Doing away with an archaic practice

THE archaic tradition of players bowing to the Royal Box at Wimbledon is finally done away with. There were many who felt that the grass at Wimbledon would give way to artificial surface before the abolition of the `curtsy' to the Royal Box.

SUNIL GAVASKAR

THE archaic tradition of players bowing to the Royal Box at Wimbledon is finally done away with. There were many who felt that the grass at Wimbledon would give way to artificial surface before the abolition of the `curtsy' to the Royal Box.

Monica Seles and A. Grossman curtsying to the Royal Box at Wimbledon. Thankfully, this tradition has been discontinued, says the author. -- Pic. GAMMA-

But the world is full of surprises and this has to be one of them. The surprise before this announcement was the fact that even the American players were bowing and curtsying when they do not deign to respect the national anthem of other countries when played at international meets. Mind you this bowing and curtsying was only at Wimbledon and to no other `Royals' in the rest of the world and that too not to the Queen but some distant Brit Royal and that's what was amazing about it. That the Association of Tennis Professionals also did nothing about it all these years is another surprise. Thankfully it is over and though quaint at most times it was something of a wonder in an era where people power is greater than royal edicts.

A similar pleasing development in cricket was seen at the World Cup in South Africa recently where at the presentation ceremony there was only one person to give away the Man of the Match award. The World Cup Organising Committee had decided that the Sporting Ambassadors that they had appointed for the World Cup would be the ones to give away the award and not any other so called dignitary.

It meant that the performer of the day received his prize from someone who had also done well in his/her chosen discipline in sports when he /she was playing. So there were Olympic Gold medal winners giving away the awards apart from former cricketers and to receive the prize from an Olympian must have been very special indeed. It was only for the finals that there was more than one dignitary present but that was because there was more than one prize to be given away.

While some traditions like introduction to the chief guest on the first morning of a match have been done away with much to the approval of the players there are some others like the function to welcome a touring team that have also been kissed goodbye perhaps due to the lack of interest shown by the players in attending these. One can understand the players not wanting their preparation for a Test or one-day internationals interrupted by lining up to meet the local Chief Minister, Governor or some such dignitary who would hardly remember most of the players he was introduced to fifteen minutes later. Sure the dignitary would remember the star players who are well known anyway but he would be hardpressed to recall the others in the team. So the players did feel that it was a waste of time and only benefited the dignitary and for whom it was a photo opportunity that could help in furthering his own career. The problem with these introductions was the timing of the lining up.

It wasn't as if the dignitary came a good half an hour before the game started so that the players could go back to the dressing room and get their focus back on the job at hand but he arrived just minutes before the game started which meant that the batsmen lost their mental build-up to the innings. Even the bowlers who like to warm up before bowling the first over found that the interruption did not help them. There may now be only the odd introduction but that is more an exception than the rule.

What is perhaps disappointing is the stoppage of function that the host country's cricket Board had for the visiting team. It was a function that helped both teams to meet and mingle not only with each other but also officials who were going to be running the show on and off the field. The problem here was that especially in India the host Board or local Associations used the function to invite all and sundry and it would invariably end in chaos what with children and even elders wanting photos and autographs. It hardly gave the players any time to meet and talk to other guests and once the first autograph was asked and others followed then the players wanted to escape because nobody who wanted an autograph or photograph was prepared to wait in a queue and the pushing and jostling simply got out of hand and dangerous for the players as pens accidentally went perilously close to the eyes.

The level of interest in the game in India is such that these functions also tended to be more of an interview situation for the players who were asked all kinds of questions and who therefore wanted nothing to do with them. In places like England and Australia these functions are delightful evenings with some entertaining speeches thrown in and are far more friendly and relaxing than the ones in India mainly because the guests do not bring their children along and stick strictly to those invited.

In recent times with the match-fixing situation relatively fresh the players have been wary of meeting people not knowing who they are and this had led some to believe that they are unsocial and unfriendly. You can't blame the players for being careful and so they prefer the company of their own teammates which does sometimes give off a `do not disturb' sign at parties and functions as they congregate in a corner or on a table all by themselves. Don't forget there is alcohol served at these functions and there will be at least one if not more inebriated person who will try and `show off' to his friends by taking on the players for their performance that day or on some previous occasion. No wonder the players prefer to avoid such functions rather than get into an unpleasant situation, which will get them unwanted headlines for no fault of theirs.

This Indian team has some of the biggest names in world cricket and so they are popular wherever they go and get invited to many social functions. If they do not accept too many of these invitations, it is simply for the reasons enumerated above and even if they do go to the odd function they do not overstay but make their way back to their hotel so that they can prepare for the game the next day. That does sometimes upset the host but make no mistake they are all without exception terrific role models, on and off the field. That is why they have a legion of fans all over the cricketing world.