Anzac Day glorifies war

IN AUSTRALIA, Anzac Day is a means to promote militarism and nationalism. It marks the day when Australian forces invaded Turkey in 1915, entering World War I.

Sixty thousand Australians were killed in that war and nearly 16 million people died worldwide. It was no event over which to rejoice.

Anzac Day was initially used during the war to recruit people to fight on the other side of the world. In 1916 and 1917, Anzac Day became a means of supporting conscription.
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Australian cricket continues on its old, merry path

EARLIER this year, after England sealed a resounding 3-1 win in the Ashes Test series, Australian cricket authorities, apparently all shaken up, launched an inquiry to find out why the team had been beaten, and so comprehensively too.

This was the third time that Tasmania’s Ricky Ponting had led the national team to a loss in the Ashes series; Ponting lost twice in England, in 2005 and 2009. The Ashes is the series that matters most to Australia as England is historically the enemy.

When the inquiry reported back and recommended sweeping changes, there was hope that things would look different this summer. Of course, the captain had to go – of that there was little doubt. But despite a lot of talk, much promise of change, one finds that with the summer cricket season nearly a third over, things are pretty much the same.
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Time for Australia to blood new cricketers

NEXT week, the Australian international cricket season kicks off with the first Test against New Zealand. The Kiwis will play two Tests and then India will play four more, beginning in December. Next year, Australia, India and Sri Lanka will play a triangular limited overs tournament.

Australia is in the midst of a transition but it remains to be seen to what extent the new set of selectors are prepared to experiment. Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey are both well into their 30s and not exactly setting the Nullarbor on fire when they go out to bat. Mitchell Johnson has been erratic to put it mildly, with more downsides than upsides.

And Brad Haddin has shown an inclination to throw his wicket away at the worst of times. His keeping is pretty poor too.
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New Zealand finally gets a monkey off its back

THE Shaky Isles have finally got a monkey off their back by winning the rugby world cup title again. They won the first, held in their own country, in 1987, and have been knocked out at various stages of the tournament ever since.

Due to the series of losses, they have been accused of choking. I’m sure it won’t take long for the next diatribe to emerge – that they choke whenever they play in this tournament away from home.

The manner in which New Zealand won was strange; they were defending for a better part of the game and their flair was totally missing.
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Wayne Barnes proves that incompetence will help one make progress

ENGLISHMAN Wayne Barnes has earned a reputation for refereeing bloopers, continuing the trend he set in the World Cup rugby tournament of 2007 when he awarded France a try from a blatant forward pass.

That try helped France to knock out tournament favourites New Zealand in the quarter-finals. Barnes does not appear to have improved much – at the ongoing tournament, which concludes on Sunday, he denied Wales a try conversion when the ball had clearly gone between the uprights.

This was in a pool game with South Africa and as Wales lost the game by a point, they certainly had reason to feel cheated.
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Australia should be grateful this was not the final

AUSTRALIA has one reason to be grateful after last night’s humiliation at the hands of the All Blacks in the world cup rugby union tournament – this was not the final.

According to the draw, Australia was expected to come through the pool stages on top of its pool, play Wales/Samoa/Fiji in the quarter-finals, England or France in the semi-finals, and meet New Zealand in the final.

That would have been a real blockbuster for the organisers given the fact that the tournament is being hosted in New Zealand.
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Why is Wayne Barnes allowed to referee rugby games?

During the last World Cup rugby tournament in France, Englishman Wayne Barnes ensured that tournament favourites New Zealand would be thrown out at the quarter-final stage by allowing a French try that was scored off a blatant forward pass.

And this wasn’t one of those line-ball decisions – there was a difference of about two metres between the two French players who exchanged the pass.

Now Barnes has done it again, denying Wales a chance of defeating the reigning champions, South Africa, at the 2011 championships.
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Australia’s tactics for World Cup rugby fraught with danger

AUSTRALIA enters next month’s World Cup rugby union tournament as one of the teams in with a chance — at least, based on the personnel and the strengths of the other teams involved.

