Our book, Right Off the Bat, spends quite a bit of time exploring the less salubrious sides of cricket and baseball, including the corruption that has accompanied the games almost from their beginnings. Although one might wish that double-dealing and cheating should have no place in either cricket or baseball, human nature being what it is, neither sport has been immune to both.
Today was the opening day of the trial of Roger Clemens, the Yankee pitcher whose astonishing longevity on the mound and loud claims that he’d never took steroids were a source of disbelief throughout baseball. Clemens, like Oscar Wilde, had vigorously denied what everyone apparently knew to be true and is paying the price. Of course, Clemens is not alone: questions of who took what and how much have been were raised about a bunch of players—Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds, Rafael Palmeiro, and Manny Ramirez come to mind. Pete Rose is still not allowed into the Hall of Fame (in fact, he is banned from baseball for life) because of a betting scandal. And so it goes on.
In the world of cricket, the scandal du jour is a little more obviously political. The erstwhile captain of the Sri Lankan team, Kumar Sangakkara, yesterday gave a speech in which he denounced the interference over fifteen years by the Sri Lankan political establishment in the management of cricket in his country. (I [Martin] touched on this in an earlier blog.) Sangakkara noted that cricket could have brought the country together in the wake of the terrible civil war with the Tamil Tigers. However, the meddling has left a bitter taste in his, and his fellow citizens’ mouths. Sangakkara’s speech has been widely praised—not least because the boards and establishments of many cricketing nations could be accused by their players of the same thing. Given the political situation in Sri Lanka, however, Sangakkara’s straightforwardness and honesty could land him in much more trouble than a banning from the sport, a fine, or disfavor from the government. It could cost him his life.