Collin E. H. Croft
On 08 March 1971, a week before my 18th birthday, will live in my memory. I cried that night, for the very first time since becoming a teenager, after my sporting hero of all time, still, Muhammad Ali, had been beaten, for the first time ever, by “Smoking” Joe Frazier.
This was “The fight” of last century.” It was my first of great fights of any lifetime! What fights too!
As most know, I love championship boxing. When I lived in USA – 1980 to 1992 – I did not miss ABC, CBS, ESPN, HBO and Showtime enhanced boxing coverage. By sheer luck, I even managed to shake the hands of boxing legends Aaron Pryor, Sugar Ray Leonard and Roberto Duran in my travels too! What great joy!
Boxing is the only real legal sport still left, that – mano y mano – allows a man to defend himself where he could legally kill another. Ali and Frazier nearly died in their 3rd meeting; “The Thrilla in Manilla!”
If you never saw ‘near death’, or ‘out of body’ experiences, see that fight ASAP. Check “You-tube”. All of the really great fights are still there, for your enjoyment, so there is no excuse!
World championship boxing was special then, with heavy-weights just out-doing light-heavies, middles, welters, lights and bantams. Ali, Frazier, Ken Norton, George Foreman and George Chuvalo were just a few of the heavyweights around at that time!
Last week, we all mourned the loss of “Smoking Joe”. Frazier was lethal and hard. Long before there was “Iron” Mike Tyson, there was “Smoking Joe” Frazier. Had it not been for Frazier, we might not have been calling Ali a boxing genius, or vice versa. These two guys were made exactly for each other!
Ali maintains to this day that Frazier’s left hook was the hardest shot he ever got. After that 1971 fight, Ali openly admitted that the Frazier left hook that knocked him down in the 15th round did not only shake loose the fillings in his teeth, but even shook the bones of his ancestors in their graves!
Sometimes, in fantasy, I liken myself to “Smoking Joe” where West Indies fast bowling is concerned. Frazier was a legitimate heavyweight champion of the world, but the world never gave him his full due, since Ali and Foreman were always there too. Oh, I was No. 1 in the world, for over two years. So….….!
Many thought that Ali would leave us first, after the beatings he had taken. “Smoking Joe”, RIP!
Anyway, people of that same certain age might remember a tune by Aretha Franklyn, “Queen of Soul”, called “Who’s zooming who?” Now, that open sore, sewer even, which is international cricket’s match-fixing scandal, can be paraphrased to “Who’s fooling who?” Even ICC does not believe itself here!
Take note that there were over 40 murders during the ten weeks of T&T’s recent curfew. If someone really wants to kill another, nothing can stop that. You do not have to kill during 11:00pm to 4:00am. Simply, you wait to do the business between 4:00am to 11:00pm. There is no set schedule for crime!
I am very sure that most, maybe all of us, certainly me, have, at some time or other, driven faster than the posted speed limits. Rules will always be broken. That is one reason they exist! Likewise, International Cricket Council and world cricket boards are just looking in mirrors and seeing shadows.
So, imagine this. A gazillionaire has a massive bet that a certain batsman or bowler would do something untoward, ala Pakistan v England last year. However, instead of an agent doing the communications, the player actually, casually, meets the rich person and an arrangement is discussed and made.
This is so simple that it can be completed as the two jog around a park, in full view of prying eyes. Players could be in the grocery, or restaurant, on off-days, and can make deals that no-one could know.
Trying to alleviate match-fixing, spot-fixing and cheating in sports is like trying to stop drug-running. The only people who think that these will stop are idiots and politicians! Most know better than that!
I have aviation friends who work for USA’s Drug Enforcement Agency, and Caribbean’s Drug Interdiction Force. They know that the so-called war on drugs is a massive waste of time and money.
According to a programme aired on USA’s Public Broadcasting Station last week, the drug trade in USA, alone, amounts to a US$35 billion-a-year industry. Do you really think that anyone could stop that now?
As Imran Khan, former Pakistani captain, also noted, “This war on terror is stupid!” I agree. You kill most of a village because you suspect that one terrorist lives there. Then you expect the rest of that village to just accept it, and not rain real terror back on you. Asininity reigns everywhere! In cricket too!
Transferring those examples to international cricket, match-fixing and spot-fixing will be forever in our sport, even if most of us, certainly me, will never condone it. Those practices cheapen the genuine efforts of cricketers, but there is nothing anyone anywhere could do to stop them happening.
The only relative, but not full, solution is also simple. In the extremely remote chance, regardless of what ICC’s ACU says, that anyone is caught “fixing”, anyone at all, then that person should be banned from playing cricket for life, period. Loss of time or wages cannot stop this. Loss of a career might!
Of course, ICC cannot do that. They struggle badly with making policies and cannot even come to a consensus about rules and technology to be used for international series.
As former England captain Mike Atherton said, they are “Toothless Bull-Dogs”. They bark, look useful and important, but have no real bite, are mostly useless, mostly political!
One of ICC’s ACU’s head honchos even suggested that entire cricket boards should possibly be banned if any of their players were found guilty in match-fixing or sport-fixing. If that really happens, there would be no unified cricket boards left. All have been semi-tainted in this. That is the height of ‘dotishness’!
The only sensible call should be from the players themselves. There will always be bad eggs, but sportspersons must police themselves, for theirs, and game’s, good, pride and continuance.
It sounds naïve, but this could only come from being taught, from kindergarten stage of cricket, that the integrity of the game is much more important than its parts; cricket boards, ICC, or individual players. To date, that is, sadly, and badly, missing!
When Australia played West Indies or England in the past, it was real war too, not unlike Frazier v Ali, but, like that 14th round of ‘Thrilla in Manilla”, one won, the other lost. No-one lost respect for self or the game. Present-day cricketers must respect cricket itself. Many, probably most, do not do so now!
For many present-day cricketers, playing international cricket is a means to an end; making a good living. Nothing is wrong with that, but going to work should mean aspiring to more than that.
To understand, appreciate, even love anything, especially international sport, respect must be present too. Enjoy!
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