Has the Gentleman Left the Game?
The ongoing South Africa vs Australia Test series has seen a number of altercations between the players.
Growing up many of us aspired to become our sporting heroes, emulating their exploits on the field and playing the ‘game’ were the Holy Grail. Our idols were a microcosmic constitution of our imagined brilliance, the gold standard. Along with their cricketing prowess, their charismatic personalities and exemplary personas garnered much admiration.
They exhibited ferocious, gutsy and unwavering desire in victories but with the stroke of graciousness and magnanimity in the face of defeat. Obviously, perfection was never a reality or even an ambition. There were feuds and squabbles, verbal half-volleys and eyeballing, condemnation of the outsider(opponent) and infighting within. Who can ever forget Roshan Mahanama-Ian Healy fracas(1995/96 series) or Dennis Lillee (Australia) and Javed Miandad (Pakistan) ‘karate kick and bat-toss’ (1981/82 series) series or even 1996 World Cup quarterfinal face-off between Venkatesh Prasad (India) and Aamir Sohail (Pakistan).
Sledging, chin-music and stare downs are intrinsic to the competitive balance between the ball and the bat but it cannot justify compromising the spirit of the game.
Furthermore, there are millions of young eyes exposed to such content exponentially more than ever before. Cricket as a sport demands enactment of the spirit of the game above and beyond its laws.
According to MCC (Marylebone Cricket Club) preamble, Spirit of Cricket ensures respect for own captain, opponents, umpires and the game's traditional values. Unfortunately today, the tragedy of unbecoming sporting conduct has become an accepted – even if undesired – compromise to the point of prevalence. The ugly scenes inside the tunnel between Quinton De Cock (South Africa) and David Warner (Australia) or the ‘ball-drop’ after the run-out of A B DeVilliers (South Africa) by Nathan Lyon (Australia) in the ongoing series are not inspiring shock anymore.
In photography we hear about ‘compassion fatigue’ by constant and prolonged exposure to photographs depicting suffering and it is no different for any other form of media diet and repeat culture. Be it entertainment, politics, societal issues and even live sports, the more we get comfort in the ubiquity of such incidents the more unflinching we are getting in response.
From the Warner (Australia)-Root (England) infamous bar-room scrap in 2013 to the off-field altercation between Jimmy Anderson (England) and Ravindra Jadeja (India) in 2014 or the Andrew Symonds (Australia) vs Harbhajan Singh (India) the ‘Monkeygate controversy’ in 2008, the evidence is manifest and prolific. Worse still is the cybersphere where retired cricketers like Virendra Sehwag (India) and Rashid Latif (Pakistan) have taken term ‘arch-rivals’ to the unceremonious depths of personal and indecorous swear-fest.
But we would be remiss if we colour everything dark and gloomy. The camaraderie captured at the end of 2017 ICC Champions Trophy Final between the players from both sides of the fault-line turned out to be the most watched video on the official site of ICC.
A recent video of former Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi showing heartwarming deference to Indian fans and the national flag stands in denial of the assertion that the sport is all about one-upmanship and winning at all cost.
There lies the hope that the values that crowned Cricket with the moniker of ‘the gentleman’s game’ are preserved and bequeathed to the generations to follow. The genetics of the game are still holding fast against the eroding tempests of consumerist and dispassionate logic of the current age. The escalation of the unfortunate episodes of inappropriate behaviour needs stern deterrence for that hope to be realised.
(This is a personal blog and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)
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