A Gentleman’s Game No More?

The IPL (Indian Premier League) which is the desi “cricket” version of the English Premier League has probably broken all records when it comes to entertainment! Celebrities like SRK and Preity Zinta gave the Bollywood touch (though in SRK’s case, I would say the Midas touch since the Knight Riders can be seen in golden cricket gear!). Then, we have Vijay Mallya, certainly the King of good times who decided to rein in cheerleaders from America to give that spicy and phoren touch to the game!

But what transpired after the match between Mumbai Indians and the Kings XI last Friday can hardly be termed as entertainment. Our very own Bhajji (Harbhajan Singh) decided to inflect his wrath (what with Mumbai Indian’s fourth consecutive loss!) on S. Sreesanth (Kings XI) and slapped him when the two teams were shaking hands after the match. Soon after, we had every news channel showing an inconsolable Sreesanth being comforted by his teammates as he sobbed and sobbed on national television! The complaint was launched by Neil Maxwell (Kings XI Punjab’s CEO) and Bhajji was temporarily suspended from the IPL. Today, in a disciplinary hearing in New Delhi, Bhajji pleaded guilty where after he was banned from the rest of the twenty20 matches. This decision will not only keep him out from all the IPL action but will also cost him Rs. 3 crore!

What exactly happened to the so-called gentlemanly game which has replaced hockey as the nation’s national game? It is human to be angry and frustrated when one faces defeat, but to slap a comrade out of frustration is so not justified. Imagine the humiliation one faces when slapped in the midst of about 70,000 people! And then, having to face the trauma of seeing cameramen clicking away and the whole nation watching you at the center of the drama! Sreesanth has been frowned upon a number of times for his aggressive nature which is a bit “in your face” and is sometimes absolutely uncalled for. The justification given for the incident had been that Bhajji was seemingly provoked by Sreesanth’s antics on the field. If I were to place myself in Bhajji’s shoes (acting captain), then one thing is certain – that not managing a single victory would have proven to be very embarrassing. But, if I am the acting captain, then it would be up to me to ensure discipline and decorum on my team’s part. Nobody would expect me to display such immature behaviour and put the whole team to shame.

Talking about discipline and decorum, Sreesanth, Bhajji and the entire youth brigade can learn a thing or two from the senior players on the team. Be it Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Anil Kumble or Sourav Ganguly, these players have always shown such tremendous amount of patience and have always played the game in the right spirit. Tendulkar has always maintained a straight face when faced by aggression (refer to the Aussies) and has played the classiest cricket the world has ever known! It is common opinion that the youth are a charged up lot and hence, have to find a way to vent out all that energy. But, the players that I have just mentioned were Bhajji’s and Sreesanth’s age when they started off and have with the years gained more self-control where anger and frustration is concerned.

With time, perhaps even these two will learn how to move on from defeats and not hold grudges against each other. Maybe Sreesanth will not flare his nostrils the way he does in every match! Maybe cricket will once again become a gentleman’s game…

Anam Mittra

[Image courtesy: http://www.cricketfundas.com/harbhajansingh30.jpg]