But the Australian coach, New Zealander Robbie Deans, is resorting to a gameplan that has been tried before — when he was the understudy to John Mitchell, the coach for the All Blacks at the 2003 Cup. And Mitchell’s tactics failed that time.

In 2003, the Auckland Blues won the super rugby title. Mitchell based his national team for the cup on four players from the Blues – mercurial stand-off Carlos Spencer, wingers Doug Howlett and Josevata Rokocoko, and full-back Malili Muliaina.
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History tells us: the ICC must take the blame for match-fixing

IT WOULD be amusing to read all about the apportioning of blame by various people in the wake of the recent revelations about match-fixing, were it not for the fact that the whole thing is so damn serious. But then one should not be surprised about all the breast-beating that is going on – it is common for people to concentrate on the effects and forget the cause.

It does not take much effort to go back to the event that provided the seed for the growth of match-fixing in cricket. Remember, one is not talking about betting on cricket, that has been around for as long as the game has been played.

In 1980 the first international one-day cricket match was held in Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates. This was sanctioned by the International Cricket Council and it marked the start of trouble. The matches in Sharjah increased in number and India’s win in the 1983 World Cup gave the tournaments held in the desert emirate a fillip.

For one, the Sharjah tournaments were built on one factor – the enmity between India and Pakistan. There was always a third team invited (or even a fourth) to make up the numbers, but given the large numbers of Indian and Pakistani expatriates in the UAE, they were the focus.

Additionally, the Sharjah cricket organisers opened the doors to illegal betting of huge amounts by people of dubious reputations. Apart from the cricket, celebrities from both India and Pakistan were invited to attend. The UAE is a peculiar place – you can walk in to the country with a million dollars in a suitcase and no questions are asked but if you carry a Bible in, you may be questioned for an hour or more. Before oil came into the picture, Dubai was better known as the source of gold smuggling into India.

Both India and Pakistan have massive amounts of black money in their respective economies and lots of this money was used to wager large amounts in Sharjah. A great many dubious people offered awards in Sharjah to buy popularity and these were accepted without any hesitation – Pakistan batsman Javed Miandad earned more than a million dollars in 1986 when he hit a six off the last ball of a game to defeat India and win a tournament for Pakistan.

The UAE is known to harbour a number of people who are wanted in other parts of the world, people like the smuggler Dawood Ibrahim, who fled India in 1993 after he was being sought by police as a suspect in the bombing of the Bombay stock exchange that same year.

It is inconceivable that the ICC was unaware of all the goings-on but it chose to turn a blind eye. Cricketers were benefitting financially – the Sharjah organisers used to present three cricketers with money at every tournament – and the ICC was being paid the fees it sought. What’s more, any ICC bigwig who visited during the tournament was treated like God.

But the tournaments provided the means for illegal bookies and people of their ilk to gain access to players – one merely had to host a reception in Dubai for the cricketers (no liquor is served in hotels in Sharjah, hence the choice of Dubai which is just a 20-minute drive from Sharjah) during the tournament and one could pal up with the best players from India and Pakistan.

The money attracted other teams too and as the years went on the organisers scored their biggest coup by signing the West Indies, at that time the hottest property in world cricket. Australia, England, New Zealand, South Africa, Sri Lanka all came and played and were feted and wined and dined. Nobody raised any question as to why cricket in the desert was needed. It was something like the Packer days again, only this time the ICC gave the whole shindig its blessing.

Prior to Sharjah, there was hardly any talk of throwing a game of cricket. It took a few years for the bookies to develop their contacts to the point where they could make demands. Sharjah began hosting two tournaments a year soon after it started operations and this provided a fast track for unsavoury activities to grow.

in the 1990s , there was more and more talk about matches being influenced by factors other than the players’ ability. On the Indian tour of the West Indies in 1997, one Test, when India fell for 81 when chasing a little over 100 for victory, was a game that came in for some examination. An Indian writer, R. Mohan of the well-known Indian paper, The Hindu, lost his job after his betting activities came to light. And by the turn of the century, a few cricketers had been found out and banned from the game.

