News has broken that the BCCI has decided, in its infinite benevolence, to allow its players an amnesty until May 31 to cut all ties to the ICL. This means any Indian cricketer who ended their career by signing with the rebel league can rescucitate them and make nice with the effective governors of world cricket for the next 30 or so days.
This is long overdue, and frankly the situation should never have gotten to the blacklisting stage in the first place. (As an aside, is there any sport that loves blacklisting as much as cricket? The Packer era, Apartheid rebel tours, latter-day Zimbabwe… It’s a very McCarthyist sport.)
Why should we care? Because all national boards are expected to follow suit, meaning that the glaring hole in our current team’s make up, that of a genuine strike bowler, might be filled… Yeah, Bond could be back playing for us as soon as the Twenty20 World Cup, should sanity prevail and the ridiculous ‘cooling off period’ (what are we, 12?) be abandoned. Does anyone else find the timing of this a little convenient?
The Indian national side, almost entirely unaffected by this ban, just finished a tour of New Zealand, the side by far and away most affected by it. During that series their batsmen righted historic wrongs, and salvaged a reputation severely tarnished by their last visit here. They padded stats, played their shots and generally partied it up against a very ordinary attack on pitches which required genuine pace to be remotely troublesome.
They’ve been gone only a matter of weeks, and suddenly the bleeding obvious solution to the ICL’s demise (if it hasn’t been announced, the postponements and non-payments make it clear what’s going on) has been miraculously discovered. And if you think that’s a little conspiratorial, remember this is the sport that gave you Hansie Cronje, Salim Malik, the death of Bob Woolmer, and Lord Congdon’s report into the game in 2001.
“Murder, kidnapping, drug-smuggling, organised crime – all of these were cited yesterday, alongside evidence of systematic match-fixing on a global scale,” was how The Independent described the latter.
But right now I can’t care too much. Assuming Bond even wants to work for the two-faced charlatans who reneged on their original agreement, our side should get two or three good years out him yet, and to see the guy back in black (and white!) would be an enormous filip to our national cricket side.
That’s a big assumption, but if it comes off I won’t be alone in celebrating the return of the most talented cricketer we’ve produced in a decade or more – maybe longer, if you just look at the raw numbers. A lot of manouvering needs to be completed yet, but this is the most positive sign yet that this sorry, tawdry saga might be finally drawing to a close.