Cricket: A gentleman's game or a reality show?
Cricket has always been about winning but not about winning at all costs. It is time for introspection.
Too many obscenities in the past few weeks
Last few weeks have turned cricket into a TRP-driven reality show for all the wrong reasons. Whether it was South Africa vs Australia or the Nidahas Trophy, cricketers weren’t at their best behaviour.
Warner vs De Kock, Rabada vs Smith, Bangladeshi players vs Sri Lankans, the broken dressing room glass, and the sensational Sandpaper gate. Where is cricket amidst all this?
If it wasn’t for Dinesh Karthik’s last ball six, this year’s Nidahas Trophy would’ve gone down in history for the bad blood between Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Morkel’s stellar performance in his farewell series is overshadowed by the ball tampering incident and no one seems to acknowledge Afghanistan and West Indies booking their seats in the ICC World Cup 2019.
The broadcasters' role
When India visited South Africa recently, the audience got a rare insight into the game, courtesy the stump mic. The broadcasters had turned the stump mic’s volume much higher than usual, and suddenly the teenager sitting in Ranchi could hear MS Dhoni shouting at Manish Pandey, something that is uncharacteristic.
Yes, the good banter can be heard and it does add another dimension to the cricket viewing and hearing experience, but it also exposes the viewer to things that shouldn’t be heard on national television.
T20 tournaments often wire players up and the commentators indulge in some chatter with players during the over. Cameras have been placed on the Umpires’ cap, batsman helmets and there is the Spider Cam hovering around throughout the game.
Recently, Warner and De Kock's incident came to light because of the CCTV footage. What next, placing cameras in player’s dressing rooms to get more insights?
Broadcasters did a wonderful job of capturing Australia’s ball tampering incident. The ball was followed, and so were the players. Key reactions were captured and stitched together to form a rather grim picture for every cricket fan.
Ethics needs to be maintained
No one likes cheaters especially if they have a history of bullying. Cricket Australia came down hard on Bancroft, Smith and Warner for ball tampering by banning them for nine and 12 months respectively. Would they have done the same if it the series did not have the negative sledging undercurrent?
Cricket has always been about winning but not about winning at all cost. Ethics, that is what makes the gentleman’s game fair. Mutual respect is at the core of sportsman spirit, which has unfortunately lost its sheen due to several unpleasant encounters between players. Cricket fans love a contest but it is between the bat and the ball not between abusive players.
Sadly, this perception has also been questioned by a few players who feel certain ‘incidents’ are good for the game. They might increase the audience’s interest in Test matches. They opine players are not robots, they have emotions. Of course, players have emotions and they are humans but there is a fine line that helps humans stay humans and not tap into their animal instinct.
Banter is good, abuse (mental and physical) is bad. Those who set the rules (International Cricket Council and National Cricketing Boards), those who play (cricketers), and those who tell the story (broadcasters), all need to reflect back on the recent past and need to introspect. Cricket is synonymous with fair play, do not turn it into a mud-slinging fest.