Australia’s captain Steve Smith is not alone in suffering a ‘brain fade’, to which he attributed the DRS fracas in the Bangalore Test. I’ve seen this happen a couple of times recently.
The steward at a restaurant we went to the other night served us food we hadn’t ordered. On seeing our bewildered faces, he slapped his forehead in self-admonishment. “Brain fade,’’ he said apologetically.
Why, only yesterday, I took a kaali peeli taxi into South Mumbai from Bandra. After reaching my destination near the Marine Drive flyover, the cabbie realised that he hadn’t flagged the meter.
“Bheja nahin chal raha tha,’’ he explained imploringly. Translated, this is roughly what Smith said when rationalising why he looked up towards his dressing room before asking for the decision review in Bangalore.
The Dictionary of American Slang defines `brain fade’ as `to become confused; lose coherence’, which, of course, is all too common to homo sapiens.
Remember the time you suddenly went blank before appearing for the exams? Or booked a flight for the wrong date?
Relatively new in the lexicon of sports, `brain fade’ is not uncommon on the field of play either; even at the international level where you would expect sportspersons to be primed to not make mistakes.
Intense pressure can lead to a moment of acute folly, even in languid-paced game like cricket. An abiding memory I have is from the 1983 Test match at the Wankhede Stadium between India and Clive Lloyd’s all-conquering West Indies.
The West Indies lost Gordon Greenidge and Richie Richardson cheaply. Desmond Haynes and Viv Richards then restored the innings with a fine partnership when captain Kapil Dev, having tried all options, brought himself on.
Haynes then was well past his half-century and well settled. But in defending a delivery from Kapil, he saw the ball trickling towards the stumps. In a moment of desperation, he hit it away with his hand instead of either bat or foot.
The Indian went up in appeal, and Haynes appealed against the appeal. The umpires conferred, asked Kapil if he wanted to withdraw the call, which the Indian captain (rightly) declined.
‘Handled the ball’ is among the rarest of dismissals in cricket (Haynes was only the fourth in the history of the game) and led to a lot of debate. Some fun too as this Amul hoarding (see pic above) captured.
What is of the crux, however, is that the West Indies opener seemed to be unaware of the laws of cricket. He was to say later his mind went blank at that crucial moment; suffered a `brain fade’, as it would be termed now.
There are other examples in cricket that fit the description.
Sunil Gavaskar, who almost conceded a Test match (Melbourne, 1980-81) when he was given an abusive send-off after being declared LBW, was to say ``something snapped inside me’’ of the incident.
In the nick of time, Gavaskar’s partner Chetan Chauhan was stopped from leaving the field by the team manager. As it happened, India went on to win that Test, but that’s not germane to the issue.
While explainable in a wider sense, what is pertinent is that `brain fade’ does not exempt players from consequences of their action under the laws of the game, even if instinctive. This is where I think the ICC has erred in not even censuring Smith.
The point is not whether the Australian captain is a cheat; that is being harshly judgmental. But he did transgress the law of the sport, for which some action was necessary to set an example.
The ICC, however, evaded tough decision-making, puerilely sandpapered over the issue, and sat on the fence instead of acting like the sport’s controlling authority.
How’s that for an organisational brain fade?