The unfolding events in cricket have left me more than a bit confused. I wonder, first, about the mysterious concept of the spirit of the game.
Does this mean applauding opposing batsmen when they reach a hundred, shaking hands with a bowler who has taken five wickets, and fielding sides standing near the boundary, waiting for batsmen to walk off the field? All this is extremely nice, but cricket also has a tradition of fielders appealing, knowing that the batsman is not out.
I am not the only one stumped by this elusive spirit of cricket — Sunil Gavaskar is also unsure what it stands for. And if Gavaskar does not know, then there is a genuine disconnect.
Clarity is also absent on whether playing hard is good or bad. Sourav Ganguly says he admires the Australian players for knowing how to win but does not think much of Michael Clarke. With such contradictory signals coming from a hardened veteran, one is uncertain about his position on the Aussies.
What precisely constitutes racism is a bigger muddle. Is calling someone a monkey or bastard just offensive, or racist? If a player is charged for this, is our national pride so severely injured that we have to quote the track record of Mahatma Gandhi? Moreover, confusion remains on what was said by Harbhajan Singh, or whether he said anything at all.
Another basic question is who is driving the entire debate, who is pushing the buttons and who is in control? The common theory is the media has whipped up frenzy and created an opinion that (together with some nudging from the team) forced the BCCI to act tough with the ICC.
So, is this conclusive evidence that the BCCI’s financial muscle is pushing the ICC? Was the ICC smart, or did it succumb to Indian pressure? The BCCI says it acted in the interest of players, game and national honour. The ICC stoutly denies the role of pressure, and explains Steve Bucknor’s sacking as a practical step.
The last has not been heard about Sydney, a crucial appeal is yet to take place and who knows what will follow if the verdict, from India’s standpoint, is unfavourable.
The BCCI announced that the tour is on but suggested this could be reviewed depending on what happens to Harbhajan.
There is no shortage of confusion in Australia either, their team is celebrated for winning matches but slammed for being arrogant, ill-mannered and graceless. Opinion is also divided about Ricky Ponting. They can’t decide whether he is a winner or a loser — or just a clever actor playing both hero and villain — a SRK kind of a baazigar!