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Roaming in the gloaming

Submitted by rickeyre on April 30, 2007 - 4:25pm

At the precise moment Malcolm Speed, the ICC chief executive, was saying sorry for the bizarre ending of the World Cup final the ICC hoarding behind him came unstuck from the wall, and almost hit his head.

- Andrew Miller, CricInfo, 29.4.07

Saturday's World Cup final was not the first time that a Cricket World Cup final ended in near-darkness, having been restarted after everyone thought it was all over. Towards the end of the West Indies v Australia final at Lord's in 1975 there was an attempted run-out which broke the wicket, the crowd (mostly expat West Indians) raced onto the field only to be told to get off again.

No one thought of that incident as farce. Rather, we have fond memories of that marvellous game as being one of the pivotal occasions in the history of one-day cricket. It was a world more innocent - remember the good old days when pitch invasions were almost encouraged - where our expectations were not as fussy as they are today, and where commercialism meant nothing more than naming the event the "Prudential" World Cup. A time when Sunil Gavaskar was so bamboozled by this new-fangled limited-overs cricket that he batted for 60 overs to amass 36 not out against England.

(Mind you, it was also a time when the players weren't paid very much, if at all.)

But now it's 2007, and we expect so much more. Herschelle Gibbs scores 36 runs in one over, let alone sixty. Spectators are treated as potential terrorists if they so much as set one foot on the outfield. Every delivery is analysed to death by a computer package named after a character from M*A*S*H (not Radar). Everywhere you look is festooned with the corporate logos of the official sponsors/supporters/partners/broadcasters of the tournament, and wobetide anyone who tries to ambush the paying customers (ie, the sponsors/supporters/partners/broadcasters) with some free advertising of their own.

And all this run by a billion-dollar enterprise, who recently shifted their global headquarters away from a major cricketing hub to a virtually non-cricketing nation for no reason other than tax minimisation.

It is because the ICC, and its special event subsidiary Cricket World Cup 2007 Inc., play with so much money and set themselves on a high pedestal of professionalism, that we actually expect high standards of professionalism from them.

We don't expect a final distorted by Duckworth-Lewis calculations, played at a modern stadium without even temporary TV-strength floodlights, ending then being restarted because neither the umpires nor the match referee properly understood the playing conditions.

But such a final is exactly what we got.

It wasn't a classic final. Australia was just too goddamn dominant, as they had been through the whole tournament. One of one-day cricket's all-time great players, Adam Gilchrist, played one of his greatest innings. The Sri Lankan bowlers, apart from Slinga Malinga, disappointed, but they can't complain about the shortening of the game.

The one thing that can be said about this absurdly long tournament is that the best team in the competition beat the second-best team. That's not always the case.

As I watched the post-match activities over breakfast on Sunday morning with a sense of bemusement, there was one thing that made me positively angry. Well, two. One was that there was no attempt to truncate the post-match "ceremony" which had already become a night-time event. The worst part of it was the speech by ICC President, Percy Sonn.

Seemingly totally oblivious to the farce that had unfolded over the previous half-hour, he strutted out to the microphone, slowly meticulously unfolded the paper carrying his prepared speech, and then talked pompous drivel for the next five hours (well, it was probably three or four minutes) while all the players - and the rest of us - were waiting for the gongs to be handed out so they could all go home.

A classic Emperor With No Clothes moment, actually. And thanks to factional jealousies within the ICC, he remains a compromise president for another year.

And, unforgivably in my view, he made no mention whatsoever of Bob Woolmer.

Update: Percy Sonn 1949-2007

By way of a much belated postscript, I should add that this was Percy Sonn's last public appearance. He died on May 27, 2007 following complications arising from colon surgery. He had been in poor health during the 2007 World Cup, a fact of which I was not aware when I wrote this blog post.