Jim Laker takes his 10th wicket of the innings, collects his cap from the umpire and begins his nonchalant walk back to the pavilion. One of his victims shakes his hands. The respect for each other cannot be missed. It is a perfect picture from the glorious past when cricket was a gentleman's game.
In modern times, the frame often captures the bowler and the fielder in an aggressive mood following a dismissal. Pumping fists and mouthing profanities have come to be accepted as part of the game.
Many former greats feel that this behavioural degeneration is a result of the commercialisation of cricket. “Where is professionalism in a player using cuss words on the field?” asked Kapil Dev.
“Deplorable,” said Bishan Singh Bedi, ever the traditionalist. “It ought to be condemned, not highlighted.” He makes a strong plea for protecting the cricket culture on the field.
The Indian Premier League (IPL) showcases some of the best talent in the business. The dressing room is said to be a classroom where domestic players interact with international stars. The lessons learnt at the ‘nets' add to the players' learning process. “Where do they learn to behave so poorly then?” wondered former Test allrounder Madan Lal.
Some of the acts of “showmanship” are clearly rehearsed. They are contrived for the television audience but are far too animated for the spectators in the stands. Here, it is pertinent to note that similar gestures, offending, to say the least, are not seen during domestic matches, whether televised or not.
The official broadcaster has not helped either by focusing on the celebrations at a dismissal or a victory.
“They should shut out such poor behaviour,” demanded Bedi. A good suggestion, indeed, provided the director of the telecast took the desired step to “censor” such ‘live' shots.
According to a veteran from the broadcasting field, it is difficult to suddenly switch from the action spot. “The camera will search for a reaction shot, after a century, a crucial wicket. If the player hurls abuses, the cameraman can do little because there is no warning for him to move the camera. The camera will try to capture aggression on the field.”
Kapil argued, “Aggression doesn't mean becoming abusive. This is unacceptable because kids are watching the match along with their family. Cricket culture needs to be preserved and it certainly doesn't teach you to abuse your opponent. It was not so rampant in our time.”
The Australians and South Africans were known to sledge but not let out expletives the way it is done now.
“It's time the administrators stepped in to stop this rubbish. Tomorrow someone may hit someone. If you can abuse in the heat of the moment, then someone can hit you too,” said Madan.
How did the great West Indian fast bowlers of the '70s and '80s react? “They never abused,” recalled Madan.
“If you irritated them, the next ball would come at 160.”
An emotional outburst is understandable, but not repeated abusive behaviour.
These former stars rightly countered, asking why the interactions with great players on and off the field did not improve their conduct.
One can't remember players like Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Anil Kumble, V.V.S. Laxman, Virender Sehwag and M.S. Dhoni ever using foul language even in private conversations, let alone on the field.
“I would expect some of the mentors or the franchise to step in and take firm steps to stop this. You are not setting a good example by abusing your own colleague just because he is playing for some other franchise,” said Kapil.
But why indulge in such crass celebration at all? Kapil said, “I am reminded of what Bishan paaji once said. ‘They use profanities in utter disbelief. Even they can't believe they have taken a wicket, a catch or made a century'. I agree with him.”
The former players are hoping that the Board and IPL General Council would step in soonand stop such kind of behaviour.
“I am surprised there is a fine for dissent at the umpire's decision but nothing for using abusive language,” said Kapil.
I am sure the match referees are also watching this. Celebrating is something beautiful to watch. Every player has a distinct style of celebration. Can anyone take pride in an expletive-laden celebration?” asked Kapil.
Now the ball is in the court of the Board and the official broadcaster — whether to shut out the abusive style of celebration or penalise the player/franchisee appropriately.