Controversial End to Division Two matches
Two second division matches played last weekend have raised eyebrows here in the cricketing circles in Madras.
With MCC and Aruna CC on the same points going into the last round of league matches, both teams were eyeing for the 2nd promotion spot from 2nd to 1st division in the TNCA league. If both teams won their respective matches, the promotion was to be decided by NRR (Net Run Rate).
For the record, MCC crushed ICF by 12noon on Sunday. After bowling out ICF for 90 on a pitch that kept low, MCC scored the runs in 15overs. In the other match, batting first, Aruna scored 280 and then bowled out Parrys in the 2nd session for 170 (they had to restrict Parrys to around 200 to gain promotion into the 1st division).
Sources close to the match have raised doubts about ICF being bowled out so cheaply and so early on Sunday morning. It was argued that the ICF-MCC match ending early gave Aruna clarity on the run rate they had to maintain in beating Parrys. The Aruna-Parrys match went well into the 2nd session on Sunday evening. Sources have highlighted the fact that B Ramprakash, who has played cricket alongside PC Prakash years ago, and who has been a strong contributor for his team, did not bowl in the match. Sources also raised the issue of Parrys closing their innings before the fall of the 10th wicket. Sources even went to the extent of saying that it was a 'well scripted Sunday Story'!!!
However, those who have played for many years (and for shorter duration) with PC clearly ruled out such a possibility saying that their personal experience of having played and interacted with him has been one of him playing cricket ‘straight’.
(The writer watched a match a week earlier when Mambalam Mosquitos, a team managed by PC beat India Cements run Egmore Club by under 20runs in a very close match with PC carrying drinks throughout the match during the hourly break and at the fall of a wicket. Such was his involvement in the match. He was in whites throughout the match as well a feature you don't see often these days among the young cricketers not playing in the XI).
A source who played for several years in the past for ICF ruled out any possibility of ICF giving away the match easily. He went to the extent of promising on his over 2decades of cricket (that has given him livelihood) that ICF would never do such a thing and that it was a natural course of play that ICF lost that match before lunch on Sunday.
MCC has filed a complaint with the TNCA the exact contents of which is not known. When contacted, Mr. Ajit, Secretary said that they have filed the complaint officially with the TNCA and that it would not be appropriate for him to make that public.
When contacted, PC Prakash said that he has been playing cricket for 40years and that cricket was a religion for him. He said that he had always played cricket ‘straight’ and that he never in his life resorted to or even intended to resort to such tactics. And that he would never do such a thing in his life in the future as well for he says he breathes cricket all the time. In fact, he said that his message to all the cricketers has been to 'give their best at all times and to fight it out in every game.'
One of the four umpires involved in the two games, who has seen ICF play over the last two decades said that there was no chance that they would have agreed to anything other than a normal game. The umpire, who has known PC Prakash for several years, also vouched that PC would never resort to such a thing and that it was a disgrace to even suggest this of a cricketer of his stature.
Interestingly, just over two decades ago, MCC went out of 1st division in controversial circumstances. Playing against Globe Trotters, MCC was bowled out for 50 on the first morning. By the end of the day, Globe Trotters led by a century from M Senthilnathan had built a lead of over 200.
When they arrived on the 2nd morning, Globe Trotters found that the pitch at Chepauk had been damaged. Sources say that it was clear to everyone there based on the shoe marks as to who had damaged the pitch. While Globe Trotters agreed to play on an alternate pitch, MCC initially refused. The story goes that a top official of the TNCA spoke with MCC officials about getting in sniffer dogs to investigate the cause and the rest is history!!! ( this was independently verified with multiple people who were present that day)
Globe Trottters declared the innings with the resumption of play on the alternate pitch and bowled out MCC a 2nd time around on day 2, a season that saw MCC relegated to division 2.
It is important for the TNCA to ensure the credibility of the league here in Madras. It is also important for this issue that has been circulating in the cricketing circles this week to be laid to rest with TNCA making the necessary enquiries about the two matches.
Just two weeks ago, the writer heard a shocking story of a 15year old strike bowler being asked not to bowl because his team had to lose that match. It is shocking because 15year old players, still not out of school, now know first-hand and are discussing publicly about lower division matches being ‘set-up’.
This is a big dampener on the credibility of the league and TNCA has to initiate action to restore that the matches are played fair and in line with the spirit of the game.
PS: It was refreshing last year to see Dr. Natarajan calling the team that I captained for an enquiry because we went into a match at the end of the season with less than 10players. It is another story that we played with fewer players and won that match (with subsequent macro developments, that enquiry did not materialise).