Cricket Fans or Cricket Tragics?
What is the difference between a Cricket Fan and a Cricket Tragic? I could take the easy and less politically correct way out and say that a Cricket Fan is Indian and a Cricket Tragic is Australian but that is being unfair to Indians and probably a little too complimentary of Australians.
I think a more politically correct definition would be that a Cricket Fan lives in the now, they support their side through thick and thin, are somewhat blind to their transgressions, think that the media is without flaw and believes their side is without fault.
A Cricket Tragic on the other hand is a little more pragmatic. They understand that their side is only human and are just as free with their criticism of their side as they are with their praise. They do not see their side in isolation but can place it in a far broader, more historic context. They see the popular media as a source of, not the source of information and prefer to conduct their own research rather than rely on someone else’s.
This might be the most controversial statements I have ever made and I am already preparing to duck the inevitable diatribes that may follow but then again what is a blog without a little tête à tête?
Controversy aside why am I attempting making such a definition? Well, recently I wrote about Those Ugly Australians. This article grew from an incident where an Indian friend of mine (called K to protect the innocent) had made some comments about the Indian cricket team. These comments, whilst from the heart, attracted some heated debate, especially from one particular gentleman whom I shall call M.
M is a Cricket Fan in the truest sense of the definition. It was apparent that as far as he was concerned his side could do no wrong and he had a list of grievances’ both real and imagined as long as his arm. Regardless of what was said, regardless of what evidence was given M would not budge. The Indian team, in his eyes, was without reproach and the rest of the cricketing world was out to get them (and him) in one vast conspiracy of Machiavellian proportions.
So what was it exactly that set M off? What raised his ire so? Well it started rather innocently with only a slight hint of controversy when K stated that “Indian cricket fans are not just sore losers but sore winners as well. *sigh*”. I’m not one hundred per cent sure why she said this. The game she was referring to was the 4th match of the Commonwealth Bank Series, Australia versus India played at the Adelaide Oval. India had won the match thanks to some expansive stroke play by MS Dhoni and some undisciplined bowling during the death by the Australian’s.
I will admit the Indian’s deserved to win this one and I cannot recall the actions of the Indians or their supporters being anything overly out of the ordinary. Yet I am sure K saw something that elicited such a comment or else she would not have made it.
Initially the comments from her friends were fairly harmless. Even M started off with a joke claiming that K and her sister must have been Australian’s in a previous life. However, this was just the calm before the storm and it did not take long for M the Cricket Fan to unleash his first salvo. It came from left field….or long on in cricket speak and it was a ripper.
“wasn’t your ex-captain ricky ponting a sore winner too when he smashed a TV in the dressing room after his dismissal against Zimbabwe in the group stage of the 2011 WC? :D”
I remember this incident and can I remember the print and electronic media tripping over themselves in their efforts to vilify Ricky. I can also remember the Times of India being at the forefront of this media hysteria. At first a television had been smashed in a fit of childish rage, then there were reports of medics and ambulances rushing to the scene to tend to the scores of grievously wounded bystanders that had been “splashed by flying glass”. The Hindustan Times went as far as publishing comments made by a “reliable source” that it took 3 Australian’s players and staff to restrain Ponting as he continued his rampage through the dressing rooms.
I am sure that M the Cricket Fan saw this as vindication of his previously held belief that Australian cricket players were barely one step above animals in the evolutionary ladder and most likely joined the braying ranks of those calling for his dismissal, his resignation or even his execution.
However, the Cricket Tragic has discovered something less sensationalist. Having been run out on 28 Ponting returned to the dressing less than a happy man. CCTV footage that was released long after the furore had died down revealed that he pulled his out protective cup, or box, sat down and threw it at his kit back. He must have put his back into it as the box hit a bat protruding from his kit bag and ricocheted into the corner of a flat panel TV. The footage is fairly grainy but the TV was on before Ponting threw his box and remained on and seemingly functional after it was hit. Later, objective investigation revealed that a few pixels in the bottom, left hand corner had failed and the management of the Australian touring side immediately offered to replace it.
I am sure that both the Cricket Fan and the Cricket Tragic will agree that Ponting’s actions did not exactly cover him in glory. Yet it seems that whilst the Cricket Fan immediately jumped on the sack, dump, execute Ponting bandwagon the Cricket Tragic made sure that he saw all sides of the incident before making a decision. Ponting was angry, Ponting was disappointed, and Ponting agreed that in hindsight he should have stayed calmed. But Ponting is only human and I challenge anyone to say they would act differently in the same circumstances because I cannot.
The response to M’s first comment was a little lukewarm which must be why he followed it up with this one.
