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Thank goodness common sense has prevailed

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PETER ROEBUCK
PETER ROEBUCK

Thank goodness common sense has prevailed. Thank goodness the man made storm has passed and the game of bat and ball can continue to enrich our lives. After all it is only a game, and not a bad one at that.

Cricket tests a player's skill and resolve, and sometimes his temper. What was it that Rudyard Kipling said about the person who could keep his head when all around were losing theirs? At least until the next insensitive remark or contentious intervention, or hot spirited over-reaction, normal service can be resumed.

Untimely accusation

Thank goodness Inzamam has been properly called to account for his intemperate conduct at The Oval. Admittedly his team, and he seemed to think his entire nation had fallen foul of an untimely accusation made by a headstrong umpire.

Still, a captain cannot remain sulking in his tent when there is a match to be played and a crowd to be entertained. He could not hope to escape scot-free, must accept his punishment and move on, as did Rahul Dravid when he was detected taking liberties with a ball in Brisbane. Thank goodness he has been cleared of tampering with the ball.

Thank goodness Dean Jones has been allowed back into the commentary box. Certainly he deserved to be censured for his silly gag, but there was no need to send him permanently into the long dark night. His employers were right to teach him a lesson and then call him back.

Beyond argument Jones does not spend long weighing up his thoughts. Curbing himself has never been his caper. Let's face it, though, the game is duller without characters of this sort. Sometimes they talk nonsense, sometimes they are soothsayers.

A surprise

Frankly this outbreak of peace in our game came as a surprise. Cricket and logic have seldom been bedfellows. Nor does it take much to disturb the game's troubled tranquillity. Appearances can be deceptive. Figures in white may flit stylishly across our screens, resembling characters from the Jazz Age, but the impression is misleading. Cricket never has belonged to the delicate. Beyond the manners can be found proud and competitive men prepared to send down bumpers both literal and metaphoric.

Moreover cricket is a physical game. Croquet, golf and bowls are civilised recreations whose struggles take place in deferential silence. Contrastingly cricket tolerates direct and sometimes violent confrontation. It is legal to hurl a lump of leather at an opponent's head from not far away, with the intention of spreading fear if not causing harm.

Nowadays it goes deeper. Nations have asserted their freedom, old orders have broken down. No game, let alone a colonial relic, could expect to remain unaffected by these changes. By and large cricket has improved, become a game for the masses where once it belonged to the elite.

Fierce debate

Accordingly it has become a topic of fierce debate. Insults and setbacks are keenly felt. Even the smallest upset can produce agitation as crowds howl for vengeance and newspapers work themselves into a lather.

People care about this game, invest a lot in it. They care about their team, their country, their faith, their colour, and react to every apparently hostile remark. They care about their families and their heroes, and often confuse them.

Often it takes ages for the agitation to die down. But tempers eventually cool. And then the fast bowler goes back to his mark, and Inzy leads his team onto the field and Dean Jones picks up his microphone. Without passion, a game dies. Without discipline, a game flounders.

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