Cricket used to be referred as a “Gentleman’s Game.” It now seems like an oxymoron.
Just look at the events from the last couple of weeks. Contrasting actions from the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) & Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) shed light into a changing world and the role sports & media play in the larger scheme of things.
Why Shakib, Why?
A video went viral last week where Shakib Al Hasan broke the stumps twice in the same Dhaka Premier League (DPL) match. Have a look below. It is pretty disheartening.
What was the result of his actions? Three match ban and monetary fine. That’s all.
Shakib Al Hasan is one of my all-time favorite players. He might go down as the best all-rounder cricket has ever seen. Definitely Bangladesh’s all-time best.
This does not however, or at least should not, excuse him from such unruly behavior.
Mohammad Isam beautifully outlines the growing influence of Shakib’s indiscipline and his utter disregard for the “game, his colleagues, or the officials.” Since Shakib is an integral part of the Bangladesh national team, his previous bans have been reduced to accommodate him.
History of Indiscipline in Recent Bangladesh Cricket
What’s worse? It is not the first time, and most likely will not be his last.
Shakib’s first public outburst came way back in 2010, abusing a spectator who was blocking the sightscreen. A few more instances of trouble occurred in 2011, but he was not reprimanded. The first action taken against him was in 2014, when he was banned for 3 matches for displaying an inappropriate gesture on live television. A six month ban ( eventually reduced to three months) followed in 2014 due to internal disputes with coach Hathurusingha and his threats to quit international cricket. Finally, the most serious suspension was a year-long hiatus imposed by the ICC in 2019 for Shakib not reporting a bookie approach.
Just a few weeks ago, Mushfiqur Rahim, who himself has some history of anger & premature celebrations, displayed his rage on the field to his own teammate.
Nidahas Trophy was especially infamous for such antics. Snake-dance celebration, Shakib calling players back in the middle of a game, and Mahmudullah’s display of anger prior to his last ball six.
Although these senior players have to take responsibility, there is a larger picture at play here. Isam portrays that the entire Bangladesh system is to blame—biased umpiring, poor administration & leadership, local club bias/corruption, points manipulation, etc.
Poor environment breeds poor behavior. As simple as that.
Ollie Robinson: The Other Side of the Coin
England’s hands-on policy to deal with disciplinary issues lies on the other end of the spectrum.
27-year old Ollie Robinson had a magnificent debut in the first Test against England, taking 4/75 & 3/26 to go along with a solid 42. During the Test, his racist and sexist tweets reemerged from 2012. These comments are completely inexcusable, even if it was an 18-year-old tweeting it who did not have a professional contract back then.
The result? The ECB has suspended Robinson from all international cricket until further disciplinary investigation and has announced a ‘historical review’ of England players’ social media posts. Since then, another unnamed player’s tweets are under the scanner, who was under 16 at the time of the tweet.
- Ollie Robinson provides a written apology.
- He announces a short break from cricket to be with his family due to social media pressure.
- Dom Bess deactivates his Twitter account as a precautionary measure
- McCullum-Morgan-Buttler’s old tweets mocking English of other fans & players are bashed by twitterati.
England promises swift action, zero-tolerance policy, series of workshops, & self-education. Commentators like Nasser Hussain, captain Joe Root, and Jimmy Anderson have all pitched in to further the conversation on inclusiveness and focus on “improving [themselves] as people.” Even Prime Minister Boris Johnson had a say—claiming Robinson’s punishment was too severe.
In order to help make the society more inclusive & tolerant, actions need to be taken, but how far is too far?
Alex Hales & Joe Clarke
England is not the embodiment of gentleman’s game either. Far from it. Just like Bangladesh, this is not the first in England’s cricket either.
- Azeem Rafiq’s botched racism legal investigation in Yorkshire
- Ben Stokes & Alex Hales’ involvement in Bristol brawl (2015)
- Craig Overton’s vilifying comments to Sussex’s Ashar Zaidi (2017)
- Alex Hepburn rape case (2017), which also included Englishmen Joe Clarke & Tom Kohler-Cadmore
- Alex Hales’ use of recreational drugs on the eve of the 2019 World Cup.
This was just a recent list of incidents. I am sure there are several more and numerous unreported cases.
Fine Line Between Cancel Culture And Laissez-Faire?
Hales, one of the catalysts of England’s rise to the top in limited overs cricket, has yet to make a comeback despite completing rehabilitation and performing in T20 leagues. Similarly, Joe Clarke has been performing consistently in T20 Blasts circuits, but it is unlikely he will ever be selected on the international arena.
On the other hand, punishments for Shakib and co vary are not harsh at all. Yes, racism and anger against an umpire are two different things, but there needs to be a standardized guidance from ICC.
This gets me to my final point—where do you draw the fine line?
Cancel and woke culture, accentuated by the age of social media, has been a major factor in all this. If nobody found out about the Robinson’s tweets, would he have been reprimanded? Resurfacing social posts and twitter policing, courtesy random people sitting behind screen’s and criticizing the world, can have a major impact on someone else’s career & life. Social media is good to awaken certain conversations, but whether it should be utilized for hasty actions is another question.
The BCB has employed a more laissez-faire approach while ECB’s handling is much more extreme, influenced by cancel culture. In reality, disciplinary guidelines should be somewhere in the middle.
George Dobell offers an apt solution—Amnesty. Instead of digging up old tweets and punishing retroactively, why not accept the mistake, “outline modern-day expectations and penalties, and provide a fresh start”?
One thing is for certain — cricket is no longer a gentleman’s game. Culture and societies are evolving and cricket should follow suit, albeit in a careful manner.
COPYRIGHT @Nitesh Mathur, aka Nit-X, 06/16/2021; Email at email@example.com
Image Courtesy: Image by Edward Lich from Pixabay