A cultural change in cricket (Column: Close-in) - Window To News
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A cultural change in cricket (Column: Close-in)

Saturday - April 4, 2020 10:46 am , Category : SPORTS
"The World is Flat", a book written by Thomas Friedman analysing globalisation in the 21st century, is very relevant to the way cricket has developed around the world. Technology has made communication, travel and interaction fast and easy, making distances irrelevant. Friedmans book has had its critics, quite understandably so, as trade barriers, country regulations and protection created obstacles that diffused the very essence of flatness.
Cricket, fortunately has no such qualms, as the rules of cricket have a common thread among all those who play it. The International Cricket Council (ICC) has been making a constructive effort in popularising the game in the far corners of the world.
The T20, the shortest format of the game, makes cricket easier to follow and play and if it does find a place in the Olympics, cricket as a sport could become a huge success. The last time cricket was played in the Olympics was way back in the year 1900 when England won the gold medal whereas, the silver was won by France, a country that has since moved away from the game.
One does see stray cricket matches being played around France, but as stories go, the defeat at the hands of the British empire was just not palatable for France to continue playing the sport anymore.
Cricket has all the ingredients and character that makes it a "gentleman's game". In the earlier days, cricket was played hard but in a sporting and honest manner. There was applause and appreciation by fellow players and an aura that created a passion and enjoyment not only among the 22 players playing it but also among the spectators and fans following it.
The cricket culture, thereafter, gradually changed for the worse. Winning at all costs became the norm and the gentlemen's sport suddenly developed into a typical street brawl. Cricket went from being fun and enjoyable to become a game full of verbal swearing and cheating.
Cricket with the introduction of television escalated viewership immensely as the game became easier to watch and follow. However, the unfair, uncalled for retorts were still a part and parcel of the game.
The word "sledging" became a part of the cricket dictionary and Australia became the epicentre of it in the early 70's. There were some very funny remarks that emerged, however, kindness and friendship were certainly not a part of it.
The stump microphone is what brought some sanity into play. Conversations were recorded and the access to it in the spectrum that it covered, at least had some positive effect in controlling the hooliganism that had penetrated into the royal game.
The flat world as Friedman visualised is the way cricket is heading towards, presently. The various T20 leagues, the several international cricket encounters, the easy and now familiar travel and stay has brought cricketers closer to one another. Although, the sport does bring in that bit of rivalry, however, friendship and camaraderie also seem to emanate, thereafter. Cricketers from all around the world presently look as though they have a very close bonding. They seem to have formed a fraternity that are fighting together for the good of the game.
There seems to be a human touch coming back before, during and after the match. This is the cultural change that one can see as cricketers are getting more comfortable with each other. This is excellent for the game of cricket.
Australia, the team known for sledging and winning at all costs, previously decided to make a radical change after some of their players were found ball-tampering in South Africa in 2018. Their fans and followers were hurt after the incident. Cricket Australia, therefore, instilled a cultural change of playing the game fair, as good human beings, respecting the opponents, abstaining from abusing but retorting through some healthy banter instead.
This change has revolutionised Australian cricket and cricketers for the better. They are now a side on the rise, where the respect for the game and their opponents is far more important than being victorious at all costs. Their crowds and fans are flocking back and the present Australian team has become a true example of the how cricket goodness can prevail if pursued correctly.
The most important text in the Olympic games is so relevant to the way cricket needs to be nurtured in the future. "It is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well".
(Yajurvindra Singh is a former Test cricketer. Views expressed are personal)

--IANS ys/aak