By Tirthankar Mitra
Victory or defeat is a part and parcel of any game. And cricket is no exception. The nation was saddened after the Indian cricketing 11 lost to an Australian side the final of the one day World Cup championship last Sunday. But there was one more reason to mourn the loss.
The surly behaviour of the Ahmedabad crowd at the sight of the end of an unbeaten winning spree of the men in blue coming to an end soured the mood of genuine cricket lovers. For the spirit of the game is supreme where ever willow hits the leather and wood cherry.
Every hit to the boundary is applauded in a cricket match. Taking of each catch is clapped in appreciation; after all is it not said that catches win matches. But a different and unseemly picture was telecast worldwide when a part of the crowd in an astounding display of insensitivity “greeted” the sporting feat of Travis Head. They turned the spirit of cricket on its head when they refused to acknowledge Heads heroics.
A deafening silence greeted the Australian when he raised his bat on the completion of a match-winning century. Nothing could be further from the spirit of cricket. Worse was to follow. When the two umpires, Richard Illingworth and Richard Kettleborough were booed when they were receiving their mementos.
Nothing could be more unwarranted. The match was free of any era on the part of the officials. The behaviour was not unprecedented in this venue. It is the same in victory or defeat as the Pakistan captain was subject to prejudiced condemnation during India’s match against their arch rivals.
Australian captain, Pat Cummins mentioned the crowd behaviour holding it in contrast to the conduct of the cricket fans in the rest of the country. This was to India’s utter shame. Cummins who once again proved that never write off the Aussies is right. It is part of cricket lore and recalled with pride by a recipient of Dada Saheb Phalke Award that in a India versus West Indies test match at Eden Gardens the crowd was in ruptures when Garfield Sobers ran to catch a snick all the way to boundary even as he was facing the sun.
The finest all rounder of cricket the like of whom the world is yet to see missed the catch. But the cricket lovers of a city till then called Calcutta gave him a standing ovation. Such sentiment resurfaced in Eden Gardens during a India-England test match when setting aside his bat and pad, Tony Greg sat on his knees and appealed to the crowd with folded hands as some of them were be beating utensils to disrupt his concentration. His appeal was upheld.
If one refreshes one’s memory it would not be a difficult recall the sight of Indian skipper Gundappa Vishwanath asking an English batsman to resume the crease even after he has been declared out in a centenary test match at Bombay. While England won, India reaffirmed its place in the hall of fame of cricket playing nations that it played the game in its true spirit.
A school of thought has pitched the idea that the final match of the one day World Cup should have been hosted by a city with better cricketing pedigree. After all, it was the most prestigious of the World Cup matches and the country was spoilt for choice in this matter.
There is no place for sore losers in Mumbai, Kolkata, Bengaluru and Chennai. Of course, Indian crowd behaviour in general do not conform to Ahmedabad. Throughout this World Cup, the Indians have cheered cerebrally and fairly. Thankfully, some of those who went to see the final match at Ahmedabad were an exception. Cricket is a global game. Let not parochialism invade it. (IPA Service)