January 13, 2008

India in Australia, 2007-08

Sledging's nadir

Will Luke
Harbhajan Singh sends down a delivery, ACT XI v Indians, 2nd day, Canberra, January 11, 2008
 © AFP
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Mike Atherton, in the Sunday Telegraph, dissects the events of the Sydney Test last week and wonders whether the exposing of apparent racism reveals our concern in preserving cricket. Cricket as it used to be.

Funny thing, though, race. Sometimes what is perceived as a racist issue is not really about race at all. In Sydney, race was the issue that lanced the boil, but the pus underneath had been gathering and festering for years and concerned much more fundamental cricketing issues. Like what kind of team are Australia? Can a team who play exhilarating cricket and try their damnedest to win every game actually be bad for the game? Ultimately, the aftermath of Sydney was about the kind of game we want to see preserved. What does the game stand for, if anything at all, and what kind of game would we like to see played out on the most visible arena of all? In short, what is this thing we call the 'spirit of cricket'?

Let's get back to racism for a minute, for the surprise expressed after Sydney that it could exist on the cricket field goes to the very heart of the matter. No other sport, save golf perhaps, sees itself in such pure, mythical terms. Yet cricket has constantly failed to live up to these inbuilt ethical standards - cheating, match-fixing and, more recently, sledging have given constant lie to the notion that cricket is different to any other sport. The phrase 'It's not cricket' is one of the most remarkable marketing success stories of all time, especially when you consider the constant failure in reality of the players to live up to that ideal.

Will Luke is assistant editor of ESPNcricinfo

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