If Ricky Ponting says, and that’s what he’s done, that Brian Lara’s runs were made in his team’s winning cause and Sachin Tendulkar’s ones, poached purely with a self-centric agenda, cricket comes to be saddled with a bit of bother.
One, in fact, that’s not a little nettlesome.
Figures, relevantly culled and appositely presented, should lead us to the truth without, of course, hitting the variables – and they can’t be wished away – beyond the boundary, but, when you really start thinking about it, what are statistics in an age when everyone other than those on the game’s ever-chugging gravy train is convinced that there’s much villainy afoot all the time?
An illusion of reality is what they call the entire business. There’s no chest-thumping over it, any more than anyone is trying to play the game’s Julian Asange or Edward Snowden, but, truth to tell, integrity is no longer associated with modern, institutionalised and professional sport, the extent of corruption being what it is, stirring inquiries journalistic as well as academic, even as the power-wielding authorities, for reasons best known to them, stonewall all attempts at ferreting out information.
The seemingly undeclared official policy of secrecy, extending into scorebook-writing, leaves the game cheapened because while there have been punitive action against wrongdoers in many places, inclusive of India, the record book hasn’t ever been revised.
Not at all. So the foundation upon which all statistical details are bound to be predicated may, rather euphemistically, be called very deeply flawed. Inferences made on the basis of these may for very obvious reasons not really be laser-precise. And here we’re talking of two hugely talented, iconic figures who have participated in marquee contests on the flip-side of which was the Indian sub-continent’s betting-and-fixing mechanism. "One more match and it’s business as usual" is a reasonable enough proposition in this context, and to say that is never to imply either has been dishonest, on or off the field.
What Pakistan’s spot-fixing summer in England underscored in the none too distant past was that you mightn’t have known at all what your adversaries had permitted themselves.
From all accounts, once England players got to know what Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir had been up to, some of the verbal exchanges between the teams, especially during practice, tended to be what PG Wodehouse might have described as fruity. A ball delivered in accordance with bookmakers’ instructions to be hit for a boundary, or a six, doesn’t make for a competition at its keenest.
No slur, that, on the duo and it can’t really be helped if a show goes over with a bang in spite of rivals whose priorities are not exactly wholesomely competitive, but you know that when the game is not quite what it should be, performances, good or bad or ugly or bubbly, can’t be central to your critical appreciation of it.