April 9, 2010

Gambhir got a raw deal

Reprimanding players for honest observations will just lead to more boring, vanilla statements than we already get

The IPL reprimanding Gautam Gambhir for calling his opponents "ordinary" was unfortunate and unnecessary. He was not abusive, he did not insult them, there was nothing racist about it. He used a word that all of us do, and most important, he was absolutely right in his assessment. The Rajasthan Royals were ordinary against the Delhi Daredevils that day and I'm sure they knew it. Their captain often admits to his team's deficiencies and on his Twitter page is quite open with his thoughts. Politicians, of whom many aspire to positions in the BCCI, are far more unforgiving of opponents and incomparably more scathing in their choice of words.

Indeed, Gambhir's comments in his column the next day were quite refreshing if a bit vitriolic. He was entitled to feel that way, and a man is allowed to stand up for his views. He admitted that his team were called ordinary too, after their performance against the Mumbai Indians, that they accepted it and came back strongly. Indeed, the irony is that the Royals themselves came back a better team, and by showing what they were capable of, only reinforced Gambhir's assessment of their performance against the Delhi Daredevils.

I found the response to Gambhir baffling. A lot of us played as much sport as we did, and invited many others to play it, because it was unforgiving and brought us face to face with reality. It is such a magnificent activity because you have to take criticism on the chin and bounce back; and bounce back on the field of play, where, once again, there are no favours handed out, no quarters given. To reprimand someone for a perfectly legitimate opinion is to miss the essence of all sport. Respect is earned on a field of play and it is earned in both dressing rooms, not only your own.

The irony is that the Royals themselves came back a better team, and by showing what they were capable of, only reinforced Gambhir's assessment of their performance against the Delhi Daredevils

And it strikes me as particularly baffling that players seem to get away with abuse on a field, with insulting language, but cannot make an honest observation off it. It has wider implications. I fear it could only lead to more boring, vanilla statements of the sort we now get at press conferences. The audience, who are the real owners of a sport, want to know what a sportsman is thinking, they want his assessment, and they have a right to that knowledge. Otherwise we will get what passes for cricketer-written columns in our newspapers: bland, insipid and flat statements that do not tell us why the owner of the byline is an exceptional performer, do not allow us a little window into his mind. Gambhir allowed us that and was told to stand in a corner.

And while on the subject of quotes, here is one of the most delightful ones you will hear. While reading an obituary of the great Alec Bedser, I found this comment attributed to his mother. When asked by reporters about her son's achievement of taking 11 wickets in a game, she said, "But that's what he is in the side for, isn't he?" Fair lady, you allowed us a mighty chuckle. If you were to return to our media-driven world 64 years after you wondered at the excitement over your son's performance, you would find us going gaga over two balls bowled well, about one four-over spell decently delivered. Thank you, ma'am for putting things in perspective in our quote-a-minute world.

Bedser's craft, though, is struggling in the country against whom he first showed his prowess. It might only be Twenty20 but a new-ball bowler is as difficult to find as a good avial. Two of our best, Ishant Sharma and Sreesanth, can't get a decent game with their franchises; Ashish Nehra is injured; Praveen Kumar, like a thermostat, keeps going off and on; RP Singh can't pull his weight for the Chargers; Sudeep Tyagi and Manpreet Gony and Lakshmipathy Balaji flit in and out of their team; Dhawal Kulkarni can't get a game; Abhimanyu Mithun is rarely in the scheme of things for the Royal Challengers; Irfan Pathan is looking underdone in spite of being kept on the flame for so long; and we go "wow" over one or two performances from Umesh Yadav. No surprise, then, that the slow bowlers are doing comfortably better than the faster bowlers in the first six overs at the IPL.

It is an issue of far greater importance than a comment by Gambhir about his opponents.

Harsha Bhogle is a commentator, television presenter and writer. He is on the commentary team for the IPL

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • lakx on April 12, 2010, 16:39 GMT

    @AlokJoshi, You are contradicting yourself. Definition of Politically correct is - "Being or perceived as being over concerned with such change, often to the exclusion of other matters.It often involves changing or avoiding language that might offend anyone." People who thought Gambhir was arrogant wanted him to be politically correct and I didn't as I,like you, also believe that "average leaders just says politically correct things" whn they think the exact opposite while great leaders tell you the truth as it is because they are real and do not depend on perception or image to achieve. I do not blame you, we live in a world where political correctness is considered a great virtue when in reality it does not achieve anything but just creates an illusion that everything is fine when it really isn't.

  • replyramdas on April 12, 2010, 5:48 GMT

    Harsha is loosing respect faster than Ishant loosing his edge as a fast bowler....calling Ishant and Shreesanth best of India...are you out of your mind dude ??? I think I can bowl better than these two....seriously....

