June 23, 2007
by Rishabh Kaul
Lagaan, though fictitious, with all its espionage fused magically with the British pulverizing the villagers off-field gave a very wrong impression of cricket in the nineteenth century.
In the early years it was truly a gentleman’s game. The game was an embodiment of class and dignity coupled with sophistication and elegance. The phrase It’s not cricket was in use as much off the field as on it, and was used for events not necessarily related to the game of bat and ball.
The ideal cricketer would adhere to the spirit of the game which was sportsmanship. He would call the batsman back if a false verdict was given in his favou, he would walk off the field if he knew he was out though the rival team didn’t appeal for it and would surely beg for forgiveness for excessive appealing.
Ah, those were the days, with Victor Trumper and W.G. Grace with their technically sound drives dominating with the bat and legendary greats such as Spofforth (nicknamed the Demon, and single-handedly responsible for the Ashes as we know them today) scalping wickets.
The great Don himself, who was known for putting most bowlers to shame, respected the spirit of the game and himself would sacrifice his wicket if he noticed that a bowler was trying too hard and wasn’t meeting success (by a whisker) for a long time.
People say that the game has changed, with the spirit no longer prevailing amongst the players. It’s easy to support the argument with the numerous instances of players having rows with umpires, mutiny by team members against the captain, swearing (remember the Sarwan/Mcgrath tamasha), excessive appealing (spearheaded by Souravda).
But what were the players playing for back in the old days? Honour and Pride. Add millions of dollars, contracts, deals and all the other complexities that govern the game today. Would the scenario still have been the same? Players back then didn’t depend on the game for their bread and champagne, nor did they see the need to get their body insured. Man of the Match winners back then didn’t receive Audis and Land Rovers.
Each appeal that’s not given the finger costs the team thousands of dollars. Everything is digitized, even the slightest of remarks gets blown out of proportion (and almost immediately the Chappell Finger fiasco comes to mind).
There comes the occasional incident that brings back memories of the olden days, but for the greater part, the gentleman’s game has a huge cover of bureaucracy and hundred dollar bills resting over it.