The UCBSA media-release is revelatory in its frankness and deserves quotation in full:
"The United Cricket Board of South Africa has been placed in an extremely difficult position regarding the staging of the third Castle Lager/MTN Test match at SuperSport Park, Centurion, from tomorrow.
"We were informed this morning by the President of the Board of Control for Cricket in India, Mr Jagmohan Dalmiya, that the Indian team will not take the field if Mike Denness is acting as Match Referee," said UCBSA Chief Executive Officer Gerald Majola.
"South African cricket and the South African public in general cannot afford the cancellation of this Test match. Although the crisis has not been of our making, we have received reports of protests at South African embassies in India and our country has been caught up in this issue. The South African Government, through Sports Minister Ngconde Balfour, has instructed the UCBSA to take whatever action is necessary to ensure that the Test match goes ahead.
"In view of these issues, the UCBSA has asked Mike Denness to stand down as Match Referee in the interests of cricket.
"However, Mr Denness indicated that he was a properly appointed ICC Match Referee who was in South Africa to act as such and he could not step down from that position.
"United Cricket Board Chief Executive Officer Gerald Majola telephoned ICC CEO Malcolm Speed to inform him that the UCBSA had no alternative but to ask Mr Denness to recuse himself and, facing his refusal to do so, had indicated that the UCBSA was unable to allow him access to the Match Referee's position at the ground for the Test Match.
"Under the circumstances, South African Denis Lindsay, who serves on the ICC Match Referees Panel, has agreed to be available to stand in as Match Referee and the BCCI has agreed to him replacing Mr Denness.
"We sincerely regret that the matter has come to this, however we are pleased to announce that the third Castle Lager / MTN Test match will go ahead as planned. We are certain it will be a thrilling contest and we hope the South African public will give their full support to their team as they go all out to play for their country," concluded Mr Majola"
ICC of course was quick to react to the proposed plans announced by BCCI and UCBSA:
"It has been suggested in South Africa that a replacement match could be staged if the Test does not go ahead. If this were to happen it would not be recognised by the ICC as a Test match. It would not be officiated by an ICC referee or umpire and neither the result nor statistics would be included in Test match records.
"The disciplinary action taken by Mike Denness in Port Elizabeth will continue to stand. Specifically, this would mean that the one match ban served on Virender Sehwag would now apply to the first Test match against England in Mohali in December."
In short, the test match is unofficial, if we are to go by the ICC media release.
And for a change they seem to have been perceptive too: "undoubtedly there would be further developments in this matter" .
As I write this, comes the news that Mr. Dalmia has "rubbished" the ICC threats. It seems he is confident that all the criteria for derecognising this match are not fulfilled, which perhaps explains the decision not to play Virendra Sehwag in the "test" tomorrow.
But I am, to put it mildly, not terribly happy with this. Why not go the whole hog and play Sehwag? Why should the Indian manager be making polite sounds about "honouring" Denness' decision? Isn't there a thing called honouring the principles involved?
A friend whose opinion I value highly had this seemingly radical suggestion earlier in the day. Let me quote the relevant bits of his e-mail:
"This is the time for India to pull out of the third test, quit the ICC (just as Garri Kasparov did with FIDE, the chess organisation) if necessary, form a new cricket council with support from other boards, basically say FUCK YOU, and watch those boards who do not join the new ICC slowly get impoverished and die. What the US is to the world economy, India is to the world cricket economy, and we should make stupid cricket bureaucrats across the world understand this very clearly."
I would love to quote the rest of his e-mail too, but since it gets kind of graphic (and I may already have offended some sensibilities by allowing the four-letter word in the quote. Sorry.) with detailed proposals to take care of the Menace of Denness, maybe I should be a bit circumspect. Why this vehemence? I asked, since he is the gentlest and most thoughtful of human beings I know. His response:
"Why am I so enraged about this? I have not been so enraged about anything ever. But I find that I am not alone. I have friends who are totally normal corporate rat race types, general managers and vice-presidents in Citibank and places like that, who call me up and tell me that they wake up in the middle of the night intensely wishing to wreak physical violence to Mike Denness. I am sure there are lakhs of Indians like us."
Indeed there are, if we are to go by the collective outpouring in discussion boards, letters to the editors and protests on the streets. It is, if you'd indulge me a bit, the soul of a nation long suppressed, finding utterance. (Nevermind that the utterances are only muttered imprecations, when not loud, vile abuse.) And they would all miss Sehwag out there in the field tomorrow. So that should explain why I felt constrained to save the traditional third cheer.
There is plenty more to be said on the likes of Mr. Raj Singh Dungarpur, for example, but maybe some other time.
Oh, cheer number two? Why, to Ganguly, of course. For speaking out and telling Steve Waugh to Shut Up. I am told he said it twice. So maybe he deserves three cheers all for himself.
Perhaps you disagree? So let's hear from you in Free Speech then: Should India have played Sehwag?
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