Sunday, 15 July 2007

2006/07 – The Season/Farce That Was

The Australian View

A significant moment occurred at The Oval on the 20th of August. It was significant, of course, for all the wrong reasons, and then some. Somewhere from the moment that Darrell Hair and Billy Doctrove began inspecting a ball that they believed had been tampered with, to the moment that Pakistan protested the umpires’ decision to penalise them for ball tampering, to the moment that the two umpires called the game off altogether, something was beginning. A new chapter in cricket was starting. Gone were the days when cricket was a gentleman’s game, gone were the days when anyone could claim it was a boring game. It was the start of Season 2006/07 – a season that was, in all ways, one to remember, and one to forget.

If ball tampering and match forfeiting seemed a bad start to a season, people may have thought that things couldn’t get any worse or weirder. How wrong they were. The season continued in much the same fashion. There were leaked reports that Hair would quit if offered a payout, and eventually he was sacked despite being rated the ICC’s best umpire on decisions correct at the time, and 2nd overall, with the Asian bloc spearheading a ‘Sack Hair’ movement, including queries of racism and bias. It was all turned around eventually when Hair sued Pakistan and the ICC for racial discrimination, charges that were later dropped. Seems like a bad start to the year, but things got a whole lot worse.

Breaking ground was one thing that happened in Season 2006/07. We had our first ever forfeited match, so it stands to reason that more ground would be broke before the season was over. As a result, who could be surprised when cricket was faced with a sport’s nightmare; drugs. Again Pakistan was the country involved, as two of its players, Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif tested positive for the banned anabolic steroid; Nandrolone. The two were initially banned for two years in Shoaib’s case, and 1 in Asif’s, but the bans were then farcically overturned by an appeals board. Despite the ICC disagreeing, and appealing to the WADA’s appeal board to overturn the decision, it was found that there was no ground to do so, and the two got off with a minor holiday, although a strangely timed injury kept them out of the World Cup, which is next on our list for dissection.

The Cricket World Cup seemed like a great outlet for what had been a season full of controversy, if only it had not been run as badly as ever. In addition to a format that saw it run for what seemed like forever, ticket prices that cost locals a decent salary, minnows knocking over heavyweights, not to mention the fact that the whole tournament was run for the sponsors rather than the fans, it was also marred by a ridiculous finish, in which the entire game ended in pitch black darkness. Then, to cap it all off, the tragic death of Pakistani coach Bob Woolmer. First, it was of natural causes, then it was murder, then natural causes again, then 100% murder according to Mark Shields, (who established himself as one of the world’s most useless investigators with his late night denials of the natural cause theory and yet doing nothing on the actual investigation worth mentioning) until it was confirmed that the coroner who found a broken bone was incorrect, and that it actually was death of natural causes. It was a World Cup with low playing standards, no real challengers of back to back to back winners Australia, who have not lost a match in their past 2 wins, and the whole tournament was simply waiting to finish.

So there we have it, drugs, ball tampering, match forfeiting, death and farce all round, a season that was, in short, a disaster. Bring on the actual cricket one might think, but even that proved a bore, as supposed world number 2 England fell from their perch following an historic Ashes victory in 2005, thrashed by Australia 5-0 in the corresponding fixture in 06/07, in a season which Australia failed to lose a test, and only a few ODI’s before winning the World Cup in an undefeated, and nowhere near one too, campaign. There was a lack of opposition all season for the World number 1 Aussie side, who lost greats Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath, Justin Langer and Damien Martyn in the process too.It was a season full of farce, full of thrashings, full of victory, and full of defeat, full of jubilation, and full of sadness.

For most, there was little to cheer about, and it was a season that we’ll all hope to forget. Bring on the cricket I guess, and hope that the rest can lift its game before it’s too late.

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