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Start penalising spectators who provoke players on the field

Nobody understands this better than a sportsman — the challenge to fail and then thrive. To stomach the taunts, stand the brick bats and still continue to push through the patch is no mean feat. Aakash Chopra writes.

india Updated: Jan 09, 2012 00:21 IST
Aakash Chopra
indiavsaustralia2011

Virat-Kohli-watches-play-on-day-three-of-the-second-cricket-Test-against-Australia-at-the-Sydney-Cricket-Ground-Kohli-was-fined-50-of-his-match-fee-after-making-a-finger-gesture-to-the-crowd-during-the-second-Test-against-Australia-in-Sydney-team-officials-said-AFP-Photo

What could be the worst for a batsman — poor form, runs drying up, his potential being questioned and with that his place in the side too? As frightening as it is to all of us, as cricketers we realise its absolute inevitability. Of course, it gets awful when the team trails too in the series and gets shot down for a paltry total.

These are hard times for the player and the team — yet, each one of them is expected to get going, stretch that muscle an extra inch and save every possible run, to encourage the bowlers while one is down himself, and do whatever he can to contribute.

Nobody understands this better than a sportsman — the challenge to fail and then thrive. To stomach the taunts, stand the brick bats and still continue to push through the patch is no mean feat.

While some may justify the flak, the insinuations as a 'part and parcel' for the perks we enjoy, spare a moment for us too.

Perhaps that's what Virat Kohli must be saying — on the receiving end of a harsh, hideous, relentless public outcry — for failing to entertain with a few more runs or wickets.

The trend is alarming since many from in the audience believe it is their right to mock the players who failed to perform, some sort of a retribution for the money and time they spent in watching the match.

How about putting yourself in a similar situation? Imagine your boss mouthing the worst that he possibly could — dragging, like most of us callously do, mothers and sisters in the row, when you failed to deliver. Would you ignore?

Well, one is almost certain to retaliate. If you would too, then why crucify a sportsman who's already been pushed into a corner. Virat isn't justifying his actions and neither am I speaking for him — only drawing your attention to a dangerous psyche which is slowly building itself and may prove detrimental for the game.

The case, am afraid isn't just about Kohli gesturing indecently.

The Australian public is known to get severe in its criticism, to a point of getting extremely offensive. Why not, for a change, start penalising such spectators too?

Back home too, it was appalling to see Ravi Rampaul being castigated by a strong section of the crowd at the Wankhede when he dismissed Tendulkar four runs short of his 100th century. The guy had to eventually be removed off the fence. Is our collective consciousness so perverse?

Humiliation

My team and I were on the receiving end of such an abuse during a Ranji game this season.

A few hundred people turned up to watch our otherwise nondescript match. We were happy to not be playing to empty stands for a change. We, Rajasthan, were doing well and expected some support from the locals.

To our utter surprise, the crowd turned out to be quite uncouth — they called the 'professionals' in the team 'traitors' while also jibing at us in the crudest manner. We felt humiliated. If having people on the ground means this, we'd rather play to empty stadiums.

While most things in life have already become result-oriented — let’s at least allow cricket to be played and watched only for the love of it. That would do the game a whole lot of good.

(The writer is a former India opener who plays in Ranji Trophy for Rajasthan)