Play hard, play fair in Sydney today

The image of New Zealander Grant Elliott holding a flat-on-the-ground South African Dale Steyn’s hand after Tuesday’s dramatic World Cup cricket semi-final at Auckland will be an enduring image of the mega event.

Elliott’s act of compassion had nothing to do with his South African roots, but genuine sportsmanship and respect for the opposition.

“You have to feel compassion... humble in victory and humble in defeat. It’s just part of me I guess. It’s who I am,” Elliot said later.

Doubtless, cricket needs more Grant Elliotts and the game will be better off if today’s second semi-final played out between co-hosts Australia and defending champions India ends without an unsavoury incident.

A few players believe sledging adds to cricket’s excitement. This is a warped and incorrect view because cricket can still be a gentlemanly and hard game without players having a go at each other. Today’s game at the Sydney Cricket Ground promises to be a spicy affair and of course, the game must be played in high intensity. That intensity should not translate into abuse.

The Indian and Australian teams have the biggest fan-following in the game and their players are considered role models to numerous cricket fans. Abusing, arguing and mocking your opponents is not what those young fans ought to see and therein lies the responsibility of the cricketers.

It has been proved time and again that you can play hard without verbally attacking the opposition. The South Africa vs New Zealand semi-final is a prime example.

India and Australia have been at each other’s throats all summer and it’s not that things cannot get worse. Hot heads David Warner, Mitchell Johnson, Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma had better watch out. The match referee will treat them as adults, but if things get out of hand, cricket will be stained just before the curtains come down on a World Cup which has been nothing short of memorable for the fans and players. Players must become more famous, not more notorious.

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