Stephen Brenkley: England return driven by need to protect IPL cash cow
Thursday 04 December 2008
The reaction at the M A Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai a week today will be as deafening as it is moving. India and England will step out to play a Test match that might never have taken place.
When the first ball is bowled, probably by Zaheer Khan or Stephen Harmison, it will be a demonstration that life is going on, that the human spirit cannot and will not be easily quashed.
The right things will be said and doubtless black armbands will be worn by way of paying respect to those who died in the horrific terrorist attack on Mumbai. It will bring a lump to the throat and a tear to the eye: it will be saying that we refuse to bow the knee to these extremists who seek to disrupt our lives. Jolly good, everybody. What a stand for freedom.
Such is the moralistic outrage of those who insist the show must go on – only according, of course, to that modern shibboleth, safety and security – that it is not only considered unfashionable to argue against this early resumption, it is somehow imbued with the sort of craven approach that would see all our liberties eroded.
Not so. England should not have been so eager to go back to play now and India should not have been so eager to ask them. Far from being played for the right reasons, the series is being played for the wrong ones.
Of course, England must play India some time and very soon indeed. But that time is not next week. There ought to be a period of grace so that a state of calm can be reached.
This series could have been played in much more fitting circumstances a few weeks' hence. That would have allowed for a proper period of mourning and for time to reflect on the catastrophic events of last week. If it had meant a reshaping of England's tour of the West Indies, then so be it. This has been an extraordinary event which demanded an extraordinary solution.
But, no, it had to be done now. It had to be done because India were desperate to demonstrate that cricket could be played there. This has little to do with the Test series involving England – indeed, it will be fascinating to see whether the ground at Chepauk next Thursday is as full as it should be – but with the cash cow that is the Indian Premier League a few months down the line. If England can play, then the IPL is safe. England, in turn, thought they were doing the right thing, but do not for a moment suppose they were not thinking of their long-term relationships with India and all that implies for future well-being. This has not all been about cocking a snook at terrorism. In fact, probably not much has been about that.
How much more resonant it would have been if this could have been properly staged. A few weeks could have passed, the sides could have regrouped, a window could have been found, preparation could have been thorough and genuine respect paid at an appropriate distance.
Instead, the tourists are dashing to Abu Dhabi and thence to Chennai. The matches will be artificial in construction and method. So might the lump in the throat.
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