Please don’t, Dan

An extract from Daniel Vettori’s book examining cricket links with Zimbabwe was available in the Sunday Star Times today – and mostly, I wish it hadn’t been.

As a cricket lover who holds ridiculous amounts of cricket stats in her head for fun, and frequently fantasises about how the best men’s team of the 1980s would do against the best men’s team of the 1990s (Garner and Hadlee vs Warne and Murali?)….well, as a cricket freak fan, I don’t want to read people I admire talking tosh.

Mostly, the extract covers lots of bases in terms of the issues of Zimbabwe – repression, Mugabe and human rights all get a mention.  But it’s when Dan says:

You can argue that we should be isolating them in order to show our disapproval of Robert Mugabe’s regime, and that to continue sporting contact is, by implication, endorsing and condoning the current administration. You could, but from where I stand that’s an exceptionally political and theoretical point of view.

that I feel het up.  Any position on sport is a ‘political’ position.  The fact that, apart from in tennis and golf where some kind of gender parity exists, sportsmen receive coverage, resources and leisure that sportswomen could only dream of is political.  Whether or not we choose to play sport against or in particular countries is political.  Australian men refusing to tour Pakistan to play cricket because of security risks is political, as was their decision to remain in the UK in 2005 following terrorist attacks in London.

When the word ‘political’ is used to mean anything which challenges existing power arrangements it becomes inaccurate.  Playing sport against South Africa under apartheid did not ‘keep the politics out of sport’, because nothing can.  Sorry Dan.

As an aside, I’m interested that it is journalist Richard Boock authoring Dan’s book – the same Richard Boock who rather prematurely, I felt at the time, called repeatedly for Stephen Fleming, New Zealand’s most successful test captain, to be jettisoned.  To be replaced by….Daniel Vettori.  But then, Mr Boock got that one correct, if not right. 

Just hope, for my sake, that Stephen Fleming doesn’t suddenly feel the need to comment on politics in sport.  I need my sports heroes.


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