I wish, with every bone in my sporting being, that some of the nicest guys I know had not been such rogues.
I saw Mohammad Azharuddin play his first Test innings, got to know him socially in England and India and Australia, went to his house for dinner when he played for Derbyshire, liked him and enjoyed his company.
Hansie Cronje was so distinguished, so ruthless a captain, so popular that when the Delhi police hinted they had proof he was a crook I shouted from the rooftops that they were wrong, that he was an honourable man and that if he offered to succeed Nelson Mandela as President of South Africa he might be sworn into office without an election. Such was his popularity.
The worst of my memories is of Danish Kaneria, now damned forever as a man who suborns others to help in nefarious match-fixing.
We were in Lahore, watching England at the nets when someone urged me to “come over here and see the Kaneria baby and the father’s delight in his new family.”
It was certainly a joyful moment; now I can barely think of the delight on his face without a sick feeling in the stomach.
Azharuddin has been called back into the game and perhaps he may be a reformed character. I hope so for his example will cause young cricketers to think twice before they help to corrupt matches.
I was reminded of all these bad moments in cricket this week as I watched England’s women thrash India’s women twice in three days at Twenty20.
England’s women are like the men the best in the world but although they put on a professional, highly polished and well-drilled showing they still managed a smile, intelligent comment, many autographs for the youngsters and polite behaviour.
A little sponsorship money, specialist training and their own enthusiasm under their finest captain and run-scorer Charlotte Edwards has made them a team without competition in the world today.
Like several England men Test heroes I was Impressed with every aspect of their play.
It contrasted with much that we see on the football field and too often in men’s cricket where the sour glower, the indignant tea-pot — hands jutting from the waist when good fortune turns bad or an umpire turns down an appeal — and the snarl are all too common.
Best of all the fielding of the English girls was exceptional. Lydia Greenway was the star wherever she was fielding.
She took two of the most difficult of all catches, diving forward to grab the ball the instant before it hits the ground but that was not her greatest moment.
As the Indian innings sank to its knees she chased a ball for 20 yards and then, inches from the boundary rope she sprang forward, grabbed the ball in one prehensile hand and sent it, inch perfect, to her helpmate behind her and out of sight. Jonty Rhodes would have been proud of such athletic fielding; it really was that good.
In addition she is an elegant batswoman, with timing rather than brute strength, and modest to a degree.
She got up from her dive, dusted herself down and, pushing her hair out of her eyes, went back to her place at deep mid-wicket to take those two remarkable catches.
“We sort of get used to it,” said Charlotte Edwards. “She does it all the time.”
Perhaps Charlotte would like to revise that statement. Whether it is brilliant fielding or corrupt practice, we must recognise the good, the bad and the ugly or they fade from our sight and are ignored at our peril.