There’s been a lot of talk criticizing English crowds for consistently booing Australian captain Ricky Ponting through the tour (and even at that holiest of sacred grounds, Lord’s). I’m not sure I understand that. I’m a huge fan of players respecting the “spirit” motif behind the game, but I don’t think that should apply to cricket audiences as well.
Not that I condone various audience offenses through the years (ahem, Indian crowds throwing bottles and possibly shooting Andrew Flintoff, ahem ahem), but there are degrees that are acceptable here. Isn’t Indian cricket more exciting precisely because the crowds are so partisan, wildly cheering any boundary only to crushingly fall silent when a wicket falls?
Ah, yes, you may say, but supporting and booing are two separate things. OK. But I think there’s fair enough room for a Ponting Exception. Here’s a man who has indulged the worst instincts on the field, where behavior actually counts for something, frowning crankily when umpires ruled against him or swearing at the English dressing room after being run-out in 2005. He’s also led a team that excels at “mental disintegration,” insisting that sledging and jibes are an integral part of cricket.
Fine then. If that’s the case — if you want to broaden up the game beyond just bat and ball — then a crowd (already facing more lax rules about sportsmanship, since it isn’t on the field) should get behind their team. So when Ponting made a delightful 74 in the Headingley Test, the audience rightly let him know exactly how they felt about it when he was dismissed (though, to be fair, certain sectors also applauded him loudly).
Yes, the man played brilliantly, and it’s always heartwarming to see a home crowd give an opposition player a nice send-off, but it’s just as much fun to see it telling a particularly despised captain to shove off.
I infinitely prefer sustained and enthusiastic clapping, such as the England cricketing audiences excel in, to the endless shrieking and ejaculating noise issuing from Indian fans or the aggressive heckling that English football fans excel in.
“Partisan” is not sporting, unless you are Indian, who have a definition of the concept of sportsmanship peculiar to themselves. (How else could they have have more black marks for bad behavior on the field than any other team, all the while indignantly complaining that it was everyone else fault but theirs? Why else do they disregard the Olympics, because such ideals don’t belong to their culture?)
And Ponting, though often petty and not charming, is not particularly despised at all by everyone – that is a media/Indian beat-up. Most it it arises from pure envy of a fairly ordinary working class bloke with outstanding cricketing skills, especially from nations like India and Britain with strong class distinctions, who dislike his unhoned “peasant” ways. Like spitting on his hands. I’ve seen lots of captains do this but only Ponting gets vitriol about it. Personally, I think he has some very fine attributes, especially supporting his teammates through thick and thin, something that other captains with big egos and personal entourages could learn from.
To say so also indicates your cricket watching days must be very recent. That was Waugh who instigated mental disintegration. And Players from other countries, notably England India and S. AFrica are just as big on sledging as the Aussies.
Not biased, are you?
Thanks for the comment, Steve. I’ll be the first to admit I’m exceptionally biased in this case — never liked Ponting, and doubt I ever will. Obviously, I respect the man’s immense talent, but I don’t think it’s inappropriate at all in sports to have villains or heroes (for every Flintoff, there should be a Ponting — or a Greg Chappell).
Which is why I think your comment — “partisan is not sporting” — makes absolutely no sense. By its very nature, sports involves a competitive contest between individuals and teams. Are you telling me you’ve never supported one team or the other?
A quick rejoinder to your other points: a) I don’t know what you mean when you say Indians “disregard” the Olympics; as I recall, India has been an active participant in the games for at least half a century. b) You’re right that Indian cricketers have a mottled on-field record, though I was very careful to note that audiences are not bound by the same rules as players, who face higher obligations. c) I don’t know much about Ponting’s background — working class hero, you say? — and I could care less about what he does with his hands. From my perspective, he’s a brilliant batsman who consistently saves his team in trouble spots, and what’s more, does it almost better than anyone else. He’s the man who keeps your team from winning, and for that reason, I don’t like him.
Very simple stuff. The essence of being a fan, Steve.
I don’t mind as long as the victim is Ponting:)
[…] past — I have said most Indians don’t care about the game itself, and I have defended the right for audiences to boo particular villains (i.e., Ricky Ponting). That said, Indian audiences aren’t uniformly bad; no doubt, they will […]