The number of Covid-19 cases is increasing and so are controversies in the world of sport, even though there have been some incidents that have upheld the spirit of the game. Overall, we have an exciting list in this week’s edition of Good, Bad and Ugly, so sit back and enjoy the show.
England and West Indies players take the knee ahead of the first Test
International cricket returned with much aplomb as England hosted West Indies for the first of the three-match Test at the Ageas Bowl, in Southampton, on Wednesday. While the action on the 22-yard strip was itself a great sight after the four-month hiatus, the gesture made by the players and staff by ‘taking the knee’ just before the first ball was the icing on the cake. The ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement has gained momentum following the killing of George Floyd in the United States of America. Previously, we have seen players doing the same before kick-off during English Premier League matches, but now the protest has spread to other spheres as well, with cricket being the latest addition.
In another development, former West Indies cricketer and eminent commentator Michael Holding got emotional during an interview with Sky Sports where he recalled how his mother suffered a lot due to the omnipresent menace we’ve been facing in our respective societies. Just as Holding mentioned, racism won’t disappear overnight, but even if it improves at a snail’s pace, we can put an end to it. Hopefully, with the efforts of everyone around the globe, we can actually handle the situation responsibly, making the world a better place to live in.
Indian Sports Ministry backs Indian coaches
In what was a great initiative taken by the Indian Sports Ministry, the body removed the salary cap of INR 2 lakh for Indian coaches in a bid to encourage them to produce better results. Even though the domestic coaches took an equal effort in shaping up the elite athletes, they were devoid of a salary equal to their foreign counterparts, which was disappointing from their point of view. The decision was also taken to attract former players to take up more high-performance training roles in the future. In a way, this has opened up a lot of opportunities.
In another development, the apex body also decided to offer contracts of four years to complete an Olympic cycle as opposed to the renewal system which was being followed till now. There are a couple of positive sides to it. First, the athletes would be saved from the heck of adjusting to the methods of new coaches every now and then and secondly, it will maintain uniformity for a four-year cycle, which will help the athletes improve their skills and enhance the chances of winning medals at multi-sport events. There could not have been a better way to implement the policy with India aiming for a top 10 finish at the 2028 Olympics.
VAR playing spoilsport in the English Premier League
While the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) was welcomed with wide arms during its introduction, several decisions overturned by the VAR over the past few months have left a bitter taste for people on the wrong side of things. The English Premier League has been bearing the brunt of the VAR in the past week, witnessing several controversial decisions. Tottenham Hotspur was not given a penalty when Harry Kane was pushed inside the box by Bournemouth’s Joshua King. While the on-field referee Paul Tierney was not interested straight away, VAR Oliver also chose not to intervene, a move which was heavily criticized by Spurs coach Jose Mourinho.
In another incident, Manchester United’s Bruno Fernandes was awarded a penalty, despite there being no foul, as it was the Portuguese who was, in fact, found guilty of catching Aston Villa defender Ezri Konsa’s leg. Referee Jeff Moss pointed to the spot with the VAR also backing up the decision. A former referee, working for the Premier League, also pointed out how Southampton should not have been given a penalty during their match against Everton. Even a single decision can change the tides of the games and it has happened before, making the misfiring VAR reviews a lingering problem in football matches.
Indian sports suffers collateral damage during a pandemic
The Covid-19 pandemic has had drastic effects in the world of sports, which we have already mentioned before. While most of the scheduled sports activities have been stalled, many of the athletes have been tested positive for the deadly virus. But there are cases where people closely associated with the sport have been immensely affected by the pandemic, with the magnitude being so grave that they’ve taken to other professions for a living. K. Ramandeep, a former junior India footballer, who was a full-time coach at the FC Barcelona School in India, has gone back to farming in Jalandhar.
Renowned Basketball coach Siddharth Dalal, who was the coach of the junior India NBA team a couple of years ago, is now supplying biscuits to various grocery shops to pay his bills. Meanwhile, another Basketball coach from Rajasthan, Vikram Singh, has been driving ‘Tuk Tuk’ (a vehicle resembling an Auto) back in his hometown, while Tennis coach Aman Dev has started working in a grocery shop in Kolkata. What’s more pathetic? Raj Hazarika, who runs various academies in the national capital region, has actually re-opened centres after the government’s permission, but people have not turned up due to the fear of the increasing Covid-19 cases.
Lungi Ngidi gets involved in a spat with fellow Proteans
Just when the sports fraternity has come together to put an end to racism with the Black Matter Lives movement taking centre stage, a bunch of former South African cricketers got involved in an ugly exchange of words which was least expected at the present moment. Speedster Lungi Ngidi addressed the recent developments and insisted that the Proteas would take a stand against the same, racism, when the team gets back to the field, but while it was expected that his countrymen would sing along the same line, the statement did not go down well with a few, and among them were former cricketers Pat Symcox and Boeta Dippenaar.
Pat Symcox’s Tweet largely echoed the current situation in hands where many white farmers were brutally killed in the African nation and urged Nigidi to raise voice for the cause which was worth supporting. Meanwhile, Boeta Dippenaar also coined the term ‘All Lives Matter’, and stated if Ngidi wanted his support then the latter must also consider the farm attacks a part of the movement. Cricketer Rudi Steyn also batted against the barbaric act in the rainbow nation, but West Indian cricketer Darren Sammy and teammate Tabraiz Shamsi did back Ngidi’s statement. Either way, it goes unsaid that racism needs to be eradicated to maintain a healthy environment.
Jofra Archer's heated exchange of words with West Indies cricketer Tino Best
It has just been a couple of days into International cricket post the Covid-19 break and we have already bumped into fresh controversy with social media serving as the platform for the fight. Stuart Broad was dropped ahead of Jofra Archer for the first Test match against West Indies, a decision which backfired immensely with the latter rendering largely ineffective with red cherry in the first innings against the Windies. Meanwhile, a former West Indies bowler, Tino Best, took to the social media by criticizing Archer’s efforts in the match and his inability to generate pace in his deliveries, stating Broad should have been included. In response, Jofra Archer Tweeted, "With all this knowledge how are you not a coach yet?”. That was calling for trouble, wasn’t it?
Tino Best, the animated character he’s always been, continued the chain of events as he quickly turned on the heat again and insisted the ‘young man’ not to address him personally. He went on to add that Archer hasn’t bowled quick enough since Ashes and reminded him to buckle up ahead of West Indies’ second innings. We were expecting nerve-wracking action in Southampton, which we are being treated with. But the sub-plot was not really welcome, especially when we are celebrating the return of cricket after an unprecedented break.