Figure it out

I read paragraphs like this and I shudder:

“The Caribbean Premier League and the English T20 Blast loom as possible platforms for Australian players to bide their time in the second half of the year. Under normal circumstances, CA must provide no-objection certificates for players to take part in overseas T20 leagues, but pushing players out of contract would open up the market in unprecedented fashion – not only in terms of competitions, but also the commercial and sponsorship rights of players.” – Daniel Brettig writing for Cricinfo.

When the best players in the world turn their back on the international game and its most vaunted traditions like the Ashes and look instead to play in as many T20 leagues as possible–like mercenaries sailing the seven seas looking for loot–then that will be what finally kills off this game.

I am not saying it is the players’ fault, nor am I say it is the fault of Cricket Australia, for who is at fault really doesn’t matter, for in the end an Ashes boycott would truly be the beginning of the end.

Sure, the sport might survive, but it wouldn’t look like the sport we all know, it would be a shadow of its former self. Picture the IPL but 12 months a year. And the players, and Cricket Australia, need to both take a step and realize what they are doing to the game they supposedly love. David Warner was quoted in the same article linked to above as saying that “if we don’t have contracts we are going to have to find some cricket to play somewhere else because that’s what we love doing,” If you love the game so much, Mr. Warner, then have some respect for it.

Again that’s me having a go at the players. Which is only half fair. In a second article (which I recommend wholeheartedly) Mr. Brettig takes a deeper dive on the unfortunate affair saying, in part, that “the inability of either party to communicate effectively with the other is the greater problem, one with roots going back at least five years.” That’s it. That’s all it is. The toxic atmosphere created by both sides’ inability to communicate like grown ups is threatening to postpone the Ashes and cast a long, dark shadow over the whole of the game. It’s time for both sides to do what’s right: pull their socks up, shake hands, make up, and cut a deal. The sport you love–and that has made you a lot of money–is on the line. And it is on the line not just for you, but for the next generation of young cricketers and the generation after them and the generation after them.

Many folks will read this and point to the Major League Baseball in the early 1990s–Brettig himself references this and mentions that it cost the league over $700 million–and those folks will say that despite the financial losses, baseball is stronger than ever. Attendances are up, owners and the union have avoided a single day’s work stoppage for over 20 years, players are fairly compensated, there’s revenue sharing to allow smaller market teams to compete, and finally there is a performance enhancing drug policy with some teeth it. And all those things are true. Baseball is stronger than ever. But it’s also nearly unrecognizable to those of us who grew up with it. Inter-league play, endless playoffs, games that last forever, little to no player loyalty, teams holding cities hostage demanding tax payer funded stadiums as ransom, instant replay, and on and on. The survived, but to survive it had to change, and those changes made the game worse, not better.

Of course that’s just my opinion. Cricket needs to change to survive too, and maybe this how it survives, by becoming a loose knit collection of international T20 leagues. Maybe this is what brings it the Olympics, and even, yes, to America. But I don’t think so. So let’s have it, Cricket Australia and the Australian Cricketer’s Association. Come to the table. Figure it out.

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I am tired of writing about things like this. I am looking forward to actually writing about something that happens on the field instead of in a boardroom. Thankfully the first ODI of the Champions Trophy is just two weeks away. The tournament opens with England playing Bangladesh at the Oval. This is, truly, a must win match for both teams if they want to have any shot at making the knock out stages. For, as I pointed out in my last post, it’s an uphill climb for both of them.

And that’s why I rather like these quick-hit tournaments. For the lower seeded teams it’s more or less three knock out matches, and for the higher seeded teams it’s three hazardous icy patches they need to negotiate. That packs a lot narrative into a short tournament, and I am very much looking forward to it.

We are the robots, part 2

There’s one thing you can say about cricket that you can’t say about most sports: it’s fair. 99 times out of 100 the better time wins. You don’t see giant killings like you do in other sports. They happen, sure, but they are the definition of rare.

And who the better team is is usually defined using the ICC rankings. And so, as I have done before, I thought I would take the current ICC rankings (as they are today, not as they were when the teams qualified) and see how the upcoming Champions Trophy would play out if the rankings were gospel. I.e. if the team ranked higher always won.

When I did this previously the robots got about 88% of the group stage matches correct (or thereabouts) and three of the four knockout stage teams right (they picked Pakistan which missed out, the West Indies taking their place). They got both semi-final winners right (Sri Lanka and India) and they nailed the final.

Not bad.

So according to the rankings how does the Champions Trophy shape up? Let’s take a look. (This is of course assuming there are zero no-results during the tournament which is of course silly because it’s England in June, but hey this is just meant to be fun.)

