In lockdown, we have all sought after new things to do and watch. For those Netflix subscribers reading this, the last dance has been more than worthy of binge watching. This gripping series goes into the Chicago bulls dressing room and finds out what happened behind the scenes in the bull’s pursuit for a 6th NBA title in what was described as the legendary teams “last dance “.
The undoubted star of the show was the legendary Michael Jordan himself and, in the series, we saw how he became and then maintained the position of the best basketball player in history. However, what I find the most intriguing is the character traits that Jordan had that in life outside sport would be frowned upon but made him the sporting juggernaut he was.
For example, his habit of targeting any player that had been hyped up as being an equal to him. He said he took “offense” to that so he targeted that particular player verbally and physically even to the point of bullying him. By no means am I promoting bullying on the sports field but that is the competitive nature of the man and that is what separates him from the rest.
I think the readers will be wracking their brains to work out what this has to do with cricket? The fact is that there are many people like Jordan across a variety of different sports and more specifically, in cricket. That’s right, there is an evil side to the gentlemen’s game.
Before we start investigating deeper into the individuals with these attributes of necessary evils, it is essential that you understand why these characteristics makes that cricketer great.
There are 3 basic standards of players in the vast landscape of international cricket: average, good and great. The average players are the players that don’t have the skill to survive in the harsh reality of international cricket so they get dropped pretty quickly. The good players are the players who do a solid and dependable job for their team without going onto consistently extraordinary levels of performance. The greats are the players who constantly perform at other worldly levels and always deliver when the team needs them most.
The good players often have a similar amount of talent to the greats and in some cases maybe even more. If that is the case, the question that has to be answered is that if some good players have the same amount of talent as the greats, why are the greats consistently playing at an incredible level while the good players are not?
The reason is quite a simple one; if we say the average players standard is 7 out of 10 and a good players standard is 9 out of 10. For an average player to get to the level of a good player he may be required to make massive changes to their game such as their fitness or correcting a major issue in their game. However, for a good player to get to the standard of a great player, which is 10 out of 10, he is required to make lots of small changes such as training an hour extra or taking up meditation. These tiny things can seem a bit inferior to changing your technique completely or improving your fitness but they can dramatically change a player’s performance.
However, these small changes cannot perform the task of becoming a great alone as it needs to be accompanied with some traits of necessary evil. These traits can vary from selfishness, vanity, a very bad temper, and an unhealthy desire to win. Just like Jordan, many players across all sorts of different sports have at least one of these characteristics and that is the same in cricket.
To begin with, let’s have a look at the most common trait of necessary evil: selfishness. All of the worlds most accomplished batsmen in history and modern day have an insatiable thirst for runs and because of that they can appear to be borderline selfish as they try to hoard all the runs and records for themselves.
For an example, you don’t need to look further than the acclaimed god of cricket himself, Sachin Tendulkar, in his chase for a 100 hundred he probably dragged out his career a little bit more than he should of as most players would have preferred to retire on the unparalleled high of a world cup victory. Instead, he preferred to endure a long and gruelling wait to get 1 century that would make him the 1st to get 100 international hundreds. This unhealthy greed for runs is what made Tendulkar the consistent force he was.
He was not the only one with a similar characteristic as his biggest rival in his era, the flamboyant and dashing Brian Lara, also had an equally desperate desire for runs. In Lara’s case, it was the game that he got 400 against England that really highlighted the flaw that made him so great. England had already won the series and so the outcome of the match did not matter so his yearning for runs and determination to get his record back overcame the desire to win the game.
Many criticized him in this innings and I don’t agree as well but what I am emphasizing is that both of these player’s (Tendulkar and Lara) biggest strength is what others would call their biggest flaw and without it, they would never be the same.
Now moving into a more modern example, the next trait of necessary evil is quite a controversial one as many people don’t know where the line is: aggression. Many players over the years have supposedly crossed the line but I will focus on the controversial celebration of Kagiso Rabada.
Aggression is a more than useful tool that is used by many a bowler and Rabada uses it frequently. On flat tracks, when your bowling to set batsmen, you need that something extra and aggression almost always is the answer. When the bowler gets in a mini battle with the batsmen there is an extra motive to get the batsman out and when that happens the emotion can sometimes spill out.
This has happened to Kagiso Rabada more than once and he has got into trouble for it. Many people have unfairly criticized him for it but I beg to contradict. In a batsman friendly game, and a batsman friendly pitch, the bowler should be given a bit of leeway to let out his emotions after getting an important wicket as long as it doesn’t become personal. Aggression is Rabada’s edge and that is what helped him ascend to the top of the test bowlers and without that aggression he would not be able to get wickets at demand when his team is under the pump. Without it he would be half the bowler and the world would miss out on a brilliant talent. We have to acknowledge this.
A complete player is like a well-made cake. If you miss out one seemingly irrelevant ingredient the cake might be too dry or too dense and the cake is ruined and doesn’