As any fan will tell you, we not just love, but understand the sport and our teams like no one else. And that’s also why they keep bankrolling the big fat salaries of the players, the profits of the clubs and the boondoggle of officials. The recently concluded test match raised, in my mind, three instances where the thought process seems to be – it is OK for us to handle it, but it is too hot for fans.
Common, now, please don’t treat us with kid gloves.
The first one, inevitably, is about the DRS and taking the dugouts inputs in it. The rules are clear – the decision to ask for a decision review stays with the players on the field. Within a few seconds of the umpires’ decision, the batting team can dispute an out decision or the bowling team can dispute a not-out decision, without consulting with anyone outside the playing field. The controversy of Smith’s ‘brain-fade’ and Kohli’s allegations have played out ad nauseam on TV and cyberspace, so I will spare you that.
What irked me was the BCCI/CA decision to suddenly let bygones be bygones, spirit of the game is larger, we don’t want to mar a great series with this, yada yada, after, very clearly, one of the two captains lied in their post-match press conference.
Steven Smith said he had a ‘brain fade’ when he checked with the pavilion to see if he should go for DRS when given out, and in effect apologized for that. Virat Kohli said clearly that he didn’t buy that line for a second, saying he observed that happening a couple of times when he was batting and informed the umpires. Now which version is true? All anyone needs to do is ask either Nigel Llong or Richard Illingworth if Kohli did indeed mention it when batting. If he did, Smith’s the liar. If he didn’t, Kohli is the liar.
Now I understand we must move on. There is no point in dwelling upon that, drag it out messily and vitiate the atmosphere further. But let the FANS be the judge of that. Not BCCI after a tête-à-tête with CA. Not some official.
Air the dirty linen in public, I say. Because, trust me, we can handle it. And we understand the game.
The second one is about Steven Smith’s other confession, that when Shaun Marsh was given LBW for padding up to a Yadav swinger that might have hit the stumps, he said ‘go’ – meaning go for a review, but Marsh misunderstood that as go back to the pavilion and walked off. Common, now, who are you kidding? You couldn’t say ‘wait mate, I want to go for DRS’? You couldn’t show that T-sign yourself, being Captain and all? Your player ‘disregarded’ your, the Captain’s, input, and you let it go?
What actually happened, as any self-respecting fan will tell you, is that you were unsure. You knew you were down a review with the one for Warner going against you, you were on the crease and could potentially take Australia to a victory, and wanted that for a howler against you later on, what with Ashwin and Jadeja and the close-in cordon and edges and misses and everything. And for you to say later on that you native English speakers of the same team differed on the meaning of the word ‘go’ – I wouldn’t say disingenuous since you had nothing to gain by that, but not really cleaver either.
And to me, the fan, it feels like you felt we will lap it all up. Common, didn’t you, now?
I am an India fan for sure, but I think I speak for the true Aussie fan here as well.
We all understand the game. And we can handle your brain fades.
The last of my rants for this post is with this whole package of sledging itself. It’s been around for a while, for sure. Some were real gems that has added to the game’s allure. And anyone that’s not been in a cave for the last 20 years know the Aussies literally wrote the playbook for modern sledging. It was so much a part of their game they practically were coached how to sledge. But then, they come up with an associated rule – sledging should stay on the field and never off it.
Why, I ask. Sledging is really the vile act in this story, but wait mate, it comes with strings attached.
Who are the Aussies to come up with the unwritten rule that it must stay on the field? Now they might be all cold and business like and do it for the result, nothing personal, but others, certainly the Asians, are not like that. We wear our emotions on our sleeves (sidebar: as English expressions go, this is one of the sillier ones) and don’t separate on-field from off-field.
We will talk about it to the press and elsewhere. Why should we not? Why should we, or anyone for that matter, follow that unwritten rule? If someone comes up with ‘it is so the young fans’ mind is not corrupted by such behavior by their idols’, they ought to get their head whacked by a pan. Fans follow what you do on-field, and today’s close up TV leaves nothing to imagination, really. And you don’t need to be a lip reading expert to mistake what comes from the bowler’s mouth when sending off the batsman as a verse from the Bible.
We fans are interested not just how you bat or bowl, but how you sledge, how you cry, how you hurt and how you handle everything thrown at you. Because we know cricket, or any high-pressure sport today, is more than just athletic skills.
Because we understand the game.
We are fans.
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