Has Cricket Tilted Itself More To Criticism Than Praise?

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Criticism and controversies have always found their way to cricket in its various forms over the years. But more so now, with the increase in the social and economic involvement of the sport. The smallest of decisions and strategies have been brought into question by the so-called ‘pandits’, and every said opinion is being passed through a thorough dissection. Surprising for the very least, it does make one wonder – has cricket tilted itself more to criticism than praise?

Pat Cummins’ captaincy was put into question at the end of the 4th Test. Ironically, it came on the back of Australia retaining The Ashes with an unassailable 2-1 lead. Pat Cummins took charge of the Australian team in the wake of the controversies surrounding Tim Paine and embraced the responsibility like a fish to water. He took Australia to Test wins at most places, ended up at the top of the WTC cycle, and also went on to win the Finals against India at The Oval earlier this year. And yet, he faced some serious flak in the international media for his methods and tactics.

Ben Stokes in the post-match conference, did not hold back to defend Cummins

Ben Stokes when asked about the recent theories against Cummins

“I’m not sure why someone would say he should give it up. I think he’s done a great job for Australia. I don’t know who has made those comments but I think he’s done a great job for Australian cricket, taking over at the time he did. It’s probably a little bit unwarranted from whoever said that, and that’s coming from an Englishman to an Australian.”

The social pressure and resulting wave of controversies have largely dictated the flow of events in the cricketing world of late. The shift in power centers in the Indian team, the change of approach from the Englishmen under McCullum and Stokes, the upbringing of the once-upon-a-time superpowers in Sri Lanka and South Africa, as well as the multiple questions arising out of Pakistan, West Indies, and other nations, cricket’s riding on the wave of uncertainties and strong opinions more often than not. There’s a tab kept on every single action taken, and a few are conveniently blown out of proportion in exchange for the added attention. All of it has affected the sport – in its integrity, its core values, as well as, its sanctity. More importantly, it has caused a negative shadow on those playing, and also, watching.

It’s only in these last few years, that more and more questions about the privacy of the players, the exaggeration of the media, or even the increase in off-field controversies have come into the picture more. I don’t think most of it did not happen previously, but definitely was less talked about – both by the fans and the fraternity. ICC was the sole power center in controlling most happenings, which now isn’t quite the case. While the increasing spread of the sport is largely beneficial, it is the consequences that need to be improved upon.

Why is it so evident? Most of us come from a generation that grew up watching the likes of Sachin, Dravid, Ganguly, Laxmam, and Kumble, amongst others, and also saw the rise of a certain MS Dhoni, Virat Kohli, and Rohit Sharma. Indian cricket had its own set of issues, and so did world cricket overall, but the world still found great solitude and gathering in garnering praise and collectively appreciating the little nuances of the sport. Millions wept when Sachin was gone first over, to Glenn McGrath in the 2003 WC Final, many more felt elated when Sreesanth held onto Misbah’s catch in the 2007 WT20 and of course, the MS Dhoni six in 2011 still comes with its own fandom. And not only with India but there are also incidents in cricket that you strongly associate an emotion with, across players and their trademark shots/deliveries, across teams, and across formats. The world came together to celebrate.

It’s time the players and their contributions are more celebrated and praised than criticized
Not that it all ceases to exist, but one gets a feeling that with the amount of cricket being played around, it is rather easier to find a reason to criticize than cherish. It certainly plays a part in team morale and the environment in the dressing room. The Indian stalwart, R Ashwin in an interview exclaimed that unlike the yesteryears, teammates these days are more work colleagues than friends. There is nothing wrong with being so, but the statement talks about how affection has lost its place in the sport. It might perhaps be one of the reasons why teams are seen faltering under pressure.

Cricket has never been a cat-race and I hope it never does. Even though a profession, it still is primarily a sport – for the players, for those associated with it, and also for the fans. So maybe, for everyone, a bit of ‘praise’ might

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