There is no greater charge in cricket than the one that says you’ve brought the game into disrepute. Kieron Pollard will have to deal with that all his life after his bat-flinging antics took the sheen away from an exciting Mumbai Indians vs Royal Challengers Bangalore Indian Premier League game on Tuesday night.
Going by television footage, Pollard’s act was a reaction to Australian Mitchell Starc delivering the ball in his direction despite Pollard backing away. Can this be condoned as something that happened in the heat of the moment? No way.
Kieron Pollard's bat-swinging antics took the sheen away from an exciting Mumbai Indians vs Royal Challengers Bangalore Indian Premier League game on Tuesday night. Pic/Atul Kamble
There’s too much of these kind of rubbish excuses. Starc was plain impudent and Pollard forgot that there were countless kids at the ground and in front of their television sets, who could be moved to do what he did. He suffered a bout of amnesia and needed to be told that cricket is not a contact sport.
One expected swift action by the Zimbabwean match referee Andy Pycroft. Agreed, there would have to be a hearing where both sides had to be heard. But acting with alacrity would have sent out a stronger message ‘we won’t tolerate boorish behaviour and you will be promptly punished.’ A good 20 hours after the incident, there was still no word on Pycroft’s action that turned out to be a mere fine for both players.
That Pollard didn’t cop a suspension is amazing. Just a couple of days before the Wankhede incident, we saw true sportsmanship when Sunrisers Hyderabad speedster Dale Steyn embraced countryman AB de Villiers after a classic bowler vs batsman duel which De Villiers won for Royal Challengers Bangalore through his exceptional skills.
Just like the experts called it a fine example of spirit of cricket, they shouldn’t shut the criticism tap to condemn the behaviour of Pollard and Starc. Often, in such cases, some of them prefer to talk about the high quality contest instead and downplay the ugly side.
I am not sure whether players go into the opposition dressing room after a game to congratulate their opponents and to chat with them. There’s enough photographic evidence to suggest that this happened a lot in the 1970s and 1980s and those images were not shot to mislead the public and to display a box of sweeteners.
Post-match mingling bodes well with the unwritten rule which says, ‘whatever happens on the field stays on the field.’ Of course, this rule means nothing if a player racially abuses his opponent and expects the victim to forget what happened on the field of play.
On Tuesday, Pollard and Starc were guilty of having scant respect for the game. Luckily, the bat landed near Pollard’s end and not Starc’s. Or did the big West Indian, in cricket parlance, check his stroke and decided to play it differently than what he had intended to do initially? Whatever it may be, it was ugly as sin.
Chris Gayle was seen trying to cool down his fellow West Indian Pollard, but Starc should have been spoken to by his seniors straightaway for igniting the confrontation. Key members of the fielding side can be the best trouble-stoppers.
When Sunil Gavaskar showed extreme displeasure at being given out leg before to Dennis Lillee despite a ‘big nick’ (in eyewitness Richie Benaud's words) in the 1981 Test at Melbourne, Lillee was seen charging down to the batsman to show him how he was out. Seeing this, his captain Greg Chappell marched from his position at first slip to urge Lillee to back off.
Of course, India captain Gavaskar walked off and took his opening partner Chetan Chauhan with him before being met at the gate by manager Wing Commander Shahid Durani. Despite Gavaskar being at the receiving end of the horrendous decision by umpire Rex Whitehead, he didn't use that as an excuse for his behaviour.
In his book 'Idols', he wrote: “That (the Melbourne walk-off) is one of the most regrettable incidents in my life. Whatever may be the provocation and whatever the reason, there was no justification for my action.” Will Pollard be ‘maan’ enough to express similar sentiments?
Clayton Murzello is mid-day’s Group Sports Editor