So the next Test starts in Manchester, as much with the fragrance of wonderful talents on display as with the stench of ugly confrontation and the disagreeable odour of verbal abuse in the air. In England, in the last home of Test cricket, where reside the guardians of the laws and the spirit of the game, there are few voices condemning abuse and possible violence. But it is not in England alone. All over the world, the administrators and the referees given the honour of upholding all that is good about the game, have two eyes but none for the kind of behaviour we see on the field of play.
Instead, players and personalities of repute are asking people to “man up”, they are asking if anyone got hurt, are ridiculing people for going running to their parents to complain. I do not hear these guardians of the game saying “Jimmy, what you said was wrong. You have set a terrible standard for another generation. You must face the consequences.” It turns out there are no consequences.
I am intrigued by the expression “man up”. Presumably it means accept the filthiest abuse, be called “you f***ing fat c**t” and turn a blind eye to it. What next then? Such language in a pub can be accompanied by a brawl, a tussle, fisticuffs. You “man up” to that? Already in the IPL we have seen a bowler hurl a ball at the batsman and the batsman retaliate with the bat. Nobody was banned there either, presumably Kieron Pollard had “manned up” to Mitchell Starc. Cricket let itself down that day and it let itself down when nobody from the game’s governing body spoke a word in public castigating Jimmy Anderson for using the language Umpire Oxenford said he did.
All teams guilty
And before people, worried more about tiny constituencies, start going off about an Indian speaking out against the behaviour of a player from another country, my stand on this is consistent. I was appalled by Shikhar Dhawan’s imitation of Shane Watson, by Andrew Symonds’ verbal tirade against Manish Pandey some years ago and by one of the worst of them all, the McGrath-Sarwan face off. My point is simple. The moment we allow the kind of language Anderson used against an opponent, we clear the deck for the next stage.
What nonsense this “manning up” is! Apart from everything else, it also suggests we are the shallower half of the world. People have differences. Earlier this year, Novak Djokovic played Roger Federer in one of the most glorious chapters of all sport, not just tennis. Neither felt the need to call each other a “f##%%+** fat c#**#” Would the chair umpire at Wimbledon say “man up continued…