And so, India strolled to victory in Sunday night’s curtailed Asia Cup T20 final, which will keep the team in good stead for the World T20 that kicks off on Tuesday.
The MS Dhoni-Taskin Ahmed graphic that had rankled so many did not prove to be a premonition, in that no one was beheaded and there was no hostility that erupted in the stands following the result. Everyone seems to have gone home reasonably safely.
Perhaps we can now shut the chapter on that piece of fan art – without calling for a ban on cricket with Bangladesh or an apology from the BCB or retaliatory drawings – and get on with our lives. But, we’d be remiss not to at least examine the broader context in which this image was created.
Sports, and cricket in particular, have long lent themselves to violent imagery – whether as a way to spice up what might actually be fairly dull proceedings or as a way to sensationalise an already significant development. A match is no longer a match or a fixture, it's a clash, it's a face-off, it's a showdown!
The media must shoulder a large part of that blame. Try these headlines:
India commit hara-kiri in Kolkata
Zimbabwe pull off second giant-killing, slay South Africa
Massacre in Mohali
Nehra’s six-fer blitzes England
Favourites Australia annihilated by Sri Lanka
Pakistani pacers destroy New Zealand
DeVilliers leads demolition of the West Indies
Or how about one India-Pakistan series in the past being dubbed the LoC Series by some news channel? Of course, the channel feebly elaborated that it meant ‘Lions of Cricket’.
And they’re not alone. Commentators do their bit in using violent imagery to explain occurrences on screen:
Dhoni looks to be in murderous form
That’s the final nail in Bangladesh’s coffin
The Australian bowlers are hunting in pairs now
If they want to win, the English will have to go straight for the jugular
Asif is terrorising the UAE batsmen
The South Africans really have their boot on New Zealand’s throat now
It’s a do-or-die situation
There’s also that reference to a ‘tracer bullet’... And of course, referring to the end of an innings as ‘the death’.
And I haven’t even got to the most heinous one yet. All of you have most certainly heard this one before and thought nothing of it at the time. It’s time to revisit that carefully nurtured cliché of ‘scalps’. Bowlers are repeatedly said to have picked up scalps when talking about wickets they’ve taken. Four scalps on debut is a huge deal. Two late scalps can turn matches around. Zaheer Khan is still lauded for ‘scalping’ Grame Smith on 14 occasions.
Yes, so what, you may well ask.
Scalping, a practice that goes back many centuries, involves tearing off part of the scalp from the head of a vanquished opponent and then claiming it as a trophy of sorts. Apparently, scalping was considered a simpler way to carry trophies around because human heads are awfully heavy.
Apparently, the 'artist' who created the Dhoni-Taskin graphic didn’t receive the memo.
But all the said 'artist' seems to have done is loosely take the metaphor from the realm of the figurative to the literal. And in doing so, come up with something that is no more or less disgusting than the stuff coughed up by the trolls on the comments' section on this website – particularly the sort of bile spewed in the wake of the discovery of this image.
In fact, if you cast your mind back to the infamous 'Mustafizur cutters' graphic from June last year, it was again a visual metaphor for someone being humiliated. In some cultures, a half-shaven head is a mark of humiliation or disgrace.
Perhaps Bangladeshis are just too literal or visual with their metaphors – like Charlie Hebdo, maybe? Perhaps the purpose of both images was just to rile up people – like it has done.
Perhaps their sensitivities and ours don’t completely overlap. Perhaps what’s funny to them isn’t funny to us and vice versa.
Rather than foaming at the mouth and running around like angry headless chickens every time something of this sort emerges, wouldn’t it be more pragmatic and dare-I-say sensible to just ignore it? Ignore them and like bad advertising, they’ll disappear. After all, when was the last time you saw the Airtel girl screeching about something or the other?
Ultimately, violent metaphors for sport are going nowhere. It’s up to you to decide how much you take them to heart.