Strauss's grilling from Pakistani press adds insult to injured pride
Wednesday 22 September 2010
By now, trust is falling quicker than the leaves. There are more suspects than in Midsomer Murders and everybody is doubted by somebody. Cricket has had a grotesque three weeks, a noble game and its adherents vilified and traduced, and so pretty is the pass now reached that the vilifying and traducing has frequently been among themselves.
When Andrew Strauss walked into answer questions after England's defeat to Pakistan on Monday night in the fourth one-day international, he might have expected to field a few about the scandalous allegations made against England by Ijaz Butt, the chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board. Without a scintilla of evidence, data or corroboration, Butt had accused Strauss and his players of being bribed to throw the third match last Friday when they lost their last five wickets for 18 runs.
Thus, Strauss explained how arduous the previous 24 hours – when England came close to refusing to play – had been and how the allegations were refuted in their entirety. But then came the supplementaries. England, an interrogator pointed out, had been 113 without loss in the fourth ODI, were looking comfortable and had then lost.
"If it appears tomorrow in the newspapers that the England team have fixed this match and their players were involved in this, how would you feel?" asked the reporter. England had again collapsed. Clearly, they were now fair game.
As can be expected of the England captain, his response was calm and careful. He would be very disappointed. But the atmosphere is poisoned and poisonous now. There was more.
Another reporter said to Strauss: "When you were on 41 there appeared to be a pretty strong lbw appeal against you. How did you react to that decision?"
To which Strauss said: "How did I react to the decision?"
"Well how did you feel about it?"
Strauss's voice, by nature, is stentorian but it is almost never raised. It was now for a second or two. "What did I think of it? I got on and faced the next ball, what else do you do?"
He would have been perfectly entitled to reprise the aside of another England captain 14 years ago when confronted with a crass question. To wit, "Will someone get rid of this buffoon." But somehow he resisted.
There has been a lot of it about recently, buffoonery that is, and Ijaz Butt has done little to dispel the verdict on him delivered in July by the former chief executive of the ICC, Malcolm Speed. Writing in the Sydney Morning Herald, Speed said: "The Pakistan Cricket Board chairman is a nominee of the president of the country – a political appointment. The incumbent is a buffoon and cricket in Pakistan is a basket case." Had Speed been remotely as decisive when in office we might have been spared the recent shenanigans .
But the content of some of the points put to Strauss in the wake of England's defeat at Lord's showed how victimised Pakistan are feeling. Whatever the apparent strength of the evidence that they bowled three no-balls to order in the Lord's Test against England – as reported in the News of the World sting which started all the fuss – this has led irresistibly to wilder and wider allegations.
In turn this has spawned claim and counter-claim. Pakistan's victimhood reached its acme when they were effectively accused of deliberate slow scoring in the Oval one-dayer (which they won) and the ICC launched an investigation without telling them.
So if we're at it, you're at it. Instead of celebrating two sterling performances by Pakistan, officials and reporters have preferred to cast doubts on their opponents, or have been unable to prevent themselves doing so. Nobody is trusted, everybody is suspected.
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