“Players do react, which is nothing but a natural response. Should players be reprimanded for such things? Shouldn’t the players be given some liberty to express themselves and not curb their natural instincts? The questions are there and will always be, but when will the answers pour”?
“It (cricket) has never been a gentleman’s game. That is a totally Victorian notion of the game that even the English don’t believe in anymore,” Ayaz Memon, a cricket commentator and broadcaster, was once quoted by the New York Times.
Sledging has always been a part of the game, it only adds to the theatre. Cricket creates emotions, emotions that a human body wants to express on the field, in a rush of blood perhaps. And most of the fans love it, especially in contemporary cricket, it adds to the folklore. Although cricketers do tend to go overboard at times, which should be scrutinised and appropriate action should be taken, but where the line should be drawn remains an open debate. Imagine how stale a game of cricket would be without any emotion, intensity and drama?
Last week, South African pacer Kagiso Rabada was reprimanded by the ICC for an animated send-off to his victim Shikhar Dhawan during the fifth ODI at Port Elizabeth. Rabada was fined 15 percent of his match fee and also received one demerit point after being found guilty of a Level 1 breach of the ICC Code of Conduct for Players and Player Support Personnel.
If a player garners four demerit points within 24 months, he gets a solitary Test or two ODI or T20I game ban, whichever comes first. The points remain on a player’s disciplinary record for 24 months. If a player accumulates eight demerit points within 24 months, the ban doubles. Rabada now has five demerit points within 24 months.
Kagiso Rabada has been fined 15% of his match fee and given one demerit point after he was charged for using aggressive language/gestures during the 5th #SAvIND ODI.https://t.co/1Vs3PzMSJh pic.twitter.com/oXYRFk3XKh
— ICC (@ICC) February 14, 2018
During the England tour last year, Rabada faced a suspension in the second Test when he accumulated four demerit points. If he reached the eight-point mark within 24 months from the time when he got his first demerit point, he will be suspended for two Tests or four shorter-format games.
If one introspects Rabada’s behaviour, it was more of an animated reaction and nothing brutally wrong about it. He waved at Dhawan and pointed his way back to the pavilion along with some verbals. Match officials charged him for using language and gestures that could have provoked an aggressive reaction from his counterpart, which Rabada admitted to. Cricket has seen instances of sledging for a very long time now, and it only adds to the theatre further creating more intensity. Though at times, players tend to go overboard, which should be analysed and appropriate action should be taken but reprimanding players for such petty issues is just overlooking the human aspect of the game.
The point is – Are cricketers human? If yes, then do have emotions to express, they do have the penchant to act or operate in a particular way in different situations. One just can’t ignore this human aspect. With a plethora of rules associated with the on-field behaviour of a player coming into play, the human factor is being overlooked. Robots are not the ones playing this game, but humans are, one needs to consider human behaviour in a particular situation.
Also, as per the demerit cycle, Rabada will face a two-Test ban if he collects eight points. Basically, he will be punished twice for the same offence. Is this fair? Should a player be punished twice for something he did months ago and has already faced a ban. The fact that the demerit points are valid even after a player has faced suspension is mind-boggling.
Although the whole idea behind this system is to prevent a player from intentionally making mistakes with a fear of getting banned, but it is certainly unfair. Also, what if a player reached the four-point or eight-point threshold before a crucial, a knock-out or a final game? Will it not hamper a team’s fortune? Will the players be given a leeway, some exception in such high-voltage situation?
Another instance that took place last week was with Zimbabwean all-rounder Sikandar Raza.
Raza was fined 15 percent of his match fee and handed a demerit point during the third one-day international (ODI) against Afghanistan in Sharjah on Tuesday. Raza was found guilty for violating Article 2.1.5 of the ICC Code of Conduct for Players and Player Support Personnel, which relates to ‘showing dissent at an umpire’s decision during an international match’.
— ICC (@ICC) February 14, 2018
Raza didn’t look happy with the decision and the replay suggested that middle and off stumps were visible at the point of impact. Raza question umpire’s decision by raising his arms and waiting at the crease for some time. Not talking about this incident, but umpires do make massive errors on the field, which at times leaves the batsman furious.
Players do react, which is nothing but a natural response. Should players be reprimanded for such things? Shouldn’t the players be given some liberty to express themselves and not curb their natural instincts? The questions are there and will always be, but when will the answers pour? But is ICC ignoring the human factor by standardising players remains an open debate!