Monday, January 07, 2008


Hector doesn't often take much notice of sport, other than of the actual games being played.

So the perpetual tumult over 'sledging' in international cricket, and specifically the poor little misunderstood Aussies' participation in same, rarely rates an itch at The Cage, far less a scratching.

But the sheer wilful stupidity of the row over Australian Andrew Symonds being 'racially sledged' by the touring Indian test side, and the sin-binning of an Indian offender for four matches, is more than the poor old bird can bear.

Symonds knew what to expect. And it wasn't good manners! He was sledged on Australia's 2007 Indian tour by Indian spectators as a 'monkey'. That's pretty rich, coming from a crowd of Babus. But anyway ...

The trouble with sport - and unfortunately cricket, the game they really play in heaven, is the worst afflicted, perhaps because of all the spare time built into matchplay - is that gamesmanship killed sportsmanship long ago, when loudly self-promoting entrepreneurs got among the players waving huge sacks of cash.

Hec, who saw an umpire's raised finger once of twice too often in an uninspiringly amateur school cricket career many seed bags ago, nonetheless remembers the old days with fondness.

They were days when cricketers did not have to dress up as clowns to get noticed; or behave like them.

They were the days when if you were batting and you knew you were out, you walked before the umpire raised his digit.

They were the days when the umpire's digit was the only one raised on the pitch.

They were the days when if you were bowling, or keeping wicket, or even if you were just plain bored out of your brain in the outfield, you did not carry on like a kindergarten class on its annual icecream outing in pursuit of a questionable dismissal.

Symonds is a good cricketer. Unfortunately, like most of his team mates, he's also a good gamesman. Note: NOT a sportsman.

He knew he was out against the Indians when at the crease in the most recent match of the tour. But he didn't walk. He even says there was no need to. (Maybe he should try spraying on a conscience when he's applying all that over-the-top, look-at-me sunblock before matches.)

When he's bowling - which he does extremely well - he capers round the wicket in his warpaint and blonded dreadlocks (soooo yesterday, Andy!) every time he thinks he might intimidate an umpire into giving an opponent out. Too often, umpires acquiesce. That's not cricket; that's a circus. Sorry, but it really is behaviour more appropriate to the monkey house than the cricket field.

He's not alone, of course. Nowadays, thanks to bags of money and a universal collapse of good manners, everyone's at it.

It's very tiresome. It's not only cricket, an obscure game even to most people in the Anglosphere; it's other field sports as well.

Football players (the ones who chase the "world game's" little round ball around but can't touch it with their hands unless they're the goalie) are celebrity performers, capable of synthesising all-but fatal injury if an opponent actually tackles them.

Tennis players, from Mac The Mouth onwards, have been to prima dona school and many, it seems, have graduated summa cum laude with majors in hysteria and hissy fits.

Hec doesn't watch baseball and knows only enough about ice hockey and American football to guess that everyone involved likes to wear the sort of armour that did Sigourney Weaver absolutely no good in those 'Alien' movies.

But forever adolescent males behaving badly are apparently the norm there too.

Hec would have the lot of them up before the Beak if he had his way.

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