Cricket players behaving terribly is nothing new for the Indian press. Crude, aggressive answers by our players to legitimate, incisive questions have become par for the course at press conferences. That, however, stays within a small community for a rude Indian cricketer seldom makes news for us now.
We, almost by default, expect them to be that way as most are unable to rid themselves of the baggage of doing well at India’s favourite sport. Very few stay decent in their behaviour. Things are different when interacting with the majority of the representatives of the Australian, England and South African teams; those boys are more professional and usually don’t devolve to name calling.
Chris Gayle is a whole other story. He has taken to responding to questions from female interviewers to a new low of innuendo. Many of his answers are loaded with puns—frankly, quite crude ones—and the latest incident in Bangalore takes things to a different depth altogether. Just a few months ago, Gayle had been fined for his sallies to an Australian female TV journalist. It’s obvious that the rap on the knuckles has had little impact; it appears he needs a harder whack for logic to register.
Cricket in India has a serious crisis on its hands. Children of the country’s most well-spending households aren’t as enamoured by cricket as their parents used to be. Indian sports fans still cheer any team representing the country, the loudest shout and interest stay reserved for cricket, but are fast moving on to appreciating truly global sports like football. In such a scenario, events like the Indian Premier League can’t afford to have sexist role models like Chris Gayle. As cricket struggles to stay centre-stage in the affections of the sports fan, the conduct of its ambassadors becomes all the more pertinent.
In the N Srinivasan regime, the administration backed the players to such a level that there was hardly any curb on them. This has created the caricature of a captain that MS Dhoni has become. He doesn’t seem to realise that every time he lets loose his supposed wise-cracks at press interactions he is belittling a post that has had many a cultured occupant in the past. He dilutes their legacy through his frivolity.
The present reshuffle in the BCCI has thrust Anurag Thakur at the helm. Now that he is taking over as President, I do realise that it’s open season for cricket writers to heap accolades on him. I would rather not join that horde but Thakur is one administrator who has been diligent about improving the image of his sport. As secretary he did the unthinkable by censuring Virat Kohli for his abusive outburst targeted at an HT reporter during the World Cup. Monitoring player conduct is an issue he needs to keep his focus on; perhaps he can start his new regime by censoring Gayle.
From Kohli’s outburst, MS Dhoni’s press conference antics and the players’ continued scorn for critics, Indian cricket does not really showcase mature behavior by our leading stars. To the evolved fan, this kind of conduct can only be off-putting. For the discerning parent, it may well become a matter of prudence to keep his child away from a sport that seems to regularly pop up boors as its face.