Article yehhaicricket.com

The Gentlemen’s Game?
Is Cricket too much of a ‘Soft’ Sport?
By Tushar Bhaduri

In the early days of Cricket, it was great English gentlemen all dressed properly for an important social occasion, ‘enjoyed themselves’ with a bat and a ball, making a point not to exert themselves too much. A gentleman or a person of noble birth to be seen perspiring wasn’t recommended.

In the early days of Test Cricket, the game was played at a much slower pace than it is today. The levels of fitness and athleticism required were not as high. The father of English Cricket Sir W. G. Grace is said to have played active cricket till the ripe age of 66. Such a feat would be unthinkable in today’s era.

As the game was played at an amateur level and there was no prize money to speak of, players played with a relaxed frame of mind and the relationships between the players were quite cordial. Cricket was considered to be one of the greatest ‘exports’ of England.

As the game spread round the world, different styles of play evolved, which were quite distinct. In the sub-continent, passion, guile and flair were the key components. In the Caribbean, the game was based on raw power and athleticism. In Australia and South Africa, tough and uncompromising play was emphasized with an aim of victory by all legitimate means. It is in light of the above facts that the recent ICC ruling penalizing 5 runs for verbal abuse, commonly called ‘sledging’, seems ridiculous. The ruling seems to be directed at the Australians who are the leading team in International Cricket today. The ICC, comprising of people, many of whom have not played Cricket at the highest level, are keen on keeping the archaic and outdated Victorian standards of our play and sportsmanship in this age of intense competition and professionalism. Steve Waugh, the Aussie skipper has come out openly against the ruling. The point to be made is that cricket is not just a physical sport, but has mental, emotional and psychological aspects also, which need to be given equal, if not more, importance. Australia is the best team because besides talent, it possesses players of strong characters and mental toughness.

Players at the international level represent their countries and are expected to conduct themselves responsibility. If an ICC ruling is required to conduct the game, then there is something seriously wrong with cricket. All that this ruling would succeed in achieving would be transferring control of the game from the two umpires to some officials sitting away from the action in an air-conditioned room. The umpires know what the players are going through. He can intervene whenever required and prevent unsavory incidents by keeping the players in good humour, thus gaining their respect.

Cricket appeals to the public because it simulates life. This makes the watcher identify himself with the players. If the player lets out some steam or lets the passion get the better of him, it should not be penalized if it is not said in any wrong manner. Some needle is essential for a lively contest.

The rule makers must understand that the players are trying to give their bests for their countries (on most occasions), and it is only sensible to give them some leeway. Trying to ‘control’ their feelings would take away a great deal of appeal from the game. For God’s sake, humans play this game, not robots.

Players of great distinction will tell you that at the highest level, Cricket is played more in the ‘minds’ than on the field. Strength of mind separates the big boys from the rest. To succeed at that level, one has to deal with everything that the opposition throws, including ‘sledging’. Test cricket is not for the fainthearted. One has to take blows as well as give blows. Hence, one cannot always be a good boy. A truly competitive field does not take the field to win friends. According to great captains like Douglas Jardine and Ian Chappell, Test Cricket is a battle and should be treated as such. The new ICC ruling would be used only as an excuse for non-performing chicken hearted players.

One wishes that the Indian team gives up a bit of their casuals approach on the field and stop being the perennial ‘good guys’ who continue to smile even defeat. It sometimes seems that they enjoy losing fire and aggression on the field in required, verbal, if need be. They need to demonstrate that they are proud to represent their country.

One can finally say that codes of Conduct should be consistent with the times. There are other pressing issues like the betting, match fixing scandal, ball tampering, unnecessary appealing and pitch doctoring, which are more crucial to the well being of the game.


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