; one of the more memorable innings by an Indian in one-day cricket was played by Sunil Gavaskar who batted through 60 overs to make 36 not out in a World Cup game.

But after 1983, you could not stop the rise of one-day cricket, with India and Pakistan being pitted against each other whenever possible. This rivalry draws on the historic enmity between the two countries after the partition of the subcontinent in 1947. It is cynical to exploit such feelings, but then Dalmiya was only interested in money.

After Australia hosted the Cup in 1992, the subcontinent got the tournament again in 1996, with Sri Lanka joining to make up a third host. It was after this that the ICC decided that Test teams would play each other in order to be able to declare one team or the other as the top playing nation. Dalmiya was able to push his idea through because with two successful World Cups behind him, he had shown the rest how to really capitalise on the game.

And he could also get a few items on his own agenda through. Bangladesh is East Bengal; it formerly was a part of Pakistan when partition took place. In 1971, Bangladesh became a separate country after a war of liberation. The country has no cricket culture; the game that people there are crazy is about is football.

Bangladeshi cricket officials had good connections to Dalmiya. Hence when it was decided to expand the number of cricket-playing nations with Test status to 10, Bangladesh got the nod ahead of Kenya.

The African nation at that time had a much better team than Bangladesh. And if it had been promoted, many players from South Africa who did not make it to the top would, no doubt, have come over, qualified and played for the country as has happened with Zimbabwe. There are plenty of expatriate Indians in Kenya too.

But ethnic connections take precedence in cricket which had the stink of colonialism for a long, long time. And so Bangladesh made the grade and began to lose Test matches.

To get an idea of the relative merits of teams, look at Sri Lanka. The country was given Test status in 1981. By 1996, it had won the World Cup. That’s because it has a cricketing history, even though it was only a junior member of the cricketing nations. People there are crazy about the game and it is the country’s national sport.

Zimbabwe has fared worse than Bangladesh since it was given Test status in 1992 but then it has suffered badly due to the political instability caused by the dictatorship of Robert Mugabe. In 101 Tests, Zimbabwe has 11 wins and 64 losses; in 98 Tests, Bangladesh has won eight and lost 74.

Cronyism produces mediocrity. The case of Bangladesh is a very good case in point.