The plan for lighting the torch at the Opening Ceremonies of an Olympiad is always a tightly held secret. This leads to considerable speculation among the citizens of the home country.
The 2000 Summer Games were held in Sydney. I was there a couple of days before the start and must have overheard 25 conversations as to the identity of the torch lighter.
The guess I heard most often was Sir Donald Bradman. Turns out, Bradman was considered to be Australia's No. 1 sportsman because of long-ago exploits in cricket.
This didn't make much sense to me, due to this simple problem: cricket isn't an Olympic sport. When Muhammad Al lit the torch in Atlanta, he was doing so not only as America's ranking sports legend, but also as an Olympic gold medalist in boxing.
I wound up in a couple of conversations with Australians and expressed this opinion: "No matter how much you love the guy, it's not going to be a 90-year-old cricket player that a large share of the world has never heard of lighting the torch.''
The torch lighter would up being Cathy Freeman, a woman of aborigine descent and the favorite for a gold medal in track. She won.
What all the Bradman conversation did for me was to create curiosity over cricket. How could this odd and endless activity stir enough passion in a country such as Australia to have people seriously rooting for an old man from a non-Olympic sport to light the torch?
I read stories about international cricket matches simply for a smile, as I attempt to decipher the terminology: "overs'' and "wicketkeepers'' and a "square-leg umpire.'' I imagine there is similar humorous confusion when immigrants with no baseball background try to figure out our Grand Old Game.
I ran across a story today that will increase the motivation to find out what in the Hades is happening with cricket. The lead of the article went like this:
"West Indies wicketkeeper Denesh Ramdin has been suspended for two ODIs, and fined 100% of his match fees, for breaching the Code of Conduct when he claimed a catch off Misbah-ul-Haq during the Champions Trophy game against Pakistan at the Oval.''
Quick research revealed that ODIs are One Day Internationals. This meant that the backjstop had been suspended for two matches for pretending as if he made a catch.
How great is cricket, that if a participant doesn't rat himself out, he faces international disgrace?
More info: " The incident [Ramdin's skullduggery] took place in the ninth over of Pakistan's innings, when Misbah bottom-edged a Kemar Roach delivery to Ramdin. The wicketkeeper initially appeared to have caught the ball but lost control of it as he fell forward, and it slipped out of his gloves on to the grass. Instead of bringing his mistake to the notice of the umpires or teammates, Ramdin returned the ball to the square-leg umpire and joined his teammates in the celebratory huddle.''
So, the crime was the equivalent of a catcher acting as if he had caught a foul tip for strike three, when in actually he was aware that the ball had hit the dirt ... and he was obligated to inform the plate umpire?
This is beautiful.
Match referee Chris Broad said: "This is regarded as a serious offense as it is the responsibility of all players to act in the spirit of the game. I hope Mr. Ramdin has learnt his lesson from this incident and that we will not see such behaviour [behavior] by him or any player in the future.''
Cricket makes golf look like anarchy when it comes to honorable conduct. And what an ethic this would be for team sports in this country:
No flopping in basketball, or you get fined 100% of several game fees per violation. No signalling for a flag by a receiver who fails to catch a pass, or he suffers the same fate. And Derek Jeter, acting as if he was hit by a pitch to gain first base ... banned for life, if this was cricket.
One more thing: They don't have rules in cricket. They have laws.
Ramdin's offense was a violation of a subclause of Law 42, which does more than govern "fair play.'' Law 42 demands fair play.