    Gambhir is my fav batsman in the current squad(ofcourse after SRT), but his comments were highly disappointing....

  • Rooboy on April 12, 2010, 2:33 GMT

    Of course there is nothing wrong with Gambhir's statement. However, I find bhogle's constant and chronic hypocrisy offensive. I agree with his assesement of this situation, but had an Australian said the same about an indian team, we all know bhogle's judgement of the same comments would be totally different. As for his statement 'there was nothing racist' (about the comment) ... that's laughable. Of course it wasn't racist, the comment was made by an indian and as we all know, indians are never perpetrators of racism (even when they racially vilify their opponents), only ever victims.

  • AlokJoshi on April 11, 2010, 18:25 GMT

    @lakx - Thanks. Few thoughts: 1) Great leaders exercise caution yet speak their mind, while an average leaders just says politically correct things, and leaders who think they are god's gift end up earning reprimands with their spoken words. 2) Every player is a threat until dismissed. To facilitate your understanding, let me give an example. Suman has played pivotal role in last two wins of DC. He has turned out to be a greater threat than Gilchrist (maximum IPL sixes and among highest IPL run-makers). 3) I never said that speaking the truth is being arrogant. Gambhir's comments, which depict little respect for opponents, seemed arrogant and poor in spirit. He was therefore reprimanded. Besides, his comments cannot be construed as truth, because they are subjective. 4) Sadly, Gambhir's conduct ends up being obnoxious at times. Did you see his behaviour after he got out today? It is not how leaders or role models act and behave to earn respect and trust of their team or followers!

  • lakx on April 11, 2010, 14:52 GMT

    @Alok Joshi, Since when telling the truth is arrogant. You just do not understand. Ojha top scored, but was he a threat, No. Warne bowled better than Pathan, but was he a threat, No. Even if Pathan had scored 0, he would have been a threat until he got out. In the super over match which CSK lost, Parthiv top scored with 57 of 58 balls, but lost a winning match. These are the kind of players you consider, "not a threat". Scoring more/giving away less runs does not mean winning/threatening, it all depends on who, when and how. Players to whom it does not matter, who is bowling/batting, when they are batting/bowling and who can decimate the opposition are the real threats. And Pathan is the only such person(while batting) in RR. Even if Gambhir was wrong in his assessment there is nothing wrong in giving an opinion when you are asked for one. Better than "No comments" or lying. People like Gambhir make great leaders as people around them will always trust them, unlike people who lie.

  • ashy16in_ on April 11, 2010, 13:17 GMT

    While it is fine to be frank and forthright, I wonder if he would have made the same comments if the opposition was Mumbai Indians and Sachin Tendulkar had failed in that match.

  • asad114 on April 11, 2010, 8:54 GMT

    wow Harsha what an original article....where do you come up with such unique ideas for your articles?

  • jamrith on April 11, 2010, 8:49 GMT

    Why are so many people wasting their time ( and that includes me) on this matter, anyway the matches are fixed that is obvious.

  • AlokJoshi on April 11, 2010, 8:00 GMT

    Two overall facts: RR had a 3-3 record against DD in all IPL prior to the said match which they lost; and RR have won IPL in the past while DD has yet to win it. Two facts of the said match: Ojha topscored with better SR than Pathan; Warne bowled 4 overs at 6.5 runs each, better than Pathan. What did Gambhir say in the post match conference? He said, "I think Rajasthan was never a threat. Except for Yusuf Pathan, the other guys were pretty ordinary," He added. "We weren't really worried about anyone else." Gambhir's arrogant comments are contradictory to match facts, and not in sync with overall facts - RR is no pushover team. Next day, while defending himself, he scoffs at those having an unpleasant opinion on his view despite not having wielded a willow themselves! His attitude seems to be condescending. Sorry, I cannot applaud pompousness or laud writing that finds it refreshing. Cricket, and life in general, teaches us to be humble; winning or losing is just a part of the game...

  • cricwallet on April 11, 2010, 7:32 GMT

    I guess the reality is we never had fast(i mean actually fast) bowlers ..and with way our BCCI functions and prepares stadiums , we will never. Comment only on the article not on the person who posted it!!!....harsha's commentary and views are awesome and he is next to richie benaud....no doubts on that... On the other hand.. plzzzzzzzzzz some one change the IPL commentary team or atleast ask them not to talk gibberish.. Cons of IPL format: 1. Rubbish commentary team (words like city moment of success, karban kamaal catch...just yucky...) 2. Good for nothing cheer leaders 3. Pathetic strategic time outs 4. Ads between overs...i mean this really sucks... 5. frachise owners coming to every match... and sitting next to players..(i hope this doesn't infects the cricket boards staff and international matches) 6. Stupid hype over bollywood actors... (eg. huge hype for KNR since its owned by SRK..and not because they are good side..common i mean seriously... thats the level our cricket love.

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