July 28, 2023: In all sports, winning is the goal that one plays for. It all boils down to performing the best as an individual and as a team.
The pressure to perform to one’s optimum ability or for one’s team or country is a subconscious, constant reminder that exists well before one finally takes to the field. Anxiety, sleepless nights, worry, and uncertainty are just some of the effects that a cricketer confronts before a game.
The adrenaline is in full flow during one’s performance. Although one is consciously aware of keeping one’s temperament in check, the inevitable outburst does happen.
The sole reason is that a sportsperson has immersed oneself into a mental state of performing well. Many hours of hard work and pain go into one’s preparation and when one is deprived, or one feels cheated, an angry retort can regretfully emerge.
Sitting on the sidelines, one can easily say that one needs to be calm and collected at all times. Ten deep breaths, and thinking before one speaks, are easy to articulate, but in the heat of the moment, it is very difficult to display.
Trained diplomats and leaders have failed in the past and expecting every sportsperson to do so is a hugely difficult ask.
Harmanpreet Kaur, the Indian women’s cricket captain, during the recent third and final ODI match of the series versus Bangladesh, like several sportspersons before, went into a moment of rage on being given out. Dreadful umpiring was her reason for not only her dismissal but also for her team being denied a win.
One sympathises with her, as her primary goal was a commitment to win for her country. For her to be denied it blinded her momentarily and she felt she needed to spell it out openly. Unfortunately, she is paying a heavy price for it, being banned from playing in the next two international matches. One hopes that the BCCI does not penalise her further.
Kaur’s action, however, justifiable it may be for her, unfortunately, is not expected from the captain of a national cricket team, one who has to accept the positive and negative results of one’s actions.
One does not condone what Kaur said and did; however, bad umpiring has been at the core of many such incidents in the past.
The match referee, rather than penalising the defaulter, should also take a serious stand on the ‘accused’ umpires. If found biased, they should ensure that the person concerned should be permanently banned from umpiring in an international game. One wonders if any such action was taken after Kaur’s verbal outburst. An unfair umpire is more detrimental to the game of cricket than a few spoken words by a player.
Umpiring is a very difficult, challenging and at most times an unappreciated task in cricket. The DRS, independent and non-conflicted umpires have brought about a huge amount of comfort in the way international cricket games are played, presently. In the days gone by, every country had a favouritism tag attached to them. At times one accepted the genuine errors, however, the history of cricket has many such incidents of umpires cheating.
This is an area no cricketer appreciates. Unfortunately, one has seen in India, this emanates from the very grassroots level of the game and continues to do so even at the First-Class level.
There has to be severe punishment for any biased umpiring at every level of the game. An umpire needs to be fair and honest. One has not seen any of the accused umpires reprimanded or penalised parts of their match allowance, ever.
Umpires are the sole authority on the field and if any accusation of cheating is alleged against them, then that needs to be seriously looked at.
Every cricketer in one’s career has faced a bad decision which has ignited anger and frustration. Indian men’s team captains have not been any different from Kaur. Sunil Gavaskar in Melbourne in 1981 and Bishan Bedi in Pakistan in 1978 are a couple that come to mind.
In 1979 when I was a part of the Indian team, we were chasing a mammoth total of 438 to win against England at Lords. We were denied a certain victory because of biased umpiring. Fortunately, in those days one did not have stump microphones or else many of us would have been in the cooler.
The ICC needs to be stricter and seriously concerned about the umpiring in tournaments that do not have DRS or Independent umpires.
Similarly, all the cricket-playing nations need to take the task of umpiring and appointment of umpires as a very important area of concern.
Cricket is a gentleman’s game, and it is time for us to find the root of the problem rather than just focus on the final outcome. Cricket needs to be played hard but fair and anything that tarnishes it needs to be put to rest as soon as possible.
A cricketer’s regretful outburst should be a thing of the past.
A fair game of cricket is what cricketers and their millions of viewers aspire for and one cannot excuse bad umpiring on any account.
(Yajurvindra Singh is a former Test cricketer. Views expressed are personal.)