There is not the slightest doubt that cricket has become more competitive in recent years and the standard of the game has risen considerably. The gap between teams is hardly there now, and all teams seem to have a core group of players who can hold their own against most, if not all, oppositions.
There is no team that goes onto the field feeling hopeless and knowing that they are going to lose roundly. This is more so in limited-overs cricket, where even new teams like Afghanistan fancy their chances against the number one ranked team in the world. Heightened expectations — from the players and supporters — create a charged atmosphere and any spark can set the situation on fire. That spark could be a decision that the player does not agree with or more likely a comment from one or more of the opposition players or sometimes a dropped catch or a misfield by one of his own team-mates. The player, trying to deliver to expectations, feels let down and looks to turn that disappointment at someone else.
Losing their cool
The recent incidents on the field show how the pressure of expectations can get to the players and their reactions can land them in trouble. The David Warner and Quinton de Kock incident is the one that got the most mileage. Nobody remembered that Warner had a go at Aiden Markram after the mix-up between the young South African batsman and AB de Villiers resulted in the latter’s run out. Nathan Lyon, who gathered the throw and ran out de Villiers, was fined for dropping the ball on the batsman, who had dived in an attempt to regain the crease. After the dismissal, even as the next batsman was walking to the crease, Warner blamed Markram for getting the senior batsman out and tried to throw him off his game. This was totally unnecessary, and this is where the authorities need to step in and nip it in the bud.
However, the officials on the field, the mild mannered Kumar Dharmasena and S. Ravi, chose to look the other way and did not step in. Then later, when de Kock was batting, the Australians tried to unsettle him with verbal abuses, which flared up and almost ended in fisticuffs between the Proteas keeper-batsman and Warner. The Aussies claim that there is a line they don’t cross, but what or where that line should be is something that nobody has heard of or if it is authorised by their board or the ICC. To claim that saying things about a players’ family is going over the line, while all abuses at the individual player is within the line is the biggest load of codswallop ever heard.
Penchant for trouble
David Warner is a terrific talent and he would have been captain of Australia if his reputation for engaging in skirmishes with the opposition did not precede him. He was senior to Steve Smith, had played more Test matches and was a certainty in all three formats of the game. He would have, therefore, been the first choice as the Australian skipper. His leadership qualities seen in the IPL do suggest that he would have made a terrific captain of Australia. Administrators look for a person of equable temperament and someone who can articulate the team’s thoughts well in the public domain. Warner probably lost out here as the Australians did not want a player with an explosive temperament as their captain.
Warner had in the last few years, especially after the birth of his daughter, cooled down considerably on the field and was quite happy to stand at mid-off and watch the proceedings from there. Why suddenly he got ultra-aggressive again is hard to understand as players who are volatile at the start of their careers generally mellow down with experience. Warner is too good a player to be remembered only for his behaviour on the field. His batting is a joy to watch. Hopefully he will learn from the incident in Durban. He has, with his incredible fitness, another seven to 10 years in the game and let’s hope that he will be remembered for his terrific stroke-play and his spectacular fielding.
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