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The gentleman’s game, played by mortals

  • Published at 07:16 pm April 1st, 2018
  • Last updated at 02:19 am April 2nd, 2018
The gentleman’s game, played by mortals
The cries of shame have settled down, and tears of contrition from the Australian cricket team captain have softened hearts. In fact, the initial outrage seemed a bit much. Come on, this may be a so called “gentleman’s game” but, at the end of the day, on field, it’s just mortals with flaws who play it. Players will make mistakes and there is no shame in it. The problem arises when the rest of the world expects sportspersons to be flawless. In fact, whenever the transgressions of sports people are talked about, issues of national honour and high morals always come up. Of course, a national team, whatever sport it may be, is representing the ethical standard of that country, and, rightfully so, players are expected to maintain a certain decorum. However, these are men and women like the rest of us, they have their drawbacks, their vices and while for the sake of the country’s image they try to keep these unflattering aspects in check, at times, humans will be humans. But one question came to mind when this ball tampering issue eclipsed all news: What would have been the reaction of the cricketing world if the charge was against a Bangladeshi player? Though the current uproar involved Australian players, a former Aussie cricket coach, Mickey Arthur, for no good reason, lapped up the chance to unleash some rather unsavoury comments about the Bangladesh team’s behaviour in the recently concluded Nidahas Trophy. First of all, he blasted Shakib Al Hasan for calling the players off the field during the high voltage semifinal match with Sri Lanka, which Bangladesh eventually won. He went further lamenting the state of unsportsmanlike acts by our team, including dancing on the pitch to celebrate victory. Learn history first Many others have also rebuked Shakib for such an act and with the recent comment by Mickey Arthur, it seems that it’s solely the Bangladesh captain’s fault that he called back the players, disgracing the game. First, people who make rash comments should read first. Look up historical precedence. In 1981, during the Melborune test, Indian batsman Sunil Gavaskar, then captain, walked out to protest what he believed to be a controversial decision by the umpire. He also asked his partner on the crease, Chetan Chauhan, to accompany him. Three decades later, Gavaskar regretted what he did, Mickey’s outrage seemed to show that it was only Shakib’s fault and he was the first to have done it. Again, study history and then speak. The first such declared threat to boycott a match and the accusation of unsportsmanlike behaviour were directed against England during the 1932-33 Ashes tour to Australia.
Swayed by that emotion, some can make mistakes. After all, they are humans, not gods. But tell me, while we are being so emphatic, would the others have been so considerate if the focus of ball tampering was on our players?
Better known as the “Bodyline” tour, England Captain Douglas Jardine, aware of the threat posed by formidable Aussie batsman Sir Donald Bradman, devised a stratagem with bowler Harold Larwood to unsettle Australians at the batting crease with ferociously fast balls aimed at the body. The result was devastating. Cracked skulls, total outrage from the audience and, an emphatic complaint telegraphed to London that England was deploying unsportsmanlike tactics. The actual line was: One team was playing cricket while the other wasn’t. And Jardine, unrelenting, threatened to withdraw his team unless the allegation was retracted. The press of both countries, buoyed by the cricket frenzy and driven by an intense desire to win, supported their respective teams. To be honest, there was no “gentleness” in the affair and the men were a little short of sporting soldiers, bent on one thing -- victory. At any cost. Later on, amendments were made and the bodyline was proscribed but that tour left lasting resentment. So, please study the past before making asinine observations. Gentleman’s game, gladiator’s code So, I find that people have taken offense to our cobra dancing. Did they find the dancing unpalatable or the fact that it was Bangladeshis who were showing the tigers’ claws with a little rhythm? I feel that it’s possibly the latter. After all, we have proven a lot of detractors wrong. To be blunt, they are now left to suck their fingers. I don’t want to remember names but some cricket pundits, feted for their gift of prophecy regarding potential of new teams, once blasted Bangladesh for being deplorable and hopeless. They do not mind the cheering girls dancing on the side though. That would be so uncivilized to denounce the phenomenon of women gyrating to add more oomph to 20-20 passion. The point is, the sedate cricket of the past that we are given to believe is long gone. The modern day version of 20-over matches, and even the one-day games, are spiced-up, testosterone-injected melees where making faces and beating on chests to emulate the act of stealing thunder from the sky are all allowed -- while the ladies by the side provide the added zing. A gentleman’s game in name, but on the field it’s the uninhibited gladiatorial spirit. Swayed by that emotion, some can make mistakes. After all, they are humans, not gods. But tell me, while we are being so emphatic, would the others have been so considerate if the focus of ball tampering was on our players? Three cheers for the cobra dance. By the way, when West Indies danced Gangnam Style to celebrate 20-20 final victory in Sri Lanka in 2012 no one seemed to mind. Towheed Feroze is a journalist, teaching at the University of Dhaka.