From Gentleman’s Game To Characters’ Sport
Sledging, a common act, is instrumental in shattering the reputation of cricket as a gentleman’s game. It has been very common there ever since the origin of cricket
Cricket as a sport is considered to be a gentleman’s game, where battles between the ball and the bat do the talking. No, by gentleman it doesn’t meant the neat tidy men, combed hair, tucked in shirt, wearing tie, polished shoe and well-mannered person. It merely refers to any player who plays a sport in right manner and follows sportsman spirit—and in cricketing terms, maybe a pat on the back, a gentle handshake, silently walk back when get out or a boundary being hit.
The passion and enigma of the game and the fame which it brings with itself made players to con the common agreement to the spirit of the game. The hunger to score runs and take wickets or to win every single game got bigger on players and they tend to achieve it by hook or crook. It produced many greats, icons and role-models right from the 1900th century when it first appeared. But, amid this gentleman to the great player there exist the character also and always. There have been incidents in present and past as well which suggest that it was never a gentleman’s game completely. Players do get emotional, nerves got better on them, at times pressure get to them, good performances from opposition gets into their skin as well.
Sledging, a common act is instrumental in shattering the reputation of cricket as a gentleman’s game. It has been very common there ever since the origin of cricket. The early acts recorded in history books were of Rod Marsh and Ian Chappell who used to give a lot of verbal abuse to rival batsman. Since then there have been numerous occasions when cricket’s reputation was tainted.
The first instance which come straight to mind was the famous Bodyline series of 1932-33 Ashes. It, at its extreme, not only threatened the tour itself but also political relations between the United Kingdom and Australia. It was England who used this tactic and won the first match. Aussies as their nature couldn’t digest it and the storm broke at Adelaide. This resulted in intensely bitter feelings between the players and injuries to many.
India and Pakistan, the archrivals, also contributed heavily time and again to this list. Who would forget acrobatic Javed Miandad imitating the over-enthusiastic Kiran More in Benson & Hedges World Cup, Sydney, 1992. The great Pakistani batsman did have the knack of getting under the skin of the opposition and often it did work for him. But, on this occasion More shouted for caught behind leaping up and down off Tendulkar who fired the ball on the leg side, on the next ball as Javed was to complete the second run More whipped off the bails. Javed lost his cool and went through peculiar leaps.
1996 world cup saw another unforgettable incident when Prasad clean bowled Sohail. India got to a big total, thanks to Ajay Jadeja who thrashed Waqar Younis to a lifetime beating. Pakistani openers came out all guns blazing and it appeared as if they would chase that down comfortably. But, just as Sohail hit Prasad for a boundary he showed his bat and yelled ‘I’ll repeat that.’ What happened on the next ball has made this quarter final an epic.
Harbhajan Singh, leading Mumbai Indians side in 2008, slapped Sreesanth when the latter said something to him which the off-spinner found offensive. The paceman was seen crying bitterly on the ground.
Strong verbal duel between Kolkata skipper Gautam Gambhir and his Bangalore counterpart Virat Kohli during their IPL clash in 2013 took the fans by surprise. The incident happened off the first delivery of the 10th over bowled by Balaji. Kohli, who had hit Pradeep Sangwan for two sixes, went for a wild slash but was caught by Gauti. Kohli instead of trudging back to the pavilion walked towards Gauti and apparently made a remark. Gauti lost his cool as well and rushed towards Kohli angrily.
Kieron Pollard already had a minor run-in with Chris Gayle, when he stood outside his crease and dared him to run him out. Mitchell Starc started the 17th over and bowled a bouncer at Pollard; he missed an attempted hook and avoided getting hit. The fast bowler had a few words to say; Pollard’s response was to wave him away. On the next ball Pollard pulled away just as Starc was about to deliver. Angry Starc still bowled, following him and angling it in past the batsman. Pollard lost it now, and threws his bat at Starc.
After 138 years, since the first game played, the gentleman’s game, as it has always been known, has come a long way. Since its humble origin in England, cricket divides itself into aggressive formats like the one-day and T-20 over the years. Similarly, the culture and mannerism of players too have changed. Arrogance has replaced the calmness. Verbal aggression has taken over the composed mindset and humble attitude. With such temperament where is gentleman’s game heading? Well, this and many similar questions can be raised time and again but, for the moment, it is the in-thing in players and crowd too seems to love it.
By Sorabh Aggarwal