Warner the Winner and Smith the Chief
The Australia-England match played on June 25, 2019 at the Lord’s changed some conventions. Gentlemanly behaviour was the furthest thing from the minds of the English crowd at the Lord’s Cricket Ground, the Home of Cricket (a gentlemen’s game). Ironically, the Australian cricket team, notoriously known for sledging were an extraordinarily courteous team. To make the irony even sharper, the most courteous ones on the team were David Warner and Smith Steve, both of whom were suspended for one year by Cricket Australia in connection with their involvement in ball tempering in a match against South Africa in March 2018. In other words, the very duo found guilty of cheating were the ambassadors of gentlemanly conduct on the field.
The booing on the part of the English crowd was excessive by any stretch of the imagination. It may be recalled that the contrite Australian duo had sincerely admitted their fault and gracefully served their punishment. On several occasions, the guilty batsmen broke down in public in utter shame over having let their country down.
Egged on by England’s captain, Eoin Morgan and Jonny Bairstow the crowd overexploited their booing rights. The game literally began with a resounding sound of boo as David Warner walked onto the field to open for his team. Warner batted grittily through the nonstop booing. The crowd seemed totally clueless to the fact that their tactic was backfiring as their victim of hatred was going about his business fluently. Isn’t it true that when you decide to hate someone, you not only fail to see the credentials of the hated but you also see the harm incurred to the hater yourself. That’s exactly what happened. The English crowd were not only unremitting even when Warner scored his half century, but they also ended up provoking the leading run-getter of the rival team to heap so many runs against their team. It was not an accidental half century in the biggest cricketing event. He had already scored 56 against India, 2 centuries against Pakistan and Sri Lanka in this world cup and is the highest run scorer (500 runs) so far. It was perhaps the only time when the English crowd at Lord’s Cricket Ground did not applaud a half century scored by an opponent batsman. When they booed Warner as he reached his half century, he almost sheepishly smiled.
When Steve Smith, another Australian suspended for ball tempering, came out to bat at No 4, the booing returned. The English crowd looked more determined than ever to shame the Australian duo rather than focusing on their team winning the match. Smith’s fluent batting came to an end with 38 of 34 balls and he walked off the field with a roaring jeers from the crowd. But the due had already done enough damage to England and they ended up losing by 64 runs.
Some important lessons from this incident:
Lesson one – this suspension has had a life-changing impact on the duo. David Warner was not a very nice cricketer on the field pre-suspension. He was called “Bull” and the name matched his confrontational persona. A ‘smile’ when people booed would have been the last gesture from him. However, the man has undergone a transformation and his humility was just as sparkling as his scintillating batting. He has now earned a new title “Hum-Bull”, of course “Hum” standing for humility. What an amazing thing to bring to the table when some of most successful sportspersons are puffed up with arrogance, obscenity and confrontational behaviour. It is impossible nowadays to protect young children watching games from being exposed to the violent and obscene conduct of some of these players. Success and arrogance were never meant to be associated. Let’s hope Warner’s change is lasting and the message that has been conveyed from his transformed persona is loud and effective.
Lesson two – crowd mentality is often driven by rage rather than sensibility. It was a tremendous opportunity to respect the sincerity of the duo and send a message globally that “an honest confession of error is a virtue”. A lack of forgiveness is one of the most damaging and dangerous things to harbour. It encourages dishonesty as people will fear being honest. This is not to trivialize mistakes or encourage erroneous practices. However, when a perpetrator concedes his mistake and humbly serves the full punishment, he must be forgiven in entirety. The sanctimonious crowd at Lord’s were simply mortifying the duo as if they themselves were completely infallible.
Lesson three – a lack of generosity to applaud the accomplishment of others is symptomatic, not just of jealousy, but small-mindedness. I have noticed that people who cannot accomplish anything in their own lives latch onto every opportunity to ridicule more successful people. When they pounce on their victim, they are not just expressing their rage over the perceived wrong s/he has committed, but are also venting their frustration over their own unsuccessful life.
Lesson four – biting an angry dog that bit you is inhuman. Reciprocating anger with a smile pays big time. David Warner will be remembered more for his smile than his 53 runs. Steve Smith never expressed his frustration at the crowd either. Every time he was booed, like a school boy in front of his censorious headmaster, he hung his head and simply batted again.
What I am intrigued by most in this incident is the country to which they belong. Australia is not a nice cricketing team. If any team has mastered the ill-art of sledging and bulling on the field, it is Australia. Furthermore, they take undue pride in it. In 2013, their coach, Darren Lehmann asked the crowd to boo Stuart Board hard enough to send him home crying. Much of what David Warner and Steve Smith encountered at Lord’s was a case of chickens coming home to roost. So lesson five? Often the rabble-rouser (in this case Lehmann) gets away scot free and innocent victims (Warner and Smith in this case) have to bear the full weight of the vengeance of rabble-rousing. Just as the proverbial mouse eats the rice and the frog gets the beating. But the frog is never categorised as a pest in human agricultural science. That must cheer innocent victims.
“The people who cannot accomplish anything in their own lives latch onto every opportunity to ridicule more successful people. When they pounce on their victim, they are not just expressing their rage over the perceived wrong s/he has committed, but are also venting their frustration over their own unsuccessful life.”