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Verbal abuse has no place in the game - Sunil Gavaskar column
by Sunil Gavaskar
Nov 03, 2008
Adam Gilchrist's yet to be released book has predictably drawn reactions, especially his comments about Tendulkar. The timing was inappropriate, for at the moment with Tendulkar residing at the peak having climbed the mountain of most runs in test cricket, any adverse comment about him was going to invite flak and it did. Or maybe that was the intention; getting some free publicity for the book. Gilly is lucky that he had a column immediately after all the hullabaloo to try and explain his side of the story and what he actually meant and what was reported. That is the advantage of being a cricketer in these parts of the world. There is no shortage of people to help you in getting over a potentially combustible situation and Gilchrist knows that despite him being out of international cricket, he is earning quite nicely, thank you, with the Indian Premier League so why spoil it. That Tendulkar has not quite accepted his explanation is clear from his remarks about Gilchrist and the feeling that foreigners say one thing to the Indian media and quite another thing for the media back home gets stronger by the day. It's all sweetness and light about India and Indian cricketers for the Indian media and Indian public but for the people back home, it’s the usual stuff of poking fun and denigrating the country and its people that is affording them the kind of living that would be hard if not impossible back home.

Tendulkar was not amused and he made his displeasure clear and he has also spoken about how he was among the first to shake hands with the Australian team after the Sydney defeat as it is now pretty much standard to see teams lining up at the end of a game and shaking hands with each other. So that accusation does not hold water. It is not simply shaking hands after a game that is important but to acknowledge during the game a good performance that tells if one is a good sportsman or not. How many Australians clap when an Indian batsman gets to a fifty or for that matter even when a century is reached? So does that make them unsporting or just hard cricketers as they like to call themselves? Applauding the opposition player when he reaches the landmarks of fifty or century does not make anybody less hard but the Australians are pretty economical with any applause as they seem to believe it takes away from the cutting edge of their game. So should the Indians complain? No. They will not, simply because it makes absolutely no difference if the Aussies applaud or not for the rest of the crowd claps anyway and more importantly, the dressing room is standing up in appreciation which means more for a cricketer than anything else. As for shaking hands at the end of the game, it is understandable if the Indians are wary of doing so with some of the Australians who have a habit of spitting on their palms before every ball. So it could simply be a hygiene issue and nothing else.

What was more interesting is the revelation in the book that the relationship between Gilchrist and Shane Warne was not exactly all warmth and smiles when they were playing particularly at the start of Gilchrist's international career after he received some unkind verbals from the legspinner. Gilchrist reveals that Warne called him a licker suggesting that it was because of that practice that Gilly won a place as a wicketkeeper ahead of Warne's pal Darren Berry when Ian Healy called it quits. This was during the Australian domestic games and it brings starkly to the fore the evils of sledging. If this kind of bad feeling can happen in Australia where they claim sledging is part of the game just imagine how it must feel for other teams who simply play the game with bat and ball and not the mouth. All those verbals liberally sprinkled with some of the choicest of abuses may make a player feel all macho but at the end of the day its runs and wickets and catches and not smart lines that make a player known and remembered in the game.

Cricket is a game that is played among only a handful of countries especially at the top level and that's why it's important that administrators of all the boards emphasise to their players that playing the game hard can be done without the despicable practice of verbal intimidation in order to achieve that hideous term "mental disintegration" of the opponents. Mental disintegration can be achieved by playing a brand of cricket that makes the opposition look and feel hopeless and without using the kind of language that would invite a physical retort anywhere other than on a cricket field. Mind you, seeing the way players have squared up to each other in the recent series that day may well be seen on the field which will be unfortunate indeed.

Cricket used to be called the gentleman's game and the term 'it's not cricket' was enough to convey that a wrong had been done. How about going back to those days gentlemen? Or is that word no longer applicable to modern players?
 
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