Time for Our Cricketers to Grow Up and Behave Like Role Models
Some of the cricket world's current & ex-players are behaving less like heroes and more like bickering school kids.
The Quint DAILY
For impactful stories you just can’t miss
Former South African President Nelson Mandela used sport to unite a country divided by institutionalised racism, the apartheid, for nearly half a century.
In his book 'Nelson Mandela and the Game That Made a Nation', later made into the movie 'Invictus', John Carlin told the story of the 1995 Rugby World Cup final, where the South African team, known as Springboks, beat New Zealand.
"Before the game had even begun, when Mandela went out onto the field, before a crowd of 65,000 that was 95 percent white, wearing the green Springbok jersey, the old symbol of oppression, beloved of his apartheid jailers," he wrote.
"There was a moment of jaw-dropping disbelief, a sharp collective intake of breath, and suddenly the crowd broke into a chant, which grew steadily louder, of 'Nelson! Nelson! Nelson!'" he added.
Five years later, speaking at the Laureus World Sports Awards 2000 in Monaco, Mandela said a few golden words which remain etched in history:
"Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than government in breaking down racial barriers."
Cricketers' Behaviour Poles Apart From Mandela's
While Mandela may have used sport to unite, in 2021, unfortunately, some of the cricket world's current and ex-players are behaving less like heroes, as fans see them, and more like immature, bickering schoolchildren, making the news for their irresponsible and uncalled behaviour.
On Tuesday, 26 October, Quinton de Kock, who comes from Mandela country, decided not to take the knee in support of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement before South Africa's T20 World Cup match against West Indies and opted out of the game, citing 'personal' reasons.
Cricket South Africa (CSA) chair Lawson Naidoo later said that while a diversity of expression should be welcomed, this did not apply when against racism.
Two days later, on Thursday, 28 October, De Kock, who belongs to a mixed-race family, apologised for his decision. "For me, Black lives have mattered since I was born," he said. However, he also explained that he felt his rights were being taken away on being told what to do and didn't understand why he had to prove his feelings with a gesture.
"I understand the responsibility of us as players to set an example. If me taking a knee helps to educate others and makes the lives of others better, I am more than happy to do so."Quinton de Kock
What De Kock should have understood in the first place is that in today's world, one gesture and decision such as his had the potential of undoing years of building bridges and upsetting the spirit of South African multiracial cricket.
While his decision may have been personal, it would obviously be seen with a lens of racism, given his country's history. The expected backlash ultimately forced him to issue an apology and explain his side of things.
Proteas' De Kock wasn't the only one in the news for his decision. Take the former Pakistan captain and pace bowler Waqar Younis' recent comments, for example.
Famous for his fear-inducing, toe-crushing yorkers, Younis recently said on a Pakistani news show that watching Mohammad Rizwan offer Namaz (after Sunday's, 23 October match against India in the T20 World Cup, which Pakistan won by ten wickets) in front of Hindus was very special to him.
This, coming from an absolute legend of the game, was extremely disheartening & disappointing and shows the world we live in in 2021.
Younis, too, later issued an apology. "In the heat of the moment, I said something which I did not mean (to), which has hurt the sentiments of many. I apologise for this; this was not intended at all, (a) genuine mistake. Sport unites people regardless of race, colour or religion," Younis tweeted.
While De Kock and Younis apologising and owning up to their mistake was the right thing to do, what's worrying is that their initial comments could set dangerous precedents as people could blindly follow the action of their heroes, especially cricketers, and tread the same path.
Role models for many, often put on a pedestal and worshipped, especially in the two cricket-crazy countries of India and Pakistan, have resorted to activities, be it on television or social media, which is unbecoming for people of their stature.
Sports, unfortunately, has been marred by racism for ages.
However, now, when already the world has become highly polarised and divided, when even religion has managed to enter the sports world, rather than using their position to unite people and work towards brotherhood and fraternity, our celebrities' words and actions seem to be hellbent on further dividing the society.
Rather than hoping, expecting, and talking about a mouth-watering clash between the two teams, where the game hangs in the balance till the last ball, something very disgusting is overshadowing the sport.
A Bitter Battle: Amir vs Harbhajan
In yet another incident, the banter between two players turned into something repulsive.
Pakistani bowler Mohammad Amir, who was arrested and banned for five years for spot-fixing in 2010, went a little too far with his banter with Harbhajan Singh after Pakistan's win, which was not appreciated by the Indian off-spinner.
Amir repeatedly taunted and later reminded Singh of the time when Shahid Afridi hit him for four sixes in a Test match. Not taking kindly to Amir's remarks, Singh asked him how much money he had got for bowling that no-ball at Lord's.
However, the incident did not stop there. Amir went on to say that Singh got hurt on his backside, to which Singh replied that 'people like Amir' only cared about money, that Amir had betrayed his country and told him to 'get lost' for insulting the game.
Root Causing 'Paine' to Australia; Gayle Takes on Ambrose
Three weeks back, England Test captain Joe Root said he was uncertain of the arrangements in Australia for the Ashes. Replying to him, Australia's Tim Paine remarked that no one was forcing the Root to come as The Ashes would go ahead no matter what.
"The first Test is on 8 December, whether Joe is here or not," Paine said.
Just days later, West Indies' Chris Gayle said he had no respect for the legendary West Indian pacer Curtly Ambrose, who had questioned his selection in the team for the T20 World Cup.
Nowadays, players indulging in plain arguments or making strong statements against each other is becoming a regular feature. This not only harms the sport but has an impact on the fans, who see them as role models.
Who Started It? Matters More in the World of TRPs & Clickbait
A particular section of the society may dwell on 'who started it' and 'who gave it back', support, enjoy and laugh over such cases of one-upmanship.
In addition, a specific section of the media may highlight and showcase such spats and edgier content on their show as such controversies would ultimately generate the much sought after TRPs and high (read easy) SEO numbers through clickbait.
However, such irresponsible comments and behaviour of cricketers is only damaging the spirit of cricket.
Throwback to the Times of Cricket Diplomacy
Coming back to India and Pakistan. The two nations, who share a common history but a disturbing past, used cricket diplomacy in 2004, when India toured Pakistan after 15 years, to improve the relations between the two countries.
Cricketers on that tour narrated stories that the Pakistani public showered them with love and did not let them pay for stuff when they went out shopping.
A year and a half later, Indians gave the same treatment to the Pakistani team. The players from both sides of the border on those respective tours often keep reminiscing about the same and reiterate how much they respect each other.
Maybe, some of them can once again recall and learn from the same since it's high time our cricketers grow up and behave like the role models we expect them to be.
(With inputs from CNN)
(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)
Read and Breaking News at the Quint, browse for more from sports and cricket
Subscribe To Our Daily Newsletter And Get News Delivered Straight To Your Inbox.