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It all comes down to one thing.
by Sreelata Yellamrazu
Jan 16, 2007
In the end, the Test at Centurion has turned into a rather tasteless one. Pakistan’s batting problems took a backseat, as did Mark Boucher eclipsing Ian Healy's record number of Test dismissals.

All that matters and remains hanging in the balance is the fate of the game and that of Herschelle Gibbs’ as time runs out before the start of the second Test. At the time of going to press, Gibbs is awaiting the ICC appeal process to be completed.

The match itself was quiet by contrast. Battling the odds with a 104 run deficit, Pakistan made a fist of it and put South Africa through a disturbing night’s sleep. As it turned out, the match may have been delayed a bit with overnight rain going into the fifth and final day, but South Africa would face no storms, at least on the field.

South Africa faced a relatively tense but still breathe-easy day. They were not tested to the extent of turbulence thanks to Hashim Amla and Jacques Kallis, and by tea time, there were more reasons to have a bite of a celebratory cake or two.

But Graeme Smith has other things to worry about before the second Test gets underway. There is a storm in a tea cup and it is not about to blow away anytime soon.

Gibbs may have well made some rather derogatory remarks about the visitors. But there seems a lot of that going around. Recall a few months and Pakistan was caught in the midst of a brouhaha involving the alleged racist policy of umpire Darrell Hair. Are people becoming less tolerant or is sport becoming too personal and therefore, racial stereotyping is so much more obvious and vocal despite the laws that hold it down.

Just like the perception remains steadfast that the western or the ‘white’ world has a prejudiced bias against the rest of the world, there is a perception that what goes round comes round. People will recount the abuse that the Australian crowd meted out to the coloured players, including Gibbs, on their last tour. That, by no means, condones it. But there is an air of fuming tensions and it is not reserved for any one particular region on nation.

What is hard to forgive is Gibbs stating that his comments should never have been aired. The point that needs to be pressed upon is the fact that it is not what is shown that is relevant.

This is about tackling the issue from the grassroots. It may well have been instigated by some Pakistan fans. But whether the players are fully aware of the exacting need for restraint is questionable as is the notion that their basic nature can be truly changed or reined in by a law or two.

The fact that cricket is such a great sport that brings about a team comprising players from different regions. Even in nations that have less geographic leverage, the difference in backgrounds and mindsets of players is so distinct; it is amazing how the team even functions as one.

Economic and social backgrounds have a bearing on social interaction. The former is perhaps the speculation why the senior members of the Indian squad are united and determined to stay strong together and leave the club of young flock to their own device. If there is merit in the story, it is hard to believe it happens on the cricket field. But as clichéd as it sounds, stranger things have happened.

There are certain quarters that want things to let be. This is perhaps from their point of view that emotions on the field are better left to discretion of individual players and a little bit of chirpiness never harmed anyone. But it conflicts with the boundaries within which players should be left to their own devices.

Few will forget the near blows that Glen McGrath and Ramnaresh Sarwan almost came to even as West Indies went on to to record a famous victory in Antigua.

A two Test match ban is pretty strong for a team that requires the resources of a key player such as Gibbs. But when rules have been made, the law remains the same for all. Were Gibbs’ remarks truly warranted to break the commandments that hold a team together? Who is in a position to judge? Was it worth sacrificing his services towards the achievement of team goals for a few nasty remarks?

So long as the sport is global, there are bound to be differences, big and small. The ICC’s plans for further expansion will make this an important issue and it needs to address the problem with strictness and with respect to sensitivities.

South Africa could well appeal Gibbs’ case as a matter of an uncanny resemblance of being targeted as unsuspecting victims both, home and away. It is all about viewing matters through the looking glass. But with caution: the view is not likely to be pretty either way.

 
More Views by Sreelata Yellamrazu
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