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Why Cricket is no more a gentleman’s game…

by RajaB

Suraj Randiv, the latest reason for all of us to dive deep into the Old Testament of Cricket which contains incorrigible words and phrases such as “Fair play” , “Spirit of Cricket”, “Cricket is a gentleman’s game” et all. Before we proceed further, let me say what the world is saying… What Randiv and Dilshan did was criminal, especially denying a century for a beloved Indian cricketer. They should ideally have tried these guys at The Hague, than these hogwash fines and match bans.

As we keep fanatically persecuting the Sri Lankan cricketers for this dastardly act, I asked myself, “Is cricket really a gentleman’s game?”

You might see an answer to that question in this post. If you don’t, let me know your point of view.

1993, was the year when this famous word “recusal” was added to my vocabulary thanks to one Prof. Rajagopalan. This man was a cricketer of some repute during his youth, at 50+ he was a decent bat yet. He could famously win 3-point basketball challenges against the best of the basketball players from the college. He was the chief selector of our college cricket team. The man stood down because his son was in the fray, an aspirant for a place in the college cricket team. He made sure the others didn’t know who his son was, he wasn’t selected in the team that year although he came back into the B team next year flaunting his connection (or was that talent ?) to the Prof’s annoyance. That for me was an introduction to the “Spirit of cricket” and “a gentleman’s game”. But unfortunately that also was the last time I heard about those words or phrases.

1994, it was an intramural tournament and I was batting on 47 (I was sure). I glided the ball down the fine leg and ran 2 to hear & see my teammates standing up and applauding. They were sure that I had made my 50 and I played to the gallery, celebrated and promptly got out the next ball. As I was walking out, I could hear my captain telling the guys around “Come on we did well, this guy wouldn’t stop talking for eons had he made it to 50”. I didn’t quite understand it till I saw the scoresheet “R Baradwaj, Runout 49”

1996, many of the guys I knew were abusing a particular parent, the father of the guy who captained a cricket team. The accusation was that he interfered in selection, the toss, the field placement and the batting order. Why should he do it ? He always wanted his son on top of things.

1997, we were playing an intramural cricket match. It was the semifinals, a closely fought one. Our opponents need 33 with their last recognized batsman shepherding the tail. We needed to get “Srinivasan” out. He was having a ball in the middle, but still he was tense. After every ball he was rushing out like a mad man to speak to his partner who was playing snooker on the cricket field. The wicketkeeper (one Mr RajaB) took advantage of this attitude of Srini and ran him out, he knew Srini wasn’t trying to steal a single but still he put him out of the game. And his team won.

1999, I lived in a lodge (what they call a mansion in Triplicane, Madras) near the famed MAC stadium in Madras. Every morning as I went for a jog I could see kids, as young as 4-5 buried between the kitbag and the stepney of a slow moving scooter as his father ferried him to his cricket coaching camp. For want of space the kid invariably had his helmet on. One day, the curious I went in to see what happens in the nets. I could see parents standing behind the net and barking orders “put your leg forward”, “Drive that one straight”, “In the back foot”, “Fool, don’t commit yourself there” etc. I also saw fathers arguing with the coach about the time their kid got to bat vis-à-vis another

2000, I befriended a dad, who was an officer with SBI. His 9 year old son was too small even for that age. His kid had a problem, he was what we call the “Rabbit on headlight”. Every time he was put in a match situation, he had a problem running between wickets. He would freeze the moment he saw the fielder throwing the ball, endangering himself and his partner. The dad was livid as we spoke about this particular shortcoming of his son, “That idiot doesn’t change. Have told him many times… At least you don’t get out, I have tried to reason… but he doesn’t understand the value of his wicket… It is a minimum 30 runs”. I didn’t quite understand the 30 run logic till one of my friends confirmed that 30 is the minimum on board in your name you require to see your name on the next day’s papers.

There are many parents today who think cricket brings them easy money and hence goading and prodding their kids to take the game up. At one point they come to a stage where they do anything for their kids to get selected, to be in the playing 11 and to score and get seen. We have heard stories of parents gifting the selectors with televisions, mobile phones, mopeds and cars. There is also this nauseating story of a mother sleeping with a selector to ensure her sons selection (the fact that the selector found that the dad had tricked him by pressing the services of a prostitute to proxy for his wife is another story)

The expectations of the parents, the pressure they put on their kids, their greed for seeing their kids name on the scorecard and in the newspapers & television, the lure of IPL and the monies it offers, the endorsement contracts it would bring in and most importantly the urge for being on top at any cost have made this game a business.

No one cares anything about being a gentleman or about spirits, all they care about is the scorecard & winning, how they or their wards and their teams fared.

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 !!

PS: Heard NC is upset with me not writing my two lines to commemorate the two years of BCC!, “Sorry NC, I’ve never wish myself on my birthday”

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