May 21, 1999
Of hearing aids and innovations
World Cup! The last international cricket match I saw in the US of A was the infamous World Cup semi-final between India and Sri Lanka in Calcutta.Quite a controversy. Four years later, I had the opportunity to see the live telecast of the wonderful game between India and South Africa at Hove. Another World Cup, and another controversy.
With the standard of television coverage being what it is today, nothing is missed by the ubiquitous cameras. And it is not too much of a surprise that Cronje and Donald were caught with those pieces of plastic in their ears. What were they thinking? Did they think they could claim too much partying and loud music had rendered them hard of hearing and hence the need for those artificial implants?
Or did they think they could get away with the excuse that this Indian team was unlikely to give them a fight and so they wanted to listen to Blofeld or others liven up the proceedings on air?
Seriously, in this day and age, innovations are dime a dozen. Maybe not in cricket. But when it does happen in cricket, it is invariably South Africa that is ahead of the curve. For that, their efforts and creative thought processes need to be appreciated. Having said that, I think that this is one time where they got it wrong.
Anyone who watches sports here in the US knows that football and baseball have as many people off the field involved as on it. In football, offensive coordinators call plays from vantage points, relay it to the coaches on the sideline, and finally to the players on the field by hand signals and headphones on helmets.
In baseball, you have a third base coach who, among other things, signals a runner rounding third base whether he should continue onto home or put on his brakes and stop at third. In these sports, coaches play as much as the players. The simplicity and beauty of cricket is that the coaches have had their inputs and have done their work in the days and hours leading up to the actual game. Once the game starts, the players react. The captain has to make on the spur decisions based on what he sees on the field. Under time pressure, he needs to make snap judgements. This separates the extraordinary from the run of the mill folks. Let us leave it this way.
While I am not opposed to seeing innovations on the cricket field, I would still like it to be a players game. Let us not make them into robots who are preprogrammed to receive commands from outer space and simply carry out the orders of older men who still wish they could be out there playing cricket!
Just in passing, I also would like to say that I am a big fan of football and baseball the way it is played here. But I am a much much bigger fan of cricket. And I would not want to see it go the way of these other sports. Because, that is not quite cricket.
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