Cricket under fire: Where has the 'spirit' gone?

There's too much happening suddenly in the game of cricket. And the sad part is that not all of it is about the game.

updated: January 10, 2008 14:13 IST
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New Delhi:

There's too much happening suddenly in the game of cricket. And the sad part is that not all of it is about the game. Sledging, wrong umpiring decisions, racism, rowdy fan behaviour - the list seems to be growing by the day.

The latest case in point is the ongoing Australia tour which is mired in controversies and bad blood. Stark instances of wrong decisions by the umpire played a major role in India losing the second Test in Sydney.

It not only proved frustrating for the visiting Indian team but also created an unhealthy environment overall. That the whole team was upset was best reflected in the statement by Team India skipper Anil Kumble when he said,"Only one team was playing with the spirit of the game."

"I've played my cricket very sincerely and very honestly and that's the approach my team takes on the field and I expect that from the Australians as well," he couldn't help but add.

The reverberations of these wrong decisions has also been felt among Netizens.

"Adam Gilchrist should have known well that Dravid has not nicked the ball. He is not my hero anymore. It's not only Adam, but any player who plays a foul game can never be an idol for anyone and he is disgrace to the game and his country," said Sethu, a netizen and a cricket fan from India.

"I'd like to request the NDTV sports team covering the series down under to remind Mike Proctor that he had banned Rashid Lateef (then captain of Pakistan) for claiming a catch which wasn't taken cleanly. Please bring this to the attention of the Indian team. Let Ponting and Clarke also face the music," said Trishul Palekar from the United States.

Adding insult to the injury was the three Test ban on India spinner Harbhajan Singh for his alleged racist remarks against Andrew Symonds. The Australian all-rounder has claimed that Harbhajan called him 'monkey' while the two were involved in an altercation.

Interestingly, it was an Aussie cricketer who was first to be banned for racial abuse. In 2002-2003 cricket series, Darren Lehmann of Australia was suspended for five One-dayers following a racial remark against the Sri Lankan team.

In the same year, Aussie wicket-keeper Adam Gilchrist accused Pakistan's Rashid Latif of racial abuse. The latest one to be targetted is Harbhajan Singh who faced the ban after the ICC Match Referee Mike Procter upheld the racism charge by the Aussie player. The Indian players had also lodged a complaint against Aussie spinner Brad Hogg for using abusive language during the second Test.

However, the support that Team India got, especially Harbhajan Singh or 'Bhajji' as he is fondly called, has been tremendous. Cricket fans have slammed the decision to ban Bhajji. All his fans have rallied behind Turbanator and have even joined extensive campaigns to show their support, asking the team to come back home.

"The Indian Team should cancel the Australian tour because of very poor umpiring by both on field umpires. It's not a mistake; it's a very big blunder. This is unfair in modern cricket. Both umpires should be fined and the ICC should not allow them for the rest of the Series," said R Muralidharan India, a Netizen and a cricket fan.

Some of them have even rooted for the return of the team on grounds that it's a matter of national pride now, more than anything else.

"Now it's time for BCCI to step ahead and tell to the team comes back from the tour. Indians in India and all around the world love and live for the pride of our Motherland," said Manish, a net surfer from Canada.

"BCCI should not sit back just for money; it's not tolerable. Call back the team and send a loud message all over the world that they are with the Team India and the most, for pride of our motherland," he added.

"It's a matter of pride for all Indians. Team India should definitely come back right away. The ban should be lifted from Bhajji. If BCCI takes this matter lightly it would not only lose face in India, but even at an international level. Go Bhajji go; India supports you," said Smriti from Canada.

The national support that the Indian team has been receiving only goes on to prove that cricket is more than just a game for Indians.

"It is not a matter of an individual autocratic ban on Harbhajan but more a matter of hurting our national sentiment, pride and honour. The ICC must revoke (and not merely suspend) the autocratic ban. It isn't that 11 players were playing against 14 players; it is more a multiplicative effect where the Aussies are the victimizers, the police, the judge and the executioner - all by themselves," said Vishal from the United States.

"BCCI, show that you are not spineless - we Indians can work harder to make up on the financial loss that you may incur but can't hurt our nation's pride. Indian team, refuse to play and stand by your colleague," he added.

"The total lack of spirit shown by the Australian cricketers and more so by their captain needs to be highlighted, so that ICC can take some stringent and substantial action against the Australian cricketers to bring them to the right senses! I urge NDTV to do all that it can to see that from Indian side as well as from BCCI's side there is not an inch of let-off here - the decision making of the umpires and the decision for Bhajji itself has some biased and prejudiced undertones," said Jags from Australia.

Cricket has not been a stranger to controversies, but the essence of the game remained untarnished. But with fresh storms erupting every day, one can't help but wonder if the biggest casualty has been the spirit of the game!