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Monday , January 09, 2012 at 13 : 04

Player abuse is detrimental to cricket


What could be the worst for a batsman: poor form, runs drying up, his potential being questioned and with that his place in the side too? Well, as frightening as that suggestion is to all of us as cricketers, we realize its absolute inevitability.

Of course, it gets awful when the team trails too in the series and gets shot down for a paltry total. These are hard times, for the player and the team, yet each one of them is expected, and rightly so, to stand up and get going; to stretch that muscle an extra inch and save every possible run on the field, to encourage the bowlers while one is down himself, and do whatever he can to contribute. Nobody understands this better than a sportsman - the challenge to fail and then thrive.

To stomach the taunts, stand the brick bats and still continue to push through the patch is no mean feat. While some may justify the flak, the insinuations as a 'part and parcel' for the perks we enjoy, spare a moment for us too. Perhaps, that's what Virat Kohli must be saying, like many of us, who've been in his shoes - on the receiving end of a harsh, hideous, relentless public outcry - for failing to entertain with a few more runs or wickets.

The trend is alarming - since many from within the audience believe this to be their 'right' - to mock the players who failed to perform, some sort of a retribution for the money and time they spent in watching the match. How about putting your own self in a similar situation? Imagine your boss mouthing the worst that he possibly could; dragging, like most of us callously do, mothers and sisters in the row, when you failed to deliver. Would you ignore? Well, one is almost certain to retaliate. If you would too, then why crucify a sportsman who's already been pushed into a corner. Virat isn't justifying his actions and neither am I speaking for him. I am only drawing your attention towards a dangerous psyche which is slowly building itself and may prove detrimental for the game.

The case, I am afraid, isn't just about Virat gesturing indecently. Why only look at the effect and overlook the cause? The Australian public is known to get severe in its criticism, to a point of getting extremely offensive. Why not, for a change start penalizing such spectators too? Back home too, it was appalling to see Ravi Rampaul being castigated by a strong section of the crowd at the Wankhede when he dismissed Sachin Tendulkar four runs short of his 100th century. The guy had to eventually be removed off the fence. Is our collective consciousness so perverse?

My team and I were on the receiving end of such an abuse in one of the Ranji Trophy games this season. A few hundred people turned up to watch our otherwise non-descript first-class match. We were happy to not be playing to empty stands for a change. We, Rajasthan, were doing well and expected some support from the locals. To our utter surprise, the crowd turned out to be quite uncouth. They called the 'professionals' in the team 'traitors', while also gibing at us in the crudest manner. We felt humiliated. If having people on the ground means this, we'd rather play to empty stadiums.

While most things in life have already become 'result oriented', let's at least allow cricket to be played and watched only for the love of it. That would do the game a whole lot of good.


More about Aakash Chopra

Aakash Chopra is the 245th Indian to represent India in Test Cricket. A batsman in the traditional mould, he played 10 Tests for the country in 2003-04, and has played over 120 first-class matches. He is considered one of the best close-in fielders India has produced after the legendary Eknath Solkar. Chopra made a formidable opening combination with Virender Sehwag, which was believed to be one of the reasons for India's success in Australia and Pakistan in 2003-04. A grand total of 783 runs came off Chopra's bat in Delhi's title-winning Ranji Trophy in 2007-08. Chopra currently plays for the Rajasthan Royals of the Indian Premier League and represents Rajasthan in the Ranji Trophy, after having played for Delhi for over a decade. He also amassed a massive total of 734 runs in Rajasthan’s Ranji victory in the year 2010-11. In 2009, Chopra turned author with Beyond the Blues: A First-Class Season Like No Other. The book garnered critical appreciation while Cricket Pundits like Suresh Menon claimed it to be "the best book written by an Indian test cricketer” in his review for www.cricinfo.com. Aakash continues to tell the story of Indian cricket, its frustrations and fantasies, through his popular weekly column in The Hindustan Times, www.yahoo.com, www.cricketnext.com, sports magazines and through various TV shows.