Cricket is still a beautiful game and has some truly great players and followed by a fanatical following. Let not a few bullies and boors and reluctant officials make it into an ugly brawl that turns the fan away.
Seldom has there been a series that has been as ill tempered as the just concluded 7 match One-day series. In just about every game, the players of both teams have been eyeball to eyeball with hands and bats being waved around, in a most unbecoming manner. The verbals which unfortunately can be lip read, have indicated that the language is far from diplomatic and all this has led the crowds too, to get involved and their demeanor too has been hardly saintly.
While there is no question that the blame rests with the management of both teams, for letting it descend to such levels, the ICC match referee and the umpires officiating in the match are no less culpable. One is not privy to the report, that the match referee may have sent to ICC but the fact that not even one player from both sides has been reported and reprimanded shows that the referee and the umpires did not do the job assigned to them and that was to see that the game was not brought into disrepute and the spirit of cricket maintained.
Unfortunately, they are not the first ones to turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to the happenings around them on the field, and this in turn has encouraged the players to blatantly square upto each other, as one often sees in baseball or ice hockey and get away with it. In the last game at the Wankhede Stadium, which was turning out to be a real nail biting finish, an Indian batsman and an Australian fielder came face to face, and what were the umpires doing? One umpire was studiously taking notes down in his book, probably about who had bowled how many overs and the other umpire was taking the cap from the bowler. Both very conveniently had their backs to the altercation between the fielder and the batsman even as the crowd joined in and was giving vent to its feelings.
The umpires actions could be understood if the altercation had happened suddenly but it had happened immediately after the last ball of the previous over and both umpires had clearly seen it, yet chose not to intervene and make sure it did not turn ugly which it eventually did. That was clearly a dereliction of duty and the fact that the match referee too did not think it fit to pull up the players is staggering to say the least. This protocol of the match referee acting only if the umpires make a report is just not on, for why then have a match referee at all. He is there not just to protect the umpires from the players but to see that the game goes on without any untoward incidents and what happened between the two players was definitely not cricket. That, by the way, was not the first time it happened on this tour but because the referees and the umpires were inactive about previous incidents, would no doubt have encouraged the players to get bolder and almost come to blows. By abdicating their responsibility, the match officials let the game down big time and have raised a big question mark on their ability to control the game and the players.
It would be sad if the ICC turns a blind eye to what happened during the series, for even while accepting that the game has changed and become far more aggressive than yesteryears, what was seen on the cricket field did not do any good to the image of the game nor enhance the quality by any stretch of imagination.
The ICC has a system where the performance of an umpire is judged by the videos of the game that he has officiated in. The decisions he has taken are evaluated by another ex umpire and he is given points on the correctness or otherwise of these decisions. With increasing bad behaviour by players, the time has now come for the officials to be evaluated on how they have handled such situations. Irrespective of whether they have come in and shooed and separated the players, if they have not reported that to the match referee or even if the match referee has not taken any action on that, on his own should count as a minus point and taken into account when fresh appointments and assignments are to be given.
I have nothing against banter between players for there is a fair bit of that and which the players enjoy and have a laugh about but when it comes to the situations that were witnessed in the recent series and then to find those not being acted upon by the officials is worrying indeed. Match referees are former players and they know what is banter and what is offensive and while there is a tendency to let things lie sometimes its that which encourages the players from taking it to another level which does no good to the game. Such officials should also be pulled up, so that the game does not get the headlines for all the wrong reasons.
It is still a beautiful game and has some truly great players and followed by a fanatical following. Let not a few bullies and boors and reluctant officials make it into an ugly brawl that turns the fan away.