Cricket is a sport renowned for its technicalities. The skills to master the game differ with every aspect of the sport, whether it be batting, bowling, wicket-keeping, or even fielding. It takes years of practice and commitment to master these skills.
However, a few aspects of the game are outside the ambit of the coaching manual. They sure can be taught and reminded, but to showcase them in a professional outing is a rare scenario. One such aspect of the game of cricket is sportsmanship.
Sportsmanship isn't a law or a rule mentioned under the MCC's guidelines. It depends, and changes from person to person. Sportsmanship relates to values that are inculcated in a cricketer since their formative years.
No matter how intense the situation or how big the occasion, several accounts of sportsmanship have been displayed by cricketers and teams ever since the game was invented.
On that note, let us take a look at the five best instances, across formats, of sportsmanship in cricket. Note: The list is in no particular order.
#1 Andrew Flintoff vs Australia (2005 Ashes)
The 2005 Ashes is termed as one of the most evenly contested Test series ever played. It produced the most thrilling ends to games played over five gruesome days, making it one of the most memorable Ashes series in recent memory.
Regardless of the intense battles on the field, few moments caught everyone's attention. One such instance was England all-rounder Andrew Flintoff's gesture towards a heartbroken Brett Lee.
England edged past Australia in a cliff-hanger in the second Test in Edgbaston, winning by a slender margin of just two runs. As the home team burst into celebrations, Flintoff ran towards Lee and consoled him, even congratulating him for his fighting spirit that almost took the Aussies past the finish line.
#2 Kane Williamson vs England (2019 World Cup)
When the cricketing world was trying to comprehend the events that transpired in the final of the 2019 World Cup between hosts England and New Zealand, NZ skipper Kane Williamson had already moved on. But with a heavy heart indeed.
New Zealand lost the final of the World Cup on a boundary-count rule in the super over at Lord's. It marked their second consecutive defeat in a World Cup final. However, captain Williamson handled the disappointment with dignity. He represented a bunch of cricketers that had played the tournament hard but fair.
Williamson emerged as the unsung hero of the tournament. The Kiwi captain's gesture towards a disappointed Carlos Braithwaite after a five-wicket win was praised by one and all. New Zealand's on-field behaviour after Ben Stokes, with his bat, diverted a throw towards the boundary in the final, was worthy of praise.
The newspapers did dwell on England's first World Cup win, but they equally celebrated the sportsmanship of the Kiwi captain.
#3 Adam Gilchrist vs Sri Lanka (2003 World Cup)
Despite having an attacking style of batting, Aussie wicket-keeper Adam Gilchrist carries a calm demeanour off-it. An instance in the 2003 World Cup semi-final changed the way world cricket would look at Gilchrist.
Gilchrist tried to sweep a full delivery off Aravinda de Silva, but ended up edging the ball to keeper Kumar Sangakkara. Surprisingly, Umpire Rudi Koertzen turned down their appeal. As the Sri Lankan players lamented over the umpiring blunder, Gilchrist took an unusual stance.
Despite the umpire's not-out call, Gilchrist started walking towards the pavillion. He was later hailed for his gentlemanly behaviour at one of the biggest stages of international cricket.
#4 Virat Kohli vs Australia (2019 World Cup)
Indian captain Virat Kohli remains true to his game. Whether it is his batting preparation or his captaincy decisions, every step is well calculated.
However, an instance that took everyone's notice was his appeal to a section of the Indian crowd seen booing Steven Smith of Australia.
Smith had endured a gruesome ball-tampering ban, and was playing cricket at the highest level after more than a year. In a 2019 World Cup game between India and Australia at the Oval, Kohli noticed anti-Smith chants reverberating from a section of the crowd. After the completion of the over, Kohli gestured the crowd to applaud the player, and not react to his past mistakes.
ICC lauded Kohli's heartfelt efforts by bestowing the Indian skipper with the 'Spirit of Cricket' award for his gesture.
#5 Ajinkya Rahane vs Afghanistan (2018 One-off Test)
In the one-off Test against Afghanistan in Bengaluru in 2018, stand-in-captain Ajinkya Rahane displayed true character and a spell-binding gesture.
After a comprehensive innings and 262-run win within two days, the Indian skipper invited the entire Afghanistan team during the trophy felicitation ceremony.
Afghanistan's first Test in their cricket history was lauded by the entire cricketing fraternity. The Indian team also acknowledged their opposition team's efforts by sharing the frame with the so-called 'Afghan warriors' in the post-match felicitation ceremony.