Is affronting opponents leading to misplaced aggression in Cricket?

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Is affronting opponents leading to misplaced aggression in Cricket?

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Subhayan Dutta


Despite cricket being touted as the ‘Gentleman’s Game’ since its inception, every once in a while a player has come who would change its entire definition with his flamboyance and attitude. It has often been that persona, which people fell in love with and the next generation trying to imitate.

“I haven’t given any specific directions to the players as such. I have just asked them to go out and express themselves”. I don’t know who was the first to have come up with the platitude but the thoughtful statement has today been used and re-used to such an extent that players have clearly started deviating from the original meaning.

Kolkata Knight Riders’ comprehensive win over Rajasthan Royals on Monday had one ugly moment, which came in the second innings. Sunil Narine had started the hosts’ chase with a brutal hammering of Rajasthan’s strike bowler, Krishnappa Gowtham, for 21 runs in the first over that included two sixes and two boundaries. But, he was soon seen throwing away his wicket in the next over with Gowtham collecting his catch at the extra cover. The 29-year-old was seen screaming with blood in his eyes, as ‘Conan the Barbarian’ had after killing Thulsa Doom, as he threw the ball at the stumps at the runners-end that narrowly missed Narine, who was walking back to the dugout.

Clearly, things like sportsmanship and respect for opposition have seized to exist in modern cricket and neither has BCCI’s flashy-cum-consoling ‘Fair Play Award’ worked its magic. It has consequently led the board to come up with Level 1 offences now, where the field officials would rate players’ actions and they will be fined accordingly.

Gowtham’s over the top celebration, which was less celebratory and more insulting, however, hasn’t been an isolated incident in the IPL this season. Numerous players, especially youngster, have been seen taking refuge in it with the real reason still largely unclear. KKR’s previous match against Delhi Daredevils had also seen two Under-19 players, Shivam Mavi and Avesh Khan, from each side being fined for level one offence. While Mavi was seen abusing Daredevils’ Colin Munro after taking his wicket, Avesh was guilty of a similar same offence after he scalped KKR’s Andre Russell’s wicket.

“Both Mr. Mavi and Mr. Khan admitted to the Level 1 offence under 2.1.7 of the IPL Code of Conduct for Players and Team Officials and accepted the sanctions,” the Indian Premier League had stated in a statement.

No matter how much a TV channel tries to intensify or dramatize a particular clash, IPL hasn’t been around long enough for its participating sides to develop fierce rivalries. Hence, when one sees players like Mayank Markhande, or Rashid Khan pumping their fist in the air with a stern look at the batsman after they have been dismissed, it seems to be coming from a hollow inner-self of the individual that demands attention.

A high-octane format like Twenty20 demands players to be at their very best every second of the game, which requires tremendous focus. However, whether it is the fiery atmosphere inside the stadium or quintessence of a win, players have seemingly confused concentration with aggression. One trains day and night to get closer to perfection, whether it be bowling, batting, or fielding, and a perfect execution of it should only bring satisfaction to an athlete, not belligerence. 

One could point to successful players like Virat Kohli, who is known for his animated celebrations, or Dale Steyn, who is synonymous for his aggression, as people who inspired others to take a similar approach, but they have their success back it up with. While Kohli, who has 56 international centuries to his name, credits his aggression to his terrific consistency, Steyn, who has 657 international wickets, used to say that he couldn’t think of ‘teddy bears’ when his job was to dismantle stumps, that led to his aggressive celebrations.

Gowtham, on the other hand, could get only one more over on Monday’s match where he was hit for 11 more runs, which saw another six by Nitish Rana, as the man from Bangalore ended with figures of 2-32-0-16. This has precisely been the crux of the matter where players’ fierceness hasn’t been well-founded, reducing them to mere imitators that would only grab attention.

Superficial aggression isn’t necessary for an aggressive approach towards the game either, as has been proved by Indian cricketing greats like Sachin Tendulkar, MS Dhoni or even Virender Sehwag. All of them had abilities to change the shape of the ball and the bowler with their woodwork, as has been evident by their career, but they always kept a calm demeanour that only made opponents respect them both on and off the field.

Another huge reason that makes these celebrations all the more hollow is the ever-changing teams in IPL. The league sees every side interchanging players after a two-month season, which makes sharing good camaraderie or having a good bond with others almost impossible. Hence, players could well find themselves having a go at their teammates from this season next year.

Hollow aggressiveness could lead to disastrous consequences and the best example of it would be Australia’s last tour of South Africa. The pre-series press conferences leading up to the tour had seen a pugnacious David Warner going at war with the Proteas for no apparent reason, which eventually left a bitter taste in the field. After the Warner-Quinton de Kock incident that further led to the Kagiso Rabada-Steven Smith one, nerves got the better of the visitors who, in desperation, committed the most infamous felony of the 21st century that will take them years to recover from.

Given the intense competition in the national side, most of these IPL stars would struggle to become regulars, which could further lead to such atrocious actions if they don’t stop making futile hostility a habit.

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