Saturday, January 12, 2019

Youth and Fame – A Deadly Concoction!

Image result for kl rahul pandyaIndia’s test series win in Australia is a moment in time, a piece of history, one of the most awaited and cherished wins in memory. This team has shown ruthlessness, consistency and superior performance – let it be the aggression of the pace battery, the run making prowess of Pujara, or the now-used-to consistency with which Kohli scores. But there are talks about how this was probably the weakest Australian side to take field; a team undergoing rebuilding phase – both on and off the field. The absence of Steve Smith and David Warner was no doubt a massive gain for India, but still, Australia managed to win the Perth test. However, what made this series spicy (don’t forget that this series started with no pre-series aggressive comments from the Aussies, and both teams showing mutual respect, which was unseen till now) was the banter behind the stumps. Tim Paine and Rishabh Pant hogged the limelight for their innovative, catchy and sometimes childish comments (can’t call it sledging, as Channel 9 was broadcasting it by asking the commentators on air to be quiet and let the wicket keepers do the talking, as perhaps, for some weird reason, it made good viewing). I wonder what the likes of Richie Benaud would have had to say for such antics!
I have been watching cricket since mid 90’s, when there was not so much say of the broadcasters on ‘what to show’ to the viewers. It was a tussle that time between the likes of Tendulkar and Akram, Lara and McGrath, Donald and Atherton, to name a very few of the highly decorated and still revered rivalries. There used to be sledging, no doubt, or ‘mental disintegration’, as termed by Steve Waugh, but it used to stay on field, between the players, except a few nasty instances like the unfortunate personal spat between McGrath and Ramnaresh Sarwan. But still, the only way for viewers to be privy to any such nasty comments being exchanged was only when the players were talking near the stumps microphone! But now, a lot has changed. The advent of social media has changed the way the game is broadcasted. People these days are more interested about the words being exchanged between players, let it be Paine-Pant, Kohli-Paine or even the Jadeja-Ishant spat! Don’t get me wrong, the quality of the game is not something I am questioning. It has been on a rise continuously, if the records being broken and created almost every other match are a benchmark. My concern is, the way the game is played, or well, the way it is presented. Cricket was always a gentlemen’s game, unlike Football or Rugby, where player contact is not just acceptable but unavoidable. Hence, sledging was the only way cricketers could get into the mind of the opposition, an art, truly mastered and taught to the cricketing world by the Aussies. But the recent ‘sandpaper’ fiasco forced the Aussies to overhaul their cricketing culture, which was on display recently when their coach Justin Langer was seen apologising to a reporter during press conference for a very slight argument, a sight one would not expect to see usually. We all would remember the instance when a teenaged Parthiv Patel, trying to sledge Steve Waugh in his farewell innings, was put in his place by the wit and humour of Waugh. It was a reminder that youngsters should play hard, give it to the legends, but only by their play, not their tongues. But in this series, the focus has been on the Paine-Pant banter, which at times seemed a bit forced, rather than spontaneous, as if they were not cricketers but contestants in ‘Big Brother’ reality show, whose success depends on the amount of controversy they can create. It felt as if it was not cricket but voyeurism while listening to them talk rather than hear the commentators about the play. And to speak of creating controversy, what else is a better example than the highly tactless, disgusting and inappropriate comments made by Hardik Pandya (along with KL Rahul) on a coffee talk show. As of writing this article, an enquiry has been setup by BCCI and they both have been suspended from national duty indefinitely. It is very surprising that these two players did not seek approval from BBCI before going to the show and to top it, brought themselves and the other Indian cricketers into disrepute with their senseless and shameful comments. It is a clear sign that being brash is not cool; the youth is full of energy, which if not channelised properly, will bring their own downfall. It is important to be expressive, but not at the cost of causing damage to the reputation of the cricketers. Money and fame that the game brings is very difficult to manage, as exemplified by Vinod Kambli, who did not do justice to his immense talent by getting embroiled in various controversies and losing his place in the side. I am sure, Indian team would not like to lose new sensations like Pant, Pandya, Rahul and others to go down that path. They have an example of Virat Kohli, who channelised his aggression and is now the numero uno of world cricket. The previous generation of cricketers like Sachin, Dravid and Kumble were also subjected to sledging but they always let their game do the talking, a manner emulated in this generation of cricketers like Pujara and Rahane, which has reaped good dividends for them. Therefore, while no one is asking the gen-next stars to put a tape on their mouth and play (something we saw Kieron Pollard do when told off by umpires), they are expected to be role models for youngsters as they are representing the largest and most crazy cricket nation. If not for the huge sum of money they receive, they need to behave in a dignified and acceptable manner for maintaining and upholding the pride of India.

DHCF Nishant Raizaday for diehardcricketfans

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