“and as a matter of fact, isn’t the whole aussie team a bunch of sore winners for the amount they sledge even when they’re on the verge of winning any match? Hmm losts of ponder about before you point the finger at your fellow Indians K :P”
The Cricket Tragic’s initial response would be “Ouch!” But if you read M’s statement carefully you can see he is already transitioning from simply making to point to having a rant. Yes the Australian side sledges, even the term sledge is reported to have been coined by journalist Tom Graveney after the Ashes Tour of 1974/75 where Rod Marsh and Ian Chappell – amongst others – took turns in rolling out insults more profane and rude than the previous.
Despite being credited with taking sledging into the modern age it is both unfair and naïve to assume that only Australia indulge in it. Sledging has become commonplace both in domestic and international cricket, so much so that the BBC County Cricket broadcasts are now preceded by a warning that warns viewers that “this broadcast may contain profane or distasteful language”.
A Cricket Fan is blind to the behaviour of his team but seems focused on every distasteful act, every rude word, every inappropriate gesture committed by the opposing side. A Cricket Tragic does not condone this behaviour but is resigned that it is a reflection of our modern society. Don’t believe me. Catch public transport when there are a score of school children on board and listen to their language. Often it is enough to make a sailor blush.
By now K’s friends had begun to sense that the tone of this conversation was beginning to change for the worse and one even went attempted to counter M’s comments with some logic by stating that,
“So people should only sledge if they’re losing? :/”
M replied that,
“^ no I never implied that, my point was the aussies love to sledge regardless of whether they’re winning or losing. They’re the only side in the world that thinks they can’t be hit for a four or a six when they’re on the field, and when that happens too often the sledging starts :)”
Well M seems to have firmly moved into rant mode. He is of the firm belief that the Australian side is the only side that believes they cannot or should not have their bowlers hit for four or six. How strange. Does this mean that the Indian, English, South African, Sri Lankan, New Zealand, Pakistani, West Indian and Bangladeshi sides all believe that their bowlers should be fit for four or six?
During his captaincy Steve Waugh coined the phrase ‘mental disintegration’. At its core mental disintegration was about the application of pressure, pressure that was created through aggressive and controlled bowling, tight field settings and even sledging; pressure that would eventually force an opposition player into making a mistake. The idea was the give the opposing player nowhere to hide, to sow the seeds of doubt, to distract them from the task at hand until they eventually disintegrated under the mental pressure.
Nor are the Australian’s habitual sledgers as there are some players they know do not sledge. Sir Viv Richards, Sachin Tendulkar, Kevin Pieterson, Andy Flower, Shahid Afridi and Younis Khan all come to mind. They feed off it, it motivates them. You sledge them once they hit you for four, you sledge them again they hit you for six, you sledge them again they take the game away from you.
All this seemed irrelevant to M. Before anyone had the opportunity to rebuff his comment he fired another broadside,
“and don’t even get me started on what a sore loser ponting makes (let alone him being a sore winner as I stated above) the look on his face on all the TV cameras when he’s captaining a losing side pretty much says it all, his face turns as small as a mash potato :P”
At this point in time the Cricket Tragic is checking to see whether the Cricket Fan is foaming at the mouth. It seems to M that Ponting is the second coming of the Antichrist, a destroyer of innocent televisions, a habitual sledger, a bad winner and an even worse loser and possessing a face that has the ability to turn as small as a mash potato!
His resemblance to a vegetable aside the Cricket Tragic would ask the question ‘How do you want Ricky Ponting to look?’ Do you want the blank, apathetic look that summed up MS Dhoni’s captaincy during the 4 – 0 whitewash at the hands of the Australian’s? Do you want him to smile and laugh as his side slides to a defeat? Or do you want a player who shows emotion? He wears his heart on his sleeve and makes his frustrations plain to see? The Cricket Tragic prefers the later as at least he knows his Captain is emotionally involved in the game.
By now K had returned to her thread and was obviously dismayed at what she saw. She made a valiant effort to defend Ponting from this ravening Cricket Fan by pointing out Ricky’s outstanding captaincy record when compared to other captains and with particular reference to Indian captains. Yet M continued unabated.
Another one of K’s friends mentioned that M may be a little oversensitive and this really raised his hackles.
“nope, not being oversensitive, it’s a gentleman’s game, sledging has no place in it whatever has to be said can be said of the field”
M by saying that cricket is a gentleman’s game you have, for a start, offended every female player to have played the game. It seems you have also conveniently forgotten Ishant Sharma and Virat Kholi recently making rude gestures to members of the paying public. Are these the gentleman you speak of? Have you also forgotten Surav Ganguly attending the toss in training garments when there is a gentleman’s agreement in place that both captains are to attend the toss wearing their team blazer?
