November 5, 2008

Michael Jeh

The abuse must stop

Michael Jeh
Billy Bowden defuses the situation between Gautam Gambhir and Simon Katich, India v Australia, 3rd Test, Delhi, 1st day, October 29, 2008
 © AFP
Enlarge

Perhaps now, finally, after way too much prevarication on the issue, the ICC might finally take a stand on what the ‘Spirit of Cricket’ actually means. It’s clear that no such spirit operates in the real world. It’s just a fancy set of words that mean nothing to the cricketers and officials who are meant to uphold that spirit.

The full media release from Justice Sachs regarding the Gautam Gambhir appeal is a sad indictment of what really happens on the field. It tells a story of abuse and sledging and a subsequent physical response that has cost Gambhir a crucial Test match. The saddest part of the whole thing is that no one is even attempting to deny the abuse and the physical contact any more. It’s now an argument about when abuse becomes too much provocation to prevent physical contact.

The entire transcript from players, umpires and Match Referee is a sordid reflection of what the ICC is prepared to tolerate in this so-called professional workplace.What other workplace would allow such behaviour to occur under the shameful umbrella of “competitiveness, grown men, a man’s game, a tough environment, what happens on the field…” etc? It is now clear that not all cricketers can play by these arbitrary rules. The mere fact that Gambhir’s actions were triggered by the constant provocation proves that different people have different levels of tolerance to abuse. And their reactions can take different forms, on different days, leading to higher levels of abuse or physical contact.

Cricket has a simple decision to make. Is this is a professional workplace or a mere sporting environment? Either definition makes it difficult to legitimise abuse, verbal or physical.

If it is a workplace, then the administrators and players should start treating it as such. They need to start behaving in a manner that is appropriate in a normal work environment. If they expect to be paid the sort of money they justify to themselves by claiming they are highly skilled professionals, start behaving like it!

If it is merely a game and not a profession, then pay them commensurate salaries. And if it is only a game, why get so hot under the collar then? After all, it’s only a game isn’t it? Cricketers can’t have it both ways – it’s either a profession where professional courtesies apply or it’s a game where sportsmanship should take precedence. Or just dispense with all such notions, call it “open warfare” and don’t bother with any pretentions of honouring the Spirit of Cricket.

Some of the blame can be leveled at the match officials. If Billy Bowden spent less time trying to be the centre of attention and concentrated on keeping order and making better on-field decisions, some of the tension might have been dissipated. Instead of waiting for Gambhir to complain to the umpires about the ‘chat’, why didn’t Bowden nip it in the bud? It makes it very difficult for Gambhir to complain to the umpires. He would no doubt cop the usual vitriol about “being soft, being a cry baby, go and tell Mummy that we’re being mean to you”.

The umpires and match referee were obviously aware of the tension that was building up and the verbals that were being exchanged by both teams. That much is clear from Chris Broad’s acceptance that Gambhir had been subjected to a certain level of provocation. Well, if they were aware of a storm brewing, why didn’t they do something about it? Perhaps they don’t have the authority to do anything until it becomes a full-blown incident. And then see what happens….

The ICC should take a firm stance on what’s acceptable conduct in a highly visible public workplace. The players should take a look in the mirror and start behaving like the highly skilled professionals they claim to be. And the umpires and match referee need to have the conviction and commonsense to prevent fires rather than dousing flames or punishing arsonists.

Until all the stakeholders in the game take some of this responsibility upon themselves, the Spirit of Cricket will remain an empty epithet, devoid of any real meaning. There can be no such thing as an “acceptable level of sledging”. What’s acceptable to one person may not be acceptable to another. Furthermore, what’s tolerable one day may be insufferable the next day, even to the same person. Where do you draw the line before somebody snaps?

The tragedy is that it leads to the situation where a double centurion, in the form of his life, misses the final Test match with the series in the balance. Regardless of who you support, that can’t be good for the Spirit of Cricket.

Michael Jeh is an Oxford Blue who played first-class cricket, and a Playing Member of the MCC. He lives in Brisbane

RSS Feeds: Michael Jeh

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by agein65 on (December 16, 2010, 20:46 GMT)

I check back often, I want to say hello.

Posted by bhp656 on (December 10, 2010, 4:23 GMT)

I got interested party - I'll check back often, I wanted to say hello

Posted by elurehexy on (May 3, 2010, 23:02 GMT)

Greets dudes!

I just wanted to say hi to everyone!

