Frankly, it is hard to take seriously an event so dependent upon tomfoolery, writes Peter Roebuck
Astonishingly, the forthcoming Twenty20 World Cup is causing ruptures in the ranks of several international teams. Frankly, it is hard to take seriously an event so dependent upon tomfoolery. Indeed it counts amongst the attractions of this brief version of the game that it does not look towards the more doleful of the intellectuals for applause.
Spectators plunge into bubble baths, loud music plays and batsmen swash and buckle furiously. It is hard to imagine Jean-Paul Sartre thinking much of it, or Ibsen.
Accordingly, the desperation of senior players to take part comes a surprise. Jacques Kallis and several familiar Pakistan players have been “rested” — a polite term used by selectors in a doomed attempt to placate offended parties. Upon hearing that they have become temporarily surplus to requirements, these respected players have displayed all the delight shown by Alonso upon hearing that Lewis Hamilton has secured pole position.
Kallis promptly resigned from the honoured position as vice-captain of his country whilst the offended Pakistan players have apparently contemplated retiring from cricket or joining a new-fangled outfit in India, which amounts to the same thing. Admittedly the Pakistan team is overburdened with charlatans but that is hardly an excuse.
As far as choosing the strongest side is concerned, the players have a point. Almost without exception, the same cricketers rise to the top regardless of the length of the game. Admittedly athleticism and alertness are more important in shorter matches and can tilt the balance in favour of nimble types, whilst the rules of those engagements force the inclusion of lesser batsman able to roll over an arm.
But the truth of the matter is that a cricketer is either a heavyweight or a lightweight. Capable cricketers adapt their games to meet any circumstance. Amongst the champions of the one-day game, only Michael Bevan faltered in the Test arena, a failure put down to temperamental and technical shortcomings.
Mostly, the era of the specialist fifty-over player has passed, and the same will sooner or later happen in twenty over cricket. Australia fields almost the same side in every form of the game. Many players begin in the biff-and-bang side and, as confidence rises, secure places in the five day line-up. Some move in the opposite direction. Sri Lanka also relies on the same group of players, a strategy that took them to the World Cup final in Barbados. Therefore it hardly seems sensible for South Africa to omit Jacques Kallis from its Twenty20 party or for Pakistan to overlook Mohammed Yousuf.
Kallis is a mighty cricketer, one of few contemporaries able to hold his own with bat and ball.
The spread of fifty-over cricket was supposed to produce a rush of all-rounders but batting and bowling are not so easily mastered.
Doubtless, Kallis was looking forward to the chance to play in front of vast and noisy crowds on his home patch. Instead, he must twiddle his thumbs. Though he can appear ponderous, he deserved the chance to try his luck.
Nor was it wise to rest a player of his stature without lengthy consultation. Getting dropped hurts. And some players are not used to it.
But it is hardly a resigning matter. Greater players even than the South African have been omitted, including several distinguished Indians. They, too, serve at the behest, though hopefully not the whim, of their Board.
What are they missing? It is a pity that the tournament has been called a World Cup, a description that seems to claim parity with tumultuous events in football and rugby. But it is only a salesman’s pitch.
In fact the competition is a bit of a lark, and not to be taken seriously except by those taking part. Certainly it ought not to upset the applecart.