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Be a sportsman first then a cricketer

Cricket’s reputation rests on sportsmanship and players must respect tradition

Image Credit: AP
Virat Kohli
Gulf News

The ongoing Indian Premier League (IPL) brought to light major differences of opinion among India’s top cricketers.

The Virat Kohli-Gautam Gambhir ugly on-field spat and Shantakumaran Sreesanth’s disclosure, after nearly five years since the slapgate incident, that Harbhajan Singh is a back stabber exposes the lack of camaraderie and appreciation for each other despite being part of Team India and spending most of their time playing and practising together.

Such incidents also reveal how money and power can spoil players and transform them into unsporting sportsmen. Cricket earned its reputation and glamour through acts of sportsmanship by players, and it is unfortunate that some of today’s cricketers are tarnishing the game’s image.

What attracted me most to cricket is the manner in which players kept up the spirit of the game. Rarely do we see in other sports players applauding an opponent for a spectacular performance like in cricket.

Every century or a deadly bowling spell is often applauded. This is a tradition that has been passed on from one generation to another. When a bunch of players, despite being talented, destroy these ethics, they should ask themselves whether they are worthy of being called cricketers.

Kohli is being seen as India’s future captain, and if he continues to expose his lack of control over his emotions, it will do him more harm than good. Being aggressive is understandable, being arrogant isn’t.

Cricketers who walk off abusing a bowler after being dismissed should take time to watch video footage of players such as the late ex-England skipper Tony Greig, who once applauded India off-spinner Erapalli Prasanna for getting him out with a beautiful delivery. I was also witness to Australia’s Adam Gilchrist’s walking off right after being given not out by umpire Rudi Koertzen in the 2003 World Cup semi-final against Sri Lanka in Port Elizabeth.

To accept a decision and walk off, especially when he was just getting into his stride, speaks volumes of Gilchrist’s sportsmanship.

Whatever heights Kohli, Gambhir, Sreesanth or Harbhajan may reach as players, they must be aware that they will never be remembered as sportsmen but only for their knocks or deadly spells. To leave an indelible mark, one has to play the game in its spirit.

All successful cricketers candidly admit that they owe a lot to the game. The least they can do is not to indulge in public acts of shame even if they have nothing to offer back to the game.

Sporting acts should begin from school cricket, and coaches as well as parents should instil sporting qualities in every youngster. Skills can be learned but sportsmanship has to be imbibed.