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Lloyd bemoans death of a myth

October 22, 2003 15:04 IST

Venerable cricket watchers may still be tempted to cling fondly to the image of a game reserved for elegant gentlemen.

They may even have succeeded in dismissing the Cronje affair as an aberration involving just a few wicked individuals and their bank accounts.

Recent events, however, have surely buried the myth once and for all that cricket is for men with impeccable manners.

If you want to watch a sport where sportsmanship counts, try golf.

Golfers don't tend to chew gum, or spit and swear, let alone sledge or punch and jostle each other.

When they infringe a rule -- and golf is packed full of arcane, bizarre points of law -- they happily call penalties against themselves.

Cricketers used to have a similar code.

Batsmen displayed their love of etiquette and fair play by 'walking' whenever they snicked a thin edge to the wicketkeeper. Some, of course, did it more often than others, but the principle was there. And if a fielder claimed a catch, they departed.

Any batsman who walks today is likely to be beaten about the head with a spare stump by his captain upon reaching the privacy of the pavilion, before being summarily dropped from the team.

Sledging has also been part of the fabric of the sport for years.

Australia, the masters of the art, have made recent public pledges to tone down their juicier remarks aimed at beleaguered opponents.


That promise of pristine verbal exchanges, however, is unlikely to last too long. Australia captain Steve Waugh knows the value of intimidation -- "mental disintegration", he calls it -- and will be loath to abandon the tactic, particularly when out of umpiring earshot.

A more extreme form of bad behaviour, however, now appears to be establishing itself, so concerning to the game's guardians that they are handing out suspensions like confetti.

Pakistan captain Rashid Latif was suspended for five matches last month after claiming a catch against Bangladesh which he had clearly spilled. He was, in effect, found guilty of cheating.

Latif's mercurial team mate Shoaib Akhtar, meanwhile, is appealing against a three-match ban after using offensive language while playing against South Africa. Shoaib, one of the game's pin-ups, was also banned this year for ball tampering.


The South Africans, however, have been no angels either.

All rounder Andrew Hall missed the test series against Pakistan after trampling over cricket's cardinal boast of being a non-contact sport by barging into Yousuf Youhana during a one-day match.

Hall's transgression would normally have earned him a severe rebuke from his captain, except that Graeme Smith's moral authority had all but disappeared when he himself was banned for a match for abusing the self-same Youhana.

Match referee Clive Lloyd was clearly shocked by the aggressive behaviour of both teams.

"Cricket is a noble game based on honesty, integrity and fair play and if the players cannot comprehend this they should not be playing the game," he said.

Perhaps it was, Clive, perhaps it was. But it does not seem to be so now.

There wouldn't be many -- indeed any -- teams left in the ICC world championship if they had to live up to such lofty ideals.

It's hard not to break out into a wry smile, however, upon considering Lloyd's lament.

Lloyd became one of the great West Indies captains on the back of some of the most fearsome fast bowlers ever to play the game.

Lloyd did not bother with spin. He just unleashed the likes of Michael Holding, Andy Roberts, Malcolm Marshall, Colin Croft and Joel Garner to subject batsmen with a barrage of throat-high, denture-bound missiles.

It was a sporting version of GBH, in the days before helmets. It was unrelenting, intimidating and petrifying. Not everyone would have termed it noble.

But, Lloyd would argue without apology, it was within the rules and there was no barging or sledging, swearing or spitting.

West Indian fans and players doubtless remember the period with misty-eyed fondness.

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