When cricket was the gentleman’s game

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.

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2 Responses to “When cricket was the gentleman’s game”

  1. Sudhir Pai Says:

    Hey!
    I’d like to point out that W G grace, with all due respects a great cricketer, was repute to disregard the umpires verdict if it was’nt in his favour as a batsmen, even having the nerve to suggest that “crowds pay and and come to watch him bat and not to watch him get dismissed “. But as you mentioned, money as a singular entity has poisoned the game. But to be fair with the cricketers, money as such has poisoned our lives in general. We are all witness to so much of greed an avrice in our lifetime, and majority of us demand our moneys worth from a spectator sport like cricket. And cricket like life in general is not without its uncertainities and it is this aspect that has been drawing people to cricket over the generations.

  2. Rishabh Says:

    Hey Sudhir!
    Thanks for that vital piece of info. I checked wikipedia and it says that the incident is “unverified”, but then again, you never know with there rumors. Many of them turn out to be true. I’ll promise to be ore careful with my facts next time.
    And yes, its the unpredictable nature of the game that’s drawing people to the grounds.


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