It is easy to gain access to junior players once one knows the seniors. And mind you, the seniors need not be in the pay of bookies, but merely acquainted enough to be persuaded to introduce others to the men who pay cricketers to fix games. After all, if you were told that Al Capone wanted to meet you during the heyday of that gentleman’s existence, would you have turned it down?

The ICC never objected to cricket being played in Sharjah. The only reason why the tournaments are no longer being held there is because there is no space on the international calendar after the future tours programme was put into practice. The ICC has even shifted its own headquarters to Dubai – simply because it benefits from the no-tax regime in the UAE and also gets free flights from Emirates airline – which is owned by the ruling family of Dubai – for its officials. When an international body has sold itself out in this manner, can it ever hope to call attention to the wrong-doings of its players?

Howard has been rejected, not Australia

WENDING his sorry way back from Singapore, after having been roundly snubbed by the International Cricket Conference after his bid to become the vice-president was rejected, former Australian prime minister John Howard is now trying to paint his rejection as a snub for Australia and New Zealand.

There is a one-word answer to this claim: bullshit.

It was the Australasian region’s chance to nominate a candidate and it was time for New Zealand to have a chance considering that, in the past, on both occasions when it was the region’s chance, an Australian took up the job – first Malcolm Gray and then Malcolm Speed. New Zealand had an excellent candidate, Sir John Anderson, a man who has worked with the ICC and shown remarkable aptitude as an administrator.

Howard claims that the cricket board of Australia approached him. This seems highly unlikely. What seems more likely is that Howard pulled a few strings in order to get his name put forward. He is a person who never wanted to leave public life; indeed, well before the 2007 elections, there were more than enough indications that if Howard continued to lead the coalition, it would meet with electoral disaster.

But Howard did not care; he hung on and suffered the ultimate ignominy. A sitting prime minister, he lost his seat to a political novice, former ABC newsperson Maxine McKew. If he had not been defeated, he would no doubt have hung on as an MP – the fact is he has no other skill other than being a politician. He has no administrative skills, no inter-personal skills, he can only manipulate public sentiment based on the lowest common denominator. And he has the imagination of a dry cucumber.

If any person other than Howard had been put forward as the nomination for ICC vice-president, there would have been no issue. But consider:

  • Howard did not support sporting sanctions against apartheid South Africa but was willing to back sanctions against Zimbabwe, leading to the obvious conclusion that it did not bother him when discrimination against blacks was being practised;
  • he used the military to board a ship full of asylum-seekers – Afghans and Iraqis – which was moving into Australian waters
  • he made no secret of the fact that reconciliation with Aborigines was not a priority of his, despite the fact that Australia has given its first people the raw end of the stick;
  • he has been known as someone who discriminates against people of colour
  • he never did a thing when Pauline Hanson was spreading the message of xenophobia across the country;
  • he was a staunch supporter of the illegal invasion of Iraq by the US in 2003, a gross injustice against a Muslim country;
  • he has been the greatest fan of shock-jock Alan Jones who, on more than one occasion, has been guilty of backing racist thugs. most notably those who were responsible for the riots in Cronulla.

These are just a few of the things which make it clear that Howard has a distinct problem dealing with people of colour. He would have been a disaster dealing with an organisation where the majority of the members are non-white – and the ICC is just that.

If Mark Taylor had been nominated would he have been rejected? Allan Border? Steve Waugh? Bill Lawry? Ian Chappell? Dennis Lillee? Jack Clarke, the current president of Cricket Australia? Damien Fleming? Paul Reiffel? Was Malcolm Speed or Malcolme Gray rejected? Howard is the problem, not any competent Australian.

Howard can continue to make brave noises about not withdrawing his nomination. In truth, he has nothing to do with it; only the boards of Australia and New Zealand can advance or withdraw it. By wheedling his way into contention, he has put the two boards in an awkward position.

Given that India is among the countries that has given Howard the thumbs-down, there is little chance that he will succeed in becoming the ICC vice-president. Had India not objected, Howard would have been accepted. But given all the reasons above, it is no wonder that Asian and African nations feel uneasy about accepting him as the chief of world cricket.