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A captain's responsibility extends beyond his team

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Steve_Smith_Australia_Cricket_captainSteve Smith. What is wrong with you, mate? Why on earth did you stake your reputation on what can only be labelled as thoroughly naïve or downright stupid? I have been looking up to you and Kohli as the pillars on which the edifice of cricket rests in the 21st century. And now one of them has started cracking.

As a member of one of the two countries which kicked off Test cricket in the 19th century, you shoulder a much greater responsibility on your shoulders than other cricket captains (the English one apart). A much greater one, I repeat!

Wielding an aluminium bat, kicking the umpire intentionally and then making it seem accidental, sledging as if it was as natural as breaking wind, pushing Sharad Pawar aside disrespectfully to ‘make room on the winners’ stage’ (readers may have forgotten this), and now ball tampering - quite openly at that. A team which has been regarded the best for quite some time now is now raising eyebrows about the means it has adopted brashly en route to success and afterwards.

Even Steve Waugh, who has gone down in cricketing history as one of the great captains, was known to be a habitual sledger. I would not be using a hyperbole if I said that many wickets bagged by the Aussies were ‘caught sledging bowled sledging’. Readers surely recall how Murali and Bhajji were dubbed as chuckers (by who else, where else?)….a ploy the Aussies resorted to (with the motive being the same as the one behind sledging), to unsettle and unnerve bowlers whom they were finding difficult to master.

Why should we blame Ganguly and Kohli for being brash on the field? Of course, everyone cannot be as silently tough-as-nails as Rahul Dravid or magnanimous as Gundappa Vishwanath. I would like to recall what Kris Srikkanth said about reacting to sledging by the Aussie quicks, on the TV show – Sunil Gavaskar presents, many years ago. ‘I need not respect them if they do not respect me. They are not my father or grandfather. If they sledge, I will talk back…’

 

Which countries must the new teams foraying into the international circuit – Nepal, UAE, Afghanistan etc. – look up to for inspiration? The ‘white Brahmins’ of the game who resort to underhand tactics by assuming that they have the God-given right to do so? Or the ‘brown/black’ teams who do not use such tactics and often lose gallantly, playing the game in a gentlemanly way as the Poms conceived it originally. But then, they also had people like Jardine and Larwood in their midst who redefined ‘gentlemanly’ in a curious way.

 

Steve Smith…you won’t be captaining the Rajasthan Royals in the IPL this year any more. What an irony, when one considers that the team was once captained by the inimitable Rahul Dravid! You have been suspended for one year. It will be a black mark for sure, one of many which you have accumulated for yourself, just like all those centuries and half-centuries and runs in all the forms of the game.

‘Good, hard and aggressive cricket’…is not that what you said to defend yourself? Hard with profanities, abuses, sledging and aggressive with ball-tampering! ‘Aadat se majboor’ [I don’t have a choice because it’s a habit] we would say in India, and often tend to shrug our shoulders and look away. That is what we have been doing, mate, all along…appreciating the Aussie grit and the ‘never-say-die’ attitude. But can you ‘never-say-die’, without uttering profanities, mate? And ‘brain-fade’, my friend...nice term at the spur of the moment!

Mr Waugh may have got away with it, Mr Smith….but you will now be under the scanner. Constantly. As a friend of mine, said, this will stay with you till the end of your career.

If you play the IPL for RR ever again, remember to take a leaf out of the book of the bloke whom you played under, for this IPL-team, till a few years ago. It will do you a lot of good. What shocks me, mate, is the fact that you, of all people, need not stoop so low, when you have already managed to spread your wings and soar high…prematurely!

And yes, if it was you or Warner that asked the newcomer Bancroft to do what he did, I am sorry to say…it just shows that you do not hesitate to jeopardise the careers of your teammates.

Sorry, Steve. You have really let down all the fans who admired you as a great thing that happened to the game of cricket. Now, it becomes more difficult for us to admire the Aussie tenacity which used to leave us awestruck.

 

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G Venkatesh (born 1972) is a senior lecturer in Energy and Environment, at Karlstad University in S...

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