Cricket: Wisden cites club `apartheid'

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The Independent Online
MATTHEW ENGEL, the editor of Wisden, claims that a form of racial segregation is operating in the English club game.

Engel suggests in his notes, which launch the 136th edition of Wisden, that "cricketing apartheid" has become "accepted practice" in England. He also argues that English cricket should be benefiting more from the influx of post-war immigrants from India, Pakistan and the West Indies.

"In an informal, unspoken, very English way, cricketing apartheid has become an accepted practice in England," claims Engel.

"I know of nothing that constitutes active racial discrimination in English recreational cricket. But there is a great deal of what could be called passive discrimination, a refusal to go an extra inch and welcome outsiders into a club's often clannish atmosphere. The effect is that black and Asian players are operating outside the official structure. They have become second class in all kinds of little ways."

The English Cricket Board challenged Engel's claims and insisted that there is a commitment to tackling all forms of discrimination within the sport.

Richard Peel, the ECB director of corporate affairs, said: "While we would never seek to be complacent about the dangers of racism and are committed to addressing the problem whenever it occurs, current evidence does not suggest that a `system' of discrimination operates within the game."

Two Sri Lankans have been named among Wisden's top five cricketers of the year. Two months after leading his team to a mid-match boycott in Australia, Sri Lanka's captain Arjuna Ranatunga made the top five list as Wisden's 136th edition was unveiled. So did his team-mate Muttiah Muralitharan, whose controversial bowling action sparked the 15-minute stand-off between Sri Lankan players and the match umpires in Adelaide.

The 1999 almanac also names two English players - fthe ast bowler Darren Gough and the all-rounder Ian Austin - and the South African batsman Jonty Rhodes among the top five. Wisden plans to name its five cricketers of the century in its 2000 issue.

Engel also called for Jagmohan Dalmiya to resign as the International Cricket Council chairman over his handling of the bribes affair, in which the Australians Shane Warne and Mark Waugh were found guilty of taking money from an Indian bookmaker.

Engel said Dalmiya knew about the bribes affair for almost four years before it was made public. He describes the scandal as the worst crisis since bodyline.

"It is eating away at cricket's most vital asset - its reputation for fair play," Engel writes. "Bodyline was easily solved by amending the laws. This one is far harder to control. Cricket's response so far has been pathetic, almost frivolous.

"Dalmiya almost split world cricket trying to take charge of ICC. Having succeeded, he has given the game no leadership whatever. He should resign and be replaced by someone capable of providing that leadership."