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July 30, 2003
It is not the first time Sunil Gavaskar is bringing up the issue; it will not be the last.
During his playing days, the Indian batting legend was once told -- by an Australian contemporary -- that it is all in good fun, that none of it is meant seriously, that the Aussie who sledges on the field of play is the Aussie who, as soon as stumps are drawn, will come over to your dressing room, and fraternize over a few beers.
'Why,' Sunny asked then, 'should I fraternise with someone who forgets human decency and calls me names on the field of play?'
The incident sums up a debating point that in recent times has gained visibility; one that Sunny himself raised at the annual Cowdrey lecture at Lord's on Tuesday.
'There is more money in other sports such as golf and tennis but, thanks to tough laws, one does not find misbehavior or bad language there,' Gavaskar said in course of his lecture. 'The old adage "it's not cricket," which applied to just about everything in life, is no longer valid -- and that's a real pity. In the modern world of commercialization of the game and the advent of satellite television and the motto of winning at all costs, sportsmanship has gone for a six.'
'Now I have heard it being said that whenever there's been need in a match, words have been exchanged. That may be true, but what was banter in days gone by -- and was enjoyed by everyone, including the recipient -- today has degenerated to downright personal abuse.'
There, in sum, you have the debating points.
Is there a line between 'sledging' that is acceptable, and 'sledging' that is not? If so, where?
Are the Aussies culpable -- as has been alleged by international captains and stars ranging from Brian Lara, Michael Atherton and Stephen Fleming to, more discreetly, Sachin Tendulkar?
Are the Aussies the only culprits?
Why do more and more international analysts say, today, that while the all-conquering Australian team will be respected, they will never be honored, and admired?
Is it time the International Cricket Council got off the fence on the issue, and began taking tough measures to rid the game of personal abuse masquerading as gamesmanship?
If yes, what concrete steps can the ICC take? Is the proposal, recently mooted, of arming umpires with yellow and red cards a la football worth implementing?
Speak your piece on the question -- Should cricketers be seen, and not heard?