Was Harbhajan Singh calling Andrew Symonds a “monkey” the actions of a gentleman? Was the vilification of Steve Bucknor at the 2nd Test in Sydney the behaviour of a group of gentleman? (FYI out of the 13 decisions which were subsequently identified as being umpire failures Steve Bucknor was only responsible for 4 but he was such a soft target for your group of gentleman wasn’t he?) The Cricket Tragic does not hesitate to reinforce their statements with genuine facts.
Now surprisingly things calmed down, efforts at mediation were made, troubled waters were partially calmed but M still had to have the final word and his statement marked his passage from an albeit still vaguely rational rant to the ridiculous.
“in all fairness, ponting may have all the captaincy records you claim, but he was the captain at the time when Australian cricket dominated for a few years! If any other player had to be captain of such a dominating side, he would have probably got the same records too, may be more, he just had a good side and he was captain at the right time, regardless of what the numbers say, im not impressed”
Hmmmm. For all the English or Philosophy teachers out there looking for a classic example of a circular argument I would like to refer you to the above. I have to congratulate M here as there is no way into his statement. He is almost worthy of a new definition, that of the Cricket Fundamentalist. His statement is almost the same as someone of a religious bent saying “God works in mysterious ways”. There is no coming back to that.
But I will give it a try.
To summarise M states that Ponting’s captaincy record is a reflection of the potency of the side he captained and not his skills as a captain or a leader. Technically he has a point. The Australian side from ~ 2000 to 2008 was very, very strong and featured once in a generation players such as Steve Waugh, Adam Gilchrist, Glenn McGrath, Shane Warne and even Ricky Ponting just to name a few.
However, irrespective of their individual talents a team is always a sum greater than its parts and that little extra, that X-factor is traditionally attributed to the leader. Without leadership you simply have 11 players on the field all playing to their own agenda, you have discord where you should have harmony.
Agreed there were always doubts about Ponting as a captain and I am not surprised considering that he stood in direct comparison to his two predecessors, namely Mark Taylor and Steve Waugh who were arguably two of the best players to have captained the Australian side. Yet such is his character that he did no shy away from the challenge, he did not shy away from the inevitable comparisons to Steve Waugh. Instead he took the reins and did his best. Something that cannot be said for that game of musical chairs that is the Indian captaincy.
This is however, just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to M statement. Through his attack of Ricky Pontings captaincy and his open ended statements he has just managed to slander and call into question the records of almost every successful captain in the history of cricket.
Applied more broadly, his statement that,
“If any other player had to be captain of such a dominating side, he would have probably got the same records too, may be more, he just had a good side and he was captain at the right time, regardless of what the numbers say”
Means that Sir Donald Bradman was just plain lucky to have such a group of talented individuals in his 1948 ‘Invincibles’ side and that it had nothing to do with the Don’s own captaincy skills. We can also call into question the competency of Viv Richards and Clive Lloyd and the West Indian sides of the 70’s and 80’s that vanquished all before them through a combination of lethal bowling and a batting line-up that saw the ball with the eyes like a dead fish. Oh, then there is Andrew Strauss, just a South African import called out to toss the coin for the English side. Obviously he had absolutely nothing to do with their success either.
Then there is Steve Waugh, or Lindsey Hassett, or Mike Brearley, or Michael Vaughan or even MS Dhoni. In a stroke M has consigned the contributions of these legends of the game to the historical dustbin as he believes it was not their talents as a captain that made their teams successful, instead he claims that they were just darned lucky to have good players underneath them.
In this instance the Cricket Tragic was inclined to give up. He had confronted the Cricket Fan, Fanatic, Fundamentalist, with logic, objective arguments, sound, documented facts and even some empathy and understanding but to no avail. M continued, blind to reasoning, blind to fact, a fountain of rage venting against every real and perceived transgression that had ever been committed against his side.
The Cricket Tragic was, at this point, ready to admit defeat and seek more of his kind where he could engage in passionate, educated and objective cricket discussion but M could not leave well enough alone and fired off one more volley before disappearing into the electronic ether.
“two egoistic aussie supporters feeling very proud of themselves, congrats, well done”
The Cricket Tragic would have read this, shrugged and moved on. However, this Cricket Tragic is weak, the Cricket Fan is still strong within him and often at odds with the Cricket Tragic. Just this once the Cricket Tragic will remain silent and allow the Cricket Fan to have the final say.
Screw you M what would you know you one eyed clown!