Cricket as a sport stands at a very critical juncture in its existence. The very sanctity of being a gentleman’s game is under scrutiny. It is still the number one sport in the Asian countries, but spot fixing, betting and drugs have engulfed cricket in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka and that’s definitely a concern among the cricket lovers of all nations.
The very spirit of the game is in jeopardy and so is the talk that revolves around this subject. The game of cricket was intended to be played with honesty, truthfulness and concern for fellow cricketers and the laws of the game.
Technology, through the decision review system, has become the hot topic of discussion. But not one person has thought about the reason why technology has come into the game. This is because of how over time the spirit of cricket has dwindled and cheating and dishonesty has become a part and parcel of it.
Cricketers at every level have stopped addressing the game of cricket as a sport and the only purpose of playing it is to win. Douglas Jardine was a prime mover of victory at all costs when he adapted the Bodyline attack and now players, coaches and think tanks are all following in his footsteps.
Batsmen have stopped walking even though they know they are out and acting has become an important skill in their development. The human being has been given wonderful senses and even a slight snick is felt by the batsman.
At Trent Bridge, Stuart Broad was given not out although he had edged a delivery. But, in the first innings at Lord’s, he edged the ball and was given out. He still asked for a review in the hope that the technology may not pick it up. He was mistaken and this truly showed he has mastered the art of acting.
Umpires, at one time, were appointed to ensure favouritism. All of us who have played this game have experienced this at school, college, university, state and national levels. Imran Khan realized how deep the rot had set in and fortunately, for the world of cricket, pressed the case for neutral umpires.
The earlier umpires were not subjected to pressure on account of technology. Now, although technology has its glitches, the TV coverage has improved so vastly that every individual watching it has now become an authority.
Although we harp on the importance of playing the game fair and in the right spirit, we know that professionalism and the commercial aspect has taken over the amateur sport and the basic fun of the game.
The old spirit of three cheers has forever disappeared and given way to the spirit of modern values — there is no place for a loser! To revive the old spirit of cricket we need to get a body of powerful individuals who can rid cricket of cheaters, gamblers and such evil elements. We will then not require technology or any other ways of catching thieves. Cricket would be a far better place if we had the likes of Adam Gilchrist and G. R. Viswanath, both legends who believed in the art of walking.
(The writer is a former India Test cricketer)