In his Cricinfo piece dated September 23’rd 2011, Harsha Bhogle eulogizes Jacques Kallis. Kallis, you see, took an opposing team’s fielder at his word and decided to walk back to the pavilion without waiting for the third umpire’s decision. Kallis, you see, did not wait for modern day technology to validate the fielder’s take on the event that had just transpired. Mr. Bhogle equates this trust in a rival with a mythical spirit of cricket and wishes for a world where every cricketer did the same.
I respect Mr. Bhogle but he is wrong in his implication that this is what happens in an ideal world. Furthermore his statement that he hopes for other cricketers to do the same is antithetical to the core objective of the participants in the sport that Mr. Bhogle obviously loves and is paid to cover. We see similar coverage in public policy and politics all the time where pundits fantasize about people holding diametrically opposing views coming together for the ‘common good’. Such coverage tends to completely ignore the obvious goal with which the same politicians got to a position of power in the first place – To advance their agenda!
In the game referenced above, Jacques Kallis was a paid member of the Kolkata Knight Riders. For his services, he was being paid $ 1,100,000 by Shahrukh Khan and Red Chillies Entertainment. Basic economics and civil society rules mandate that Jacques Kallis owes a fiduciary responsibility towards his employers to do the best he can on and off the field to help the team win games. The more games that the Knight Riders win, the more joy they provide to their fans and stakeholders. The more games they win the more money their owners make.
While batting for the Knight Riders, Jacques Kallis’ focus should solely be on scoring as many runs as possible as quickly as possible. This would go in sync with the team’s goal to win more games. Unless he believed he was a liability to the team’s goal, he should not be trying to get himself dismissed. I am yet to see evidence of Kallis considering himself a liability seeing that he continued to play for his side and even captained it in future games. By doing what he did, Jacques Kallis was working against the interests of the very people who had time and money invested in him. Jacques Kallis was betraying the trust of those who paid him $1,100,000. Even if the catch were taken cleanly and even if the fielder was a modern day incarnate of Harishchandra, Jacques Kallis needed to wait for the umpires to tell him he was out. What if the third umpire did not have access to a camera angle that confirmed the catch was taken cleanly? What if the bowler had overstepped? What if the fielder believed he had done nothing wrong but had actually taken the catch on a bounce?
Also, after all the match fixing scandals the sport has been through, should we not be more skeptical of someone willing to be dismissed voluntarily? Let’s substitute Jacques Kallis with Mohammed Aamer or Salman Butt and the teams with Pakistan and New Zealand? Would Mr. Bhogle have termed this an example of sportsmanship or would he have lent a more skeptical eye? What if Jacques Kallis did what he did because he had a contract to play for Auckland in 2013? I agree that the earlier statement is a completely unsubstantiated allegation but isn’t that the skepticism we should show in this day and age in a sport with more money than ever before?
The only spirit the sport of professional cricket needs to have is the same that the fields of medicine, engineering or journalism have – To do one’s best within the rules in pursuit of his/her team’s/employer’s goals! By romanticizing a quality that is feel-good at best and betrayal at worst, Mr. Bhogle is way off base.