Unbelievable scenes were witnessed in London on Saturday.
Manchester United, 12 points clear at the top of the standings before kick-off, travelled to the Loftus Road home ground of cellar-placed Queen's Park Rangers for an English Premier League fixture. It was actually the second time they were meeting for the season. With the venue packed to its 18,500 capacity, the game was played for a full 90 minutes (there were also three minutes of stoppage time) and in the early going, Manchester United striker Javier Hernandez was flagged for off-side.
Amazing, truly amazing...that is, if you've been conditioned by international cricket's blatant discrimination and long-standing elitism to expect the same archaic nonsense in other sports. Had the conventions and compromises that flourish under the conveniently closed eyes of the International Cricket Council been permitted by those governing English football's top flight, then none of the routine happenings of United's 2-0 victory over a relegation-doomed side could have been entertained.
In the first place, England's biggest club and one of the biggest and most popular in the world would not have been subjected to the indignity of appearing on the same pitch with lowly QPR twice in the same season. Leveraging their huge influence and financial clout, they would have long since — together with the other heavyweights of the EPL — concocted an FSP (Future Seasons Programme) to minimise contact with clubs way beneath their lofty status and therefore avoided the hassle of playing fixtures that were of no financial benefit to them, much in the same way that the ICC's Future Tours Programme functions.
Not only that. Given that they could not avoid facing these unworthy minnows at some point in time anyhow, they would have mandated that the game, and others against similar low-rankers be reduced to 45 minutes maximum, in the same way that it's well nigh impossible for those in the lower reaches of the supposedly elite level of international cricket to play regular Test matches against the high-flyers, having therefore to settle with a couple of T20's, One-Dayers and — with excruciating reluctance — a one-off Test maybe every five years or so.
And if, after all that throwing of considerable weight around the place isn't enough, high-flying Man U, having condescended to appear in such a demeaning environment, would have insisted on not having the off-side rule applied for such games, just as the Board of Control for Cricket in India mandates that their premier players' lack of confidence in the available television technology means that their team will not be subjected to the indignity of the Decision Review System even while every other Test-playing nation abides with the DRS.
Think about it. Imagine what would be the reaction in official circles if, after seeing a perfectly legitimate goal against Germany at the last World Cup football finals in South Africa not given because of an officiating error, England refused to take the field for any future internationals unless the appropriate goal-line technology was employed? Even with all their history in the game and role in establishing and formalising the rules of the world's most popular sport, they would have been told that they can't be expected to have things their own way, never mind how influential they may be.
Now this is not intended to present football as pristine and FIFA as the custodian of all that is good and proper about sport—far from it. The latest scandal involving a network of global match-fixing will not be a surprise to anyone even remotely familiar with the shenanigans and sinister machinations that are a perpetual undercurrent to a sport that continues to flow along because there are too many powerful people with too much at stake to properly respond to racism and all the other outrages that are tolerated in the game.
So when football makes cricket look so extraordinarily old world and out of touch, you know things are real bad with what is still, laughably, referred to by some as the "gentleman's game".
But this is how it has been, and how it apparently will be for the foreseeable future because cricket can't seem to emerge from a Victorian-era haughtiness and hierarchical structure in which the haves take full advantage of their preeminent position and the have-nots endure until it is their time to rule and engage in the same arrogant behaviour that those who were lording over them previously indulged.
No-one seemed to have a problem, not even the non-white nations, including the West Indies, when racially-segregated South Africa played Test cricket from 1889 to 1970 against England, Australia and New Zealand exclusively. For all the talk about feeling the pain and the suffering of our black brethren under apartheid, I don't recall any serious attempt to refuse to play against nations who played against South Africa.
Discrimination defines the history of Test cricket, with the West Indies doing just like the English used to do and the Indians are now doing in treating the minnows with disdain. The bigger issue is though, how does a sport expect to emerge from the characterisation of "parochial" and how will the wider world (not homesick cricket-loving expatriates in places like Argentina and Spain) ever embrace or appreciate a pastime that is so inconsistent, so dependent on the whims and fancies of those with the whip in hand?
West Indies and Zimbabwe may have Test status like the other eight nations, but there some who are definitely more equal than others...as it always has been.