Cow Corner

Cricket needs honest incompetence

Cow Corner

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If any match in the history of cricket was guaranteed not to involve any spot-fixing or other associated funny business, it was this one.

No bookie or player would be brazen enough to try it on in the full glare of the cricket world. This match, more than any other, was definitely clean.

Which makes it rather a shame that, every time something unusual happened during England's five-wicket win at Sophia Gardens, it was impossible not to wonder if anything underhand was going on.

And that is the real curse of this spot-fixing scandal. Not that three carefully-placed no-balls would affect the result of any more than one in 50 cricket matches.

But that you start to question everything you see on the pitch.

Cow Corner grew up in an era when England were truly hopeless - the idea that they could actually choose whether or not to win a match was ludicrous.

Cowers's first taste of Test cricket was day one of the 1989 Ashes Test at Trent Bridge.

Australia won the toss and elected to bat. At the end of the day, Geoff Marsh and Mark Taylor were still there, on 301-0.

There was absolutely no question that England's atrociousness was genuine. They had not been slipped a briefcase of used notes to let the Aussie openers bat all day - they just couldn't get them out.

The 46 all out in Trinidad, the 131-run defeat to Zimbabwe, the baffling failure of players to bring their dominant county form to the international arena - at no point did we ever suspect that this was down to anything other than congenital uselessness.

And that's exactly how it should be. When one of your players does something unspeakably awful, you need to know it is because he's a chump, not because he's been paid to do it.

We were crap, but by God we were honest. Or at least, Cowers hopes we were.

The spot-fixing scandal, which promises to run and run, has cast doubt on everything.

Despite the cast-iron certainty of no foul play in today's game, you couldn't help but wonder.

When Tim Bresnan and Luke Wright shelled sitters, there ought to have been total certainty that it was just crass incompetence.

Likewise when Shoaib Akhtar dropped a dolly and Wahab Riaz somehow muffed an easy run-out chance.

Let Cow Corner make it clear - there was obviously nothing wrong with any of these incidents apart from the hand-eye coordination of the fielders involved.

But when you know spot-fixing goes on, human nature leads you to doubt what you see.

Like the Tour de France or WWE wrestling, sport can reach a point where it is so irrevocably tainted you cannot take it seriously any more.

You have to watch it through a smokescreen of cynicism, starting every sentence with: "I know this is completely fixed, but..."

Cricket has not yet reached that point, but it could do if corruption in the game is not stamped out.

Cow Corner doesn't know how to fix the problem - it actually thinks a life ban for an impressionable and underpaid teenager led astray (and possibly threatened) - is not the way forward.

But if anyone is in any doubt as to why a few strategically-placed extras constitute such a threat to cricket, all they had to do was listen to the mocking cries of 'FIX!' around Cowers any time somebody dropped a clanger this afternoon.

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