Sport is unlike other professions: the physical effort is more than that of, say, someone working at a desk, and in a sport like cricket duels are often as psychologically draining as physical. Screengrab of the moment courtesy Starsports.com
Mitchell Starc and Kieron Pollard have been involved in one of the ugliest on-field spats not just in the Indian Premier League (IPL) but in the history of the sport. Abhishek Mukherjee explains why the incident is just more than a one-off outburst.
What was it like? – Mumbai Indians (MI), batting first, had put up 129 for four after 16 overs with Kieron Pollard and Rohit Sharma preparing themselves for the big onslaught. Mitchell Starc, one of the finest death-over bowlers in the world, had two overs up his sleeve: the stage was set for a riveting contest.
The first three deliveries had nothing to write home about. The fourth one was a bouncer that really took off from a length; Pollard, always ready for a challenge, hooked and missed. Starc unleashed a volley of verbals, Pollard shooed him away, and everyone assumed it was just the usual sledge.
Then Starc ran in again. Pollard, perhaps intentionally (he has the habit of doing the same, which has riled up many a bowler in tense situations), reasonably otherwise, backed away. Starc, may be intentionally, feasibly otherwise, followed Pollard when he had already backed away.
Pollard was furious. He flung the bat at Starc — well, almost; a last-minute change of mind had, thankfully, decelerated his action; the throw happened anyway, but at a reduced pace, dropping a few feet with a soft thud. Things had stopped there.
Why? Pollard, and maybe Starc, may both get away with bans and fines. Starc had 24 balls to bowl; he had bowled out 12 of them, and had bowled only three more in this spell. One can understand fast bowlers losing temper after hours of toil, catches going down, being hit all around the park, and more.
But after three balls that had conceded a mere four? When your match figures read 2.3-0-12-0? What had Pollard done to earn it?
Let us take a look at Pollard as well. There was a bouncer, a hook, and a miss, and a few words being exchanged, which is a rather commonplace string of events in 2014. Starc did follow him, and Pollard did have a reason to react.
But this? — The gloom of match-fixing still hovers on the Indian Premier League (IPL); vivid memories of Harbhajan Singh slapping S Sreesanth still echo in the minds of the fans; the worst thing that could have happened to the tournament is something of this order.
One must agree that sport is unlike other professions: the physical effort is more than that of, say, someone working at a desk, and in a sport like cricket duels are often as psychologically draining as physical. This, however, was not something expected of two stars of the tournament.
What was it that they keep saying of IPL? It is a version to attract those not interested in cricket, is it not? After the numerous ways that have tarnished the tournament over the years, was this the advertisement the tournament needed?
Was this the examples heroes are supposed to set in front of children who have taken up their first cricket bats and have coaxed their parents into buying them jerseys of their favourite IPL teams?
Please, Mr Sunil Gavaskar. Rise to it. Please. A humble plea. Let the verdict be a bit more severe than the usual.
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(Abhishek Mukherjee is the Deputy Editor and Cricket Historian at CricketCountry. He blogs at http://ovshake.blogspot.in and can be followed on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ovshake42)