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The Ashes series rarely fail to deliver several talking points and the First Test has so far more than adequately met the target.
With the international cricketing media and armchair critics alike abuzz with discussion about Ashton Agar, Stuart Broad’s failure to walk, questionable umpiring decisions and the DRS shambles, it’s hard to single out which topic will ultimately be most apt when encapsulating the essence of Trent Bridge; but with controversy more marketable than feel-good stories, you can bet your bottom dollar that the first will be forgotten about far sooner than the other three.
The debate surrounding Broad’s failure to walk after an obvious edge to first slip being given not out appeared to infuriate many, with even ex-England captain Michael Vaughan stating that Broad will “now be remembered for, I guess, being a cheat.” But are there many players in the current era that would walk themselves?
Cricket used to be the gentleman’s game, where etiquette and ethics were a part of the very fabric of the competition, but in this day and age with so much at stake, have the rewards of victory become so high that decency has paid the ultimate price?
The simple and straight forward answer is an emphatic yes.
The attack on Broad’s integrity managed to reach heights that many astronauts in training can only aspire to, but is it really that big a deal when he was simply playing within the rules of the game? No.
Michael Holding even painted Broad’s failure to walk as being akin to Denesh Ramedin incorrectly claiming a catch – a move which earned him a suspension – and perhaps one of the most famous walkers, Australia’s own Adam Gilchrist, made a point saying “Some people (are) saying, you rely on the umpire. No you don’t, you rely on honesty.” Let’s just not point out previous incidents involving Australia’s own Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke, Steve and Mark Waugh, etc, etc.
Although I’m loathe to agree with Kevin Pietersen, he hit the nail on the head with his comment: “Every single batsman who plays cricket, no matter who you play for, has the right to wait for the umpire’s decision.”
Moving on to the obvious umpiring bloopers which threatened to derail the momentum of both teams and we quickly seem to forget the etiquette which everyone banged on about with Broad – the simple belief that “the umpire is always right”. You have to love a yelping media and public which are happy to apply the spirit of the game to the arguments which suit them, yet completely ignore their own discussion points when they fail to add any value.
“Broad is a cheat because he doesn’t follow the spirit of the game, and whilst we’re at it, so is Aleem Dar for not giving decisions we want.” Oh yes. That maxim is sounding loud and clear. It’s always important to have such a strong platform upon which to argue a point.
Whilst cutting through arguments at such speed, let’s look at the use of DRS. Yes, it was brought into the game as a tool to try and fix the bleedingly obvious errors in judgement, but it’s difficult to correct a mistake when the allocated reviews have been exhausted by either batsmen or bowlers keen on making their own figures look more attractive. Yes, Australia could have reviewed the Broad decision, had they not wasted their reviews earlier on in the piece in an attempt to gain a mental upper hand. Hell, they could even have reviewed Phillip Hughes’ dismissal in the second innings had both Watson and Clarke not simply willed that they weren’t out when they were. But the fact remains that if Australia had not used DRS as a method of trying to out-move their opposition with mental tactics (with an obvious failure to do so), we wouldn’t be having two or potentially three of these debates.
There are methods available that can be adopted to assist in the fixing of the issues above, but firstly, we need to identify the root cause of it all.
So whom exactly is responsible for the alteration of cricket from a gentleman’s game to the highly competitive, win at all risks mentality that threatens the very spirit that cricket was founded upon?
Yes, that’s right. You, the general public. Spectators. Fans. We have a win at all costs mentality that demands players strive to achieve dizzying heights on the sporting field, to a point where their lives are encompassed by all that is cricket. Gone are the days when many could hold down full time jobs in order to pay the bills, as the training and touring schedule simply does not permit it. As a result, players are forced to make cricket their full-time jobs, which in turn creates a need for sponsorship dollars to keep rolling in. Sponsors want to be associated with the results that we all crave, to be the marketable brand that we all want to associate with our victorious teams – and the vicious cycle continues.
It’s not about the game, anymore. It’s about how many titles we can come away with, how many trophies we can fill our cabinets with, how many countries we can lord over with our successes. We’re all guilty of it – myself included. Somewhere along the way, we lost the vision of what sportsmanship and friendly rivalry is all about and sacrificed it for the ability to bask in glory.
It’s a slippery slope that takes a lot of difficulty to ascend up in an attempt to reverse, and so be it. Amateur sport is disappearing, professional sport has taken over in such a rate of knots, it would almost be possible to suffer whiplash as a result. We adore the successes it creates and loathe the failures it generates. We sail the heights and plunder the depths. Yet it is only when we hit the low points that we cry out in despair about the “good ol’ days.”
When next we all decide to start preparing the obituary for the “death of cricket spirit”, just remember that it hasn’t died a quick or painful death – it’s been slowly, deliberately and painfully murdered by a blood thirsty public demanding success. The blood is on all of our hands.
So well done, assholes. Enjoy the glory days when they return. Hope they’re finally worth it.