So the International Cricket Council has made up its mind to weed out sledging from cricket. After suddenly deciding to crack down on players with dodgy actions, which ruined the World Cup plans of a surfeit of bowlers, cricket’s governing body feels it’s high time to make players behave properly on the field.
ICC chief executive David Richardson revealed that every possible step will be taken to ensure the upcoming World Cup is played in a fair manner which is not tarnished by images of players getting in ugly altercations. Sledging, name calling, finger-pointing… they have always been a part of competitive sport but the ICC doesn’t want any more of it. So full marks to them on that count.
Now it’s all well and good to talk about keeping the game clean so that kids can watch it and emulate their stars.
"What can be done is to put improper conduct on par with slow over-rates, when it comes to offences"
But how exactly can the world body prevent incidents like the one in Melbourne, where Australia’s ticking time bomb David Warner got into war of words with India’s Rohit Sharma after the latter stole a single from a throw that was perceived to have hit his body? Things like ‘speak English’ were uttered and the Australian cricketing summer, which witnessed many ugly incidents during the Test matches, hit a new low.
Can comments made by players during a match be monitored? If someone says something between overs and ticks off an opponent, can any action be taken then and there? As New Zealand great Martin Crowe recently suggested, is it time for a card system in cricket?
Well, not quite. Any action taken during the course of a match regarding improper behaviour simply won’t work because there are so many factors involved, including the language barrier, a conclusive decision can’t possibly be taken immediately. So the card system does not look feasible.
What can be done is to put such improper conduct on par with slow over-rates, when it comes to offences?
Earlier, teams used to take all the time in the world to bowl their quota of overs. But once the ICC decided to fine captains and players for slow over rates, and ban the skipper if the mistake was repeated within 12 months, teams cleaned up their act in no time.
In fact, Ricky Ponting famously did not bowl Brett Lee during a crucial stage of the deciding Test against India in Nagpur in 2008, as they were behind on the over rate and Ponting was facing a possible ban in the next Test. India dug themselves out of a hole and won the series.
A similar penalty can be imposed when it comes to on-field behavior. Currently, a player is handed a fine for ‘conduct contrary to spirit of the game’. For someone like Warner, seen as a repeat offender, the ICC can bring a new ruling wherein those found guilty of acting contrary to the spirit of the game get an automatic ban, let’s say on the third instance.
That would make players extra cautious every time they enter the field and no verbal war will erupt on the field, at least not as often as has been the case in Australia so far.
If a clear-cut ban for improper conduct is the only way to make players behave, so be it.
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