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Kumble will play a key role
by Sunil Gavaskar
Aug 10, 2007
Recent happenings on the cricketing field have got plenty of coverage and brought back into focus the issue of chatter or chirping or sledging as it is called. Typically, while the media has been critical of the childishness of it all, the players have defended it by saying that it’s the intensity of battle and all that is said should stay on the field and not be brought into the dressing room. Insulting the opponent is now part of a team’s strategy it seems. The best insult is to get the opponent to lose in a test of skills and not in a test of verbal skirmishes with the loudest volume possible. My views on this are well known, so I won’t add anything more to it.

What has grabbed attention is the view of Ian Chappell that one day, the insult may get too personal and lead to fisticuffs between players. I did say pretty much the same thing, though I shouldn’t have mentioned the name of a departed former player, and having the highest regard for ‘Chappell’ for his forthright views on the game, I feel vindicated to a great extent by what he has written in a recent column.

Nobody wants to see a repeat of the ugly sight that was seen in Jamshedpur many years ago in a match between West Zone and North Zone, where West Zone’s new-ball bowler Rashid Patel chased the late Raman Lamba of North Zone all round the ground with a stump after a verbal skirmish. Even though Lamba was well padded, he ran for cover as Patel approached him with menace. It was a picture that made headlines all over the cricketing world and one that cricket lovers were ashamed to see. Hopefully, there will be no repeat of that every again, but for that to happen, those in charge of the game, from the umpires, match referees, coaches, captains and even administrators will have to take a firm stand and convey the message to call concerned that there are better ways to win than the ugly way of insults and verbal abuse.

The point to consider is whether the greats of the past ever indulged in it. Did for example, Sir Donald Bradman, Sir Frank Worrell, Sir Garfield Sobers, Richie Benaud ever abuse their opponents ? Did they ask a silly question like, “What car do you drive? I drive a Porsche” as a close in English fielder was heard asking an India player who should have turned around and asked how many runs and wickets he had got in international cricket.

The century by Michael Vaughan at Nottingham was one of the best looking centuries one has seen in a long, long time. He was classically correct and played shots off either foot and on both sides of the wicket. He was also similar in temperament as Jaffer is, but more emphatic in running between the wickets. His dismissal was the turning point of the Test, and though England avoided an innings defeat, they were not able to set India a tough target to chase in the second innings. Losing three wickets in quick succession may have dampened India’s celebration a bit, and it also gave England’s bowlers some hope that they may be able to trouble the Indian batsmen with short deliveries. Not that two short deliveries in an over should trouble good batsmen.

The evidence will be there in the Oval Test match where the pitch does afford a bit of bounce to those bowlers who are prepared to bend their backs and give it a thump. The Oval pitch is also a good one for batsmen, for once they get used to the bounce, they can play their shots without worrying too much about lateral movement, though since it is being played early August, there could be a bit of swing in the air. India will thus have to bowl very well to keep England from scoring heavily.

As I write this, India have won the toss and elected to bat, so if they do put up a big score then they could end up winning this Test too. The Oval pitch will get drier and help spinners, and though there are some ignoramuses who are questioning Kumble’s position in the team and saying that he is only getting tail-enders out, he will have a role to play if India are hoping to win the game and the series.

So far on the first day, there has been none of the childishness that was witnessed in the second Test at Nottingham, and that can only mean that the stern talk that the match referee has had with the coaches and captains of both teams has worked, and it once again emphasizes the point that cricket can be played with intensity, with competitiveness and yet not cause any ill-feeling or bitterness that can come with unnecessary verbal taunts. If that message comes through to other teams, then the game will be well served and will be a pleasure to not only play, but to umpire, officiate and watch as well !

More Views by Sunil Gavaskar
  Results have been utterly disappointing for New Zealand
  National duty comes first
  One-day game is alive and well
  Dhoni bears the fury of the media
  Spirit of Cricket
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