Group A:

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Group B:

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Knockout stages:

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And so there we have it. Congrats to Australia.

I’ll check in on the robots during the tournament and see how they’re doing.

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Robots aside but that India v South Africa Group B match has “match of the tournament” written all over it.

Boycott this

In December of 1979, Soviet Union troops–disguised as Afghani solders–entered the city of Kabul, Afghanistan and led a coup against the internationally recognized government of president Hafizullah Amin, who was killed after the Soviets stormed Tajbeg Palace on the evening of December 27. By next day the coup was complete, the Soviets held Kabul, and Russian tanks, troops, and vehicles spilled over the mountains in an effort to control town and cities throughout the country. It was a sign of unchecked aggression by a nation that most of the world would prefer to stay checked. Most saw the move, which horrified the West, as an attempt for the USSR to ultimately seize control of the entire Middle East and gain access to the Indian Ocean.

The international outcry was swift and severe. Ministers from 34 Muslim nations–including, interestingly, Ayatollah Khomeini, whose newly founded theocracy in Iran was a fierce enemy of most of the West–condemned the invasion and called for immediate Soviet withdrawal. The United Nations General Assembly issued a resolution protesting the Russian action. And the President of the United States, on top of his work with NATO to stem the flow of weapons into the region, famously issued an ultimatum to the Russians in January of 1980: withdraw from Afghanistan in one month or the USA would boycott the 1980 Summer Olympics, due to be held in Moscow the following summer. The Russians stood firm, and the USA stayed home, as did more than 60 other nations. Four years later, the Soviets boycotted the summer Olympics in Los Angeles.

The Russian occupation of Afghanistan, and the ensuing guerrilla war, would last for nine years, one month, three weeks and one day. It would result in the deaths of over 120,000 Russian and Afghanistan troops, as well as the deaths of (estimates vary) at least 500,000 Afghani civilians, but probably a lot more than that.

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Starting in 1949, the South African government began to issue a series of Apartheid laws. There was the Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act; the Immorality Act, which banned sexual relations between people of differing races; the Population Registration Act, which classed all citizens into one of four racial categories; and the Group Areas Act, which began segregating the nation’s population based on their predetermined racial category. From 1960 to 1983, nearly four million citizens of color were forced from their homes and into segregated neighborhoods.

The worldwide outcry was not insignificant and notably included an arms and weapon embargo instituted by the United Nations. Also included in the backlash were boycotts of the nation by rock bands, orchestras and, of course, international sport organizations. For instance, four years before the USA boycotted the Moscow Olympics, 26 African nations refused to participate in the 1976 Summer Games in Montreal because the International Olympic Committee refused to ban New Zealand after the All-Blacks traveled to South Africa for a Rugby tour.

Previous to the action in 1976, South Africa had been banned from the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo; in 1968 the United Nations called for an international boycott of all South African sports that support Apartheid (this is the edict that New Zealand, and several other nations, violated); and in 1970 the ECB cancelled the South African’s cricket team’s tour of England after several nations threatened to boycott the Commonwealth Games to be held that summer in Scotland.

Apartheid would last until 1996. It is without a doubt one of the darkest stains on humanity, a stain that will never come clean.

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Apartheid and the 1980 and 1984 Olympics are arguably the most famous sporting boycotts, but there have been many others. Several nations did not participate in the 1956 Melbourne Olympics for several different reasons; in 1988, North Korea, Cuba, Ethiopia, and Nicaragua boycotted the Seoul Olympics; in 1996, Australia and the West Indies refused to play in Colombo due to security concerns; and in 2009 the England Cricket team cancelled Zimbabwe’s tour because of their government’s human rights abuses.

Every nation pulled out due to various reasons, but they were all justified, or at least logical. Be those reasons geo-political, humanitarian, or the safety of their athletes; Apartheid, unchecked Soviet Aggression leading to a decade long war or state sponsored protestor beatings in Harare. Even less politically sensitive boycotts, such as the ATP tennis players boycotting Wimbledon in 1973 could be seen as attempts to protect the rights of athletes. Sporting boycotts have always been a weapon of last resort, for good reason, as restless populations might see the boycott as a last straw by an oppressive government, and the isolation that ensues after boycotts can be see as detrimental to third world nations getting access to the West’s money and weapons. It is last resort, and the reasons have to be good ones.

India, meanwhile, want to boycott the Champions Trophy because the ICC is making an effort to fix a broken system.

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Related: BCCI Should Grow Up, via The Full Toss.