Tarnished for ever, cricket must rediscover the white

by Akshaya Mishra  Nov 1, 2011 22:36 IST

#ConnectTheDots   #Cricket   #Pakistan   #Salman Butt  

Leisurely, aristocratic, elegant and dignified...cricket used to be such a wonderful game!

That was long ago.

They called it a gentleman’s game.

It allowed no physical contact, no profusion of sweat draining down the exposed body parts and no visible acts of aggression. Ladies could enjoy the game without being disturbed. And the men in action were always in white flannels.

Cricketers were honourable men, many shades superior above than the ordinary mortals around them. They deserved respect and treated with respect.

Pakistani fast bowler Mohammad Asif, left, 28, arrives at the Southwark court in London on Tuesday. AP/PTI

That’s the original cricket fan’s lingering impression of the game and the players. His faith was untainted, honest. He refused to hear anything wrong, speak anything wrong and see anything wrong about cricketers. How could they? -- It would be his shocked reaction to any suggestion of dishonesty from them.

It was trust -- pure, innocent and inviolable. It was shattered to pieces today.

Cricket won’t be the same hereafter.

Cricketers or criminals? Or cricketers-turned-criminals? The London court verdict on Pakistani Salman Butt and Mohd Asif leaves no one in doubt.

The game’s reputation has been damaged. Yes. But the bigger damage is to the sacred bond between cricket lovers and the game; the undiluted love and sense of adulation that tied the fan to his heroes.

It’s painful.

From now on, every no ball and every wide ball will be seen with suspicion, every hit to the boundary will be loaded with questions, every wicket taken will carry the burden of doubts. Everything that appeared so normal about cricket—a misfield, a missed catch, a run out and even a quick single—would look abnormal.

The pristine white of the flannel would carry the insinuation of darkness all the time. Cricketers would no longer be the holy cow -- above suspicion. Fixers’ is a nasty tag. Many cricketers would be branded that even being perfectly innocent. They will find it difficult to get indiscreet, a normal human failing.

Does the court verdict surprise? No. Particularly since the players are from Pakistan, a country totally confused and listless and capable of everything wrong. Didn't it conceal Osama bin Laden from the eyes of the world? Yes, because players could be so naive to get into something so ridiculous. It's possible this is the tip of the iceberg. More culprits would tumble out if the probe went deeper and wider.

The loss is beyond repair. Now cricket has to re-discover the white, the dignity and the elegance.

Surely, it would be a long, difficult haul.