So, it all began with Suraj Randiv bowling that deliberate no-ball to Virender Sehwag, denying him his century, and all hell broke lose!
Fans, cricket experts, players, officials and everybody who knew a thing or two about cricket, dived deep into the Old Testament of Cricket which contains incurable words and phrases such as “Fair play’, ‘Spirit of Cricket’, ‘Cricket is a gentleman’s game’ and many other look-alike terms to condemn the intent of the bowler and the team which rather dubiously had the distinction of winning the coveted ‘ICC fair play award’ for two consecutive years in 2007 and 2008.
A famous writer once penned that the person who said ‘All is fair in love and war’, obviously wasn’t the person being hurt, and the same case stands for Indian Cricket fans.
Let’s face the reality, with the game of cricket becoming more intense and competitive by the passing moment; things like ‘fair-play’ seem to be a thing from ancient relics.
When Andrew Symonds nicked a mighty outswinger from Ishant Sharma during the infamous Sydney Test and stood ground adamantly when 22 players, several hundred million viewers and a stadium full of people heard the edge but not the poor umpire, he was just being sensible and not unfair.
What was rather unfair during that incident was 62-year old Steve Bucknor doing umpiring duty under ICC license without myopic lenses and hearing-aid.
Indian fans might say that Symonds should have ‘walked’ to promote the ‘spirit of cricket’ but when our own batsmen stand their ground at same instances, only to be given out, the same observers hold their tongues.
Symonds was under no obligation and neither is any other batsman to set up tall standards of ‘fair-play’.
Imagine our beloved Tendulkar ‘walking’ off the pitch in the finals of the World Cup with six runs needed of six balls and only one wicket in kitty. Would we praise Tendulkar for abandoning a billion dreams to something which can be downplayed as umpire’s blunder?
Probably not, and believe me it’s not a crime to have such opinion.
The game has changed manifold since its invention and in a time like today, when record book has the final word, phrases like ‘Gentleman’s Game’ need to be dumped for good.
We all love the stares of a fast bowler, pointed taunts of close-in fielders and a 16:9 smile by the batsman when he gives charge to a fuming bowler.
Sledging, the much loved contentious subject, has been around since the game originated, and much unlike common belief, it is not only Australians who do it profusely.
Flintoff did it to Yuvraj, McGrath did it to Sarwan, Suleiman Benn did it to Mitchell Johnson and the classic ones like Andre Nel and Mervyn Dillon did it to everybody whom they played against!
Talking about our own nation, we haven’t been obeisant cows either!
Indians have also never shied away from this practice and players like Yuvraj, Harbhajan and Zaheer have often been caught on camera yelling the ‘F’ word and home grown ‘desi’ abuses after a hard earned run-out or a planned wicket to celebrate the cause.
We were the ones who appealed against Inzamam-ul-Haq for obstructing the field, when it was crystal clear that the batsman was just far too casually avoiding the ball!
Fans have not forgotten the 2007 Gambhir-Afridi elbow crash and the verbal duet where both players called each other’s mothers all possible insults. Such has been the liking of the incident that this video has become one of the top-searched video on You Tube!
Bhajji-Symonds controversy needs no introduction and instances like Gambhir elbowing Watson, Venkatesh Prasad giving Amir Sohail his piece of mind, Kiran More mocking Javed Miandad and the recent instance of Yuvi losing cool on water-boy chant have been common scenes of adrenaline rush and “confrontational approach”.
Funny, bad or ugly- the game of cricket has seen it all and if one dares to think beyond the gentleman’s sentiments, we’ve all loved it, praised it and even whistled and wished for some hi-spark drama.
It’s a typically hypocritical approach if we say that we still want to watch the game in the same old mode where cricket was termed as Gentleman’s Game because of the excellent sportsmanship it produced whether one lost or won.
The infamous Sydney Test in 2008 went down in the record books as a victory for Australia and does not have any hidden paragraph stating that eight out of ten controversial umpire blunders went against India.
Everyone today who plays the game sets his focus on his personal triumph and that leaves no room for taking sedate pleasure in other’s happiness.
So, let us not recite the Old Testament and fool ourselves. Cricket is no more a gentleman’s game. The only spirit cricket and the cricketers have is Ethyl Alcohol!