The cricket World Cup tournament begins on Saturday, February 14 and will last until the finals on Sunday, March 29, ensuring that the cricket loving parts of the world will see a marked decline in productivity during that period. Australia and New Zealand are hosting the tournament. In the lead up to it, increasing attention is being paid to the issue of poor sportsmanship on the field, mainly in the form of ‘sledging’ where players on the field exchange barbs with the goal of unsettling opponents and waging psychological warfare.
I hate this kind of behavior with a passion since I believe that good sportsmanship should be something that is instilled in every player (and spectator) at every level of every game and that the players at the top should be role models for such behavior and not exhibit boorish behavior the way that some do. What is worse is that they are even encouraged in it by the leadership of some national teams, like the coaches and administrators, people who should know better.
Former Australian captain Ian Chappell says that there is far too much chatter going on in the field and steps must be taken to reduce its quantity and improve its nature before things get really out of hand.
The more players talk on the field, the more the likelihood there is of something personal being said. If something personal is said at the wrong time, there will eventually be an altercation on the field. When that happens it will be players who are punished and as is almost always the case, the administrators will escape scot-free, despite being guilty of allowing the problem to escalate to this point.
Apart from the danger of an altercation on the field – and if you don’t think that could be ugly, just remember two players have bats in hand – there is the simple matter of the batsman being entitled to peace and quiet while he’s out in the middle. I’m surprised more batsmen don’t object to the inane chatter that regularly occurs in the guise of gamesmanship. And if I hear one more player, coach or official say this chatter is “part of the game”, I’ll lose my lunch.
There’s a big difference between gamesmanship and personal abuse, or the constant inane chatter fielders use to try to distract batsmen.
Any abuse should result in the offender being spoken to in no uncertain terms by the umpires. If it continues then the offender should be hit with a substantial suspension, one that will cause him and other players to think twice before they mouth off again. And umpires should be told by the administrators that they will be backed to the hilt in an endeavour to rid the game of both abuse and excessive chatter.
Sidharth Monga writes that Australia, England, and India are the worst offenders, with Australia easily topping that list. Former New Zealand captain Martin Crowe points to Australian David Warner as one major offender who has been involved in many incidents and has been fined by the ICC, although he remains unapologetic and has been backed by the team coach. Like Chappell, Crowe to is worried that if unchecked this kind of behavior will escalate and lead to an actual physical confrontation. Crowe says that monetary fines don’t mean much to rich cricketers and instead advocates a football-like system where umpires issue yellow and red cards for bad behavior, with two yellows being equivalent to a red and carrying with it an automatic six-month suspension from the game.
There are some encouraging signs that the governing body the International Cricket Council is planning to take action to stamp out such behavior, with umpires being told to “manage on-field behavior more assertively” and to dish out more severe punishments. Right now, the punishments are harsher for things like slow over rate than for poor behavior.
I hope the ICC comes up with strict guidelines for what is and is not allowed and instruct umpires and match referees to unhesitatingly apply the rules, and back them up when they do.