This is my first post here :)

Posted by weencyphywhek on (December 2, 2009, 13:28 GMT)

Hello every one, I am brand-new to this webpage, I have just subscribed and the webpage looks fabulous. I am highly tech savy so I will be more then thrilled to help if anyone has any tech-related problems. In any case, I am a first time guest who expects to become a day-to-day visitor

Merci weencyphywhek

Posted by waterbuffalo on (November 19, 2008, 19:33 GMT)

Posted by: Stephen Mellor at November 10, 2008 5:16 AM

Some of these comments make me laugh. I am a blonde haired blue eyed Australian and i am the first one to admit the Aussies are serial sledgers who have started all this rubbish. I watch a hell of a lot of cricket and the real bad sledging stuff started with Warne against South Africa when he ran down the pich telling Hudson & Cullinan to f*#k off and all sorts of other things. They may have been the best team but clearly the worst sportsmen. The New Zealanders got sick of them and started giving it back but they were not good enough on the field. It is great to see the Indians noted for how soft they have been in the past giving it back to Australia and exposing them for the school bullies they are. Symonds, Watson & Co loving starting things and dishing it out but when it comes back at them they squeal like girls. That Sydney test was a disgrace last year and anyone that was proud of the team then is an imbecile.

WELL SAID

Posted by desisouljah on (November 12, 2008, 11:19 GMT)

I agree that the aussies should change their captain, but who will follow? I don´t know one player who doesn´t sledge in the australian team so it´s more a matter of the system which they have created to win test matches through abuse and psychologically defeating the oponnents rather than a decent man following up as captain. The aussie cricket board should look in depth at this issue and tell their players to start behaving because india has proved it that they can withstand all the abuse and like gambhir said, we are not taking a step back anymore.

Posted by digitaleye on (November 10, 2008, 16:04 GMT)

@Koone. This sickening psycho-analyzing of Indian people and stereotyping their culture by sour grapes Aussie fans should stop. When their team was winning and hurling abuses at opponents, I didn't see anyone from either side trying to link Australian team's behavior to the origins of the Australian people and the continent they inhabit.

Ball tampering charges?! please!!, Cameron White was caught on video, removing pieces of leather from the ball and yet no Aussie fan seems to think twice before throwing tampering claim at the Indians. Just because Aussie batsmen failed to negotiate Sharma and Kahn, Indians had to tamper the ball, yeah!, there is not even a remote possibility that they might be better bowlers than the current Australian bowling line up. What travesty?!.

To those who moderate these boards, if you publish incendiary comments and then filter out all the rebuttals, you are not doing cricinfo any good. Your bias clearly shows.

Posted by Stephen Mellor on (November 10, 2008, 5:16 GMT)

Some of these comments make me laugh. I am a blonde haired blue eyed Australian and i am the first one to admit the Aussies are serial sledgers who have started all this rubbish. I watch a hell of a lot of cricket and the real bad sledging stuff started with Warne against South Africa when he ran down the pich telling Hudson & Cullinan to f*#k off and all sorts of other things. They may have been the best team but clearly the worst sportsmen. The New Zealanders got sick of them and started giving it back but they were not good enough on the field. It is great to see the Indians noted for how soft they have been in the past giving it back to Australia and exposing them for the school bullies they are. Symonds, Watson & Co loving starting things and dishing it out but when it comes back at them they squeal like girls. That Sydney test was a disgrace last year and anyone that was proud of the team then is an imbecile. Even the great Neil Harvey thinks their on field behav is deplorable!

Posted by Karthi Keyan on (November 10, 2008, 4:03 GMT)

I suppose the problem is not really with the players but with the administrators. If they would show more objectivity, players will not feel the need to take up matters more personally but as many of us will be happy to vouch, one rules for Aussies and another for Indians and that is no exaggeration.

Posted by jonathan on (November 9, 2008, 23:45 GMT)

Enticer, Sachs explained why he approved the Broad's judgment - he explained that he thought it wasn't unduly harsh. Whether you agree or not, have you even read his judgment and considered that maybe he really does think the penalty is deserved? He was quite clear that if it were up to him, he'd do something about the Australians behaviour too. He's not a affiliated with the SAfrican team or board, he's a judge who has been asked by the ICC to give legal-type judges.

He's also a guy who said that even if the man who bombed him, taking his arm and eye, were acquitted, he would be happy just because he was put on trial and the rules of law was followed. For you to accuse him of a racist judgment just because he is South African, rather than looking his personal actions, is just as prejudiced as what you're complaining of.

Comments have now been closed for this article

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michael Jeh
Born in Colombo, educated at Oxford and now living in Brisbane, Michael Jeh (Fox) is a cricket lover with a global perspective on the game. An Oxford Blue who played first-class cricket, he is a Playing Member of the MCC and still plays grade cricket. Michael now works closely with elite athletes, and is passionate about youth intervention programmes. He still chases his boyhood dream of running a wildlife safari operation called Barefoot in Africa.

All articles by this writer