IN THE just concluded (and greatly unnecessary) tri series in Sri Lanka, predicting the results was fraught with more uncertainty than operating a slot machine, such was the nature of the pitches on which some incredibly inept cricket was played. New Zealand never made the final despite thumping India by 200 odd runs in the first game while India made the final despite registering their worst ODI loss in history (in terms of balls remaining). The volatility of the proceedings was too much even for a game that is full of (sorry, cliché counters) glorious uncertainties.
Something similar was happening in England where conditions can do a volte-face quicker than a misquoted politician. Pakistan lost the first test against Australia embarrassingly and then bounced back to level the series. An almost identical story arc repeated in the series against England, where they lost the first two tests (a worse loss in the second than in the first, after many thought it was not possible to plunge to a newer low for them), then brilliantly won the third, raising the prospects for another leveled series as the show moved to Lord’s. And what a venue they chose to make the hydra headed monster of match fixing returns. The darkest clouds over the stadium that were making the ball swing prodigiously appeared pale in comparison to the specter that hung of Hansiegate all over again.
Match fixing revelations and allegations have put many matches under a cloud now (case in point, Pakistan vs. Australia at Sydney which even Ricky Ponting suspects was not above board) and suddenly all the volatility we had been celebrating (admit it, Pakistan’s win in the 3rd Test was quite dramatic) seems just rigged thrills. Like in the financial markets, so in sport – we ideally would like predictability but secretly crave volatility. And in both cases, rigging can snuff the basic reason volatility is required – course correction.
Perhaps the importance and spectacular impact of the bowler was highlighted in mostly bowler dominated Tests in England. India got a wake up call about its World Cup preparations after those ODIs in Sri Lanka. Until, some Pound Sterling notes showed up in the Pakistani players’ dressing room at Lord’s. There are a million doubts to be cleared and a thousand questions to be answered yet to get to the real picture about the latest bout of ‘spot fixing’ but it has once again made volatility the scapegoat. It reminds you of what The Joker says to Harvey Dent in ‘The Dark Knight’: You know what I’ve noticed? Nobody panics when things go “according to plan.” Even if the plan is horrifying! …nobody panics, because it’s all “part of the plan.” But when I say that one little old mayor will die, well then everyone loses their minds! Introduce a little anarchy. Upset the established order, and everything becomes chaos
The cricket world seems to have nothing ‘going to plan’ right now and the panic and the chaos is quite evident. It is time we made our peace with volatility, on the trading desk as well as the cricket pitch.