The match between Mumbai Indians and Royal Challengers Bangalore a couple of days ago witnessed an extremely ugly incident between Kieron Pollard and Mitchell Starc, one that should have been avoided at all costs. Both Pollard and Starc got away lightly with fines, but the question remains, who was the bigger culprit in the end? Was it Starc who woke up a sleeping giant by continuing with his bowling run-up and delivering the ball even after Pollard had backed away? Or was it Pollard, who exaggerated the situation by throwing his bat in the bowler’s direction?
While both parties are to blame, it was the game that looked poorer in the end. Sledging and gamesmanship is one thing, but going to the extreme like Pollard and Starc did should not be accepted in the game under any circumstances. And no, the argument of ‘it happened in the heat of the moment’ cannot apply over here at all. Even if the match was the World Cup final, such unruly behaviour should not be tolerated. And here, we are just talking about an IPL match, which people wouldn’t even have remembered had the spat not taken place.
Players should realise that the IPL is being promoted as a carnival of cricket, and players from the world over are being paid to exhibit their talent with the bat, ball and in the field, and not with their mouth or muscles. Of course, a bit of leeway should be allowed for heated exchanges and banters. But, a line should be drawn for the same, and from what was on show in the match between Mumbai and Bangalore, that line of control was definitely crossed. International cricketers are seen as role models by aspiring cricketers, and they ought to show some responsibility towards their younger fans.
On the contrary, it may be argued that brawls like the one between Starc and Pollard make for compelling TV viewing and also pump up the TRPs. Well, such audiences would prefer WWE, where they know everything is staged, but still enjoy the ‘matches’ wholeheartedly. Cricketainment is more realistic, and hence it is crucial that players focus on their cricketing strengths. A couple of stray incidents here and there can be ignored, but at the end of the day, the crowd wants to witness a duel between bat and ball, and cricketers should not deny the same to their fans.
Since such ugly incidents are growing by the day, it is important for match-referees to rein in the erring players. In this context, only fines being handed out to Starc and Pollard was highly disappointing. By allowing the troublesome duo to get away lightly, the match referee has indirectly hinted that others too can walk away easily with fines after displaying unacceptable behaviour. As it is, the IPL is facing a lot of flak for fixing and organisational issues. Now, even the on-field issues seem to be slowly getting out of hand.
--By A Cricket Analyst