Gentleman’s game? Keep dreamin’

 ‘Cricket: The Gentleman’s game’. It’s a phrase that is so robustly used by the upper cricketing echelons that those who have not yet witnessed the contest between bat and ball would be forgiven for thinking cricket is an old man’s match, debated instead of contested and located in a local country club rather than on the dustbowls of Hyderabad.

Despite history portraying cricket as a friendly and fruitful game with sportsmanship at its forefront, everyone agrees that the recent series between India and Australia in March proved otherwise. The cricketers constitution; the spirit of cricket, once exquisitely written upon a crisp piece of parchment was ripped-up, tarnished and thrown about until it resembled a scribbling on the side of a public bus in Doonside.

Everyone expected the charismatic Virat Kohli and the stern, yet baby-faced, Steven Smith to lead their respectful sides with dignity, integrity and passion. What we received was a spirited fight between two schoolgirls and their posses over who owns the coveted schoolyard. Only this clash was held on the first-class grounds of India and the prize was not the reverence of your peers, instead it was the Border-Gavaskar trophy, an award that demands much more respect than it was shown. The battle shares resonance with the bodyline tactics of the Brits in the 30’s, only this behaviour was far more pitiful.

The contest between posse one and posse two was so hot that it inevitably boiled over and off the field, inciting rage, quarrels and bickering between administrators and even spectators. The Cricket Australia Facebook page was filled with abuse, swearing and, of course, countless spelling errors. But that leaves us with the question: why? Why has the spirit of cricket been so carelessly tossed out of the window and a dazzling light shone on quarrels off the field rather than dashing performances on it? The worst part is that this carelessness for a spirited contest where one can play without the fear of humiliation or discrimination has trickled down into the deepest depths of local cricket. One has only to stop by their local park to hear the taunts and jeers by fieldsman at the defenceless batsman, who has only their equally defenceless teammate up the other end offering an expression that says ‘better you than me’. Umpires are considered gutless, vacillating creatures and are shown little respect. Despite their best efforts to stamp out this abuse and intimidation (yellow cards and suspensions have been introduced, as well as charges for audible obscenities), there is no stopping this phenomenon as long as it happens at the top and is batted around the fields of social media. There is no escaping this tit-for-tat, he-said-she-said brand of international cricket. And do our internationals care? Of course not. As long as they get their million dollars a season, what’s a 10,000 dollar fine? But the cost of this behaviour is much more than that. It is turning Australian cricket into an unforgiving, unrelenting, baron wasteland of abuse, aggression and complete disregard for the roots of the game that we all thought were to be entrenched for life. The Gentleman’s game is dead. The brutes are at the wicket.

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