Shantakumaran Sreesanth has the ghastly habit of shooting off his mouth © Getty Images
Shantakumaran Sreesanth has the ghastly habit of shooting off his mouth © Getty Images

 

By Shalini Puthiyedam

 

The issue of different standards applied to actions of cricketers, based on their race, is one that has been discussed threadbare in discussions in every conceivable cricket loving forum, yet, it is one which has not been resolved and therefore must again be brought to the forefront.

 

I have been watching the fascinating IndiaSouth Africa ongoing series whenever I’m able to. I belong to that class of cricket lovers who feel that Test cricket is the ultimate form of the game. While detractors argue the non-relevance of a 5-day game in today’s compressed time spaces, Test cricket is really the test of endurance, skill, fortitude, strategy, planning and many other qualities that a human being aspires to, as a desirable virtue for the business of life itself.

 

However, this piece is not about the virtues of Test cricket but about the differing standards that are adopted when discussing on-field behaviour of players. I am sure we all know what I am referring to. Yes, we are talking of that obnoxious boy of Indian cricket who goes by the name of Shantakumaran Sreesanth, as also the equally obnoxious guy from South Africa, Dale Steyn.

 

Now, Sreesanth has the ghastly habit of shooting off his mouth and I am no fan of his style. I find it phony and something that he seems to have cultivated deliberately to crook a knowing finger against opponents. This in-your-face aggressiveness doesn’t sit pretty on him and shows him in extremely poor light. However, I will bat for him because he has exposed, for the world to take note of, the differing standards adopted when discussing such behavioral issues. Dale Steyn, the other bad mouth is just as obnoxious and equally foul mouthed. He is just deviously aggressive and hence, his aggressiveness does not show up like a sore thumb.

 

It was very disquieting to hear a set of commentators (South Africans, of course!) plainly making their displeasure known when Sreesanth starts to bowl, derisively suggesting that anything is possible with Sreesanth, temperamental as he projects himself to be. He is too obvious and theatrical about it, but it is no more aggressive than Dale Steyn whose similarly aggressive behaviour is lauded as gamesmanship by the commentators. Why these double standards? Why are two people indulging in the same behavior, albeit in different styles, treated so differently? Is it a matter of skin colour? I know that this is not a unique question, but it still needs to be asked.

 

I have another axe to grind, too. When the likes of Ravi Shastri and Co. do not bat for our boys, are they not abetting a wrong doing? Why are we keeping quiet even today? Commentators should not be allowed to air their personal views or biased views on air. India today is the biggest money spinner in cricket and I find it surprising that despite their muscle power, we cannot stop such incidents.

 

I will be the first one to ask Sreesanth to drop his farce, for that is how I see it. He’s much better off doing his job, which is bowling well and taking wickets. I don’t think he has to adopt a style that is alien to us as a society and make such a forced and dramatic show of it. If he has been deliberately doing it, well, the point should have been noted by now that double standards do exist and they have now come out into the open. We are known to be strategists and plotters in a quiet manner. Let us continue to be that way without losing any of our sting. Let us leave all the boorish ‘’mental disintegration’’ stunts to the likes of Steyn and his ilk. However, let us also not take such double standards as an accepted. Let us speak out against it whenever we encounter it. Only when an issue is continuously raised will it be in the consciousness and once it becomes a pain that will refuse to go away, it will be dealt with.

 

Thank you, Sreesanth, you have made your point. Please drop the act and be an efficient and effective wicket taker. We have heard and seen too the issue you wanted us to take note of. I hope many others have too. I hope this dichotomy is highlighted whenever it is encountered. I know that things will not change overnight or even in a decade, but they sure have to. It is time to give credence and respect to the Indian way or even more broadly, the Asian way. There is order even in our chaos. There is respect even in our quiet way. We also have the right to BE.

 

(Shalini Puthiyedam is an engineer by education and a linguist by profession. A voracious reader and music lover, her interest in cricket is as serious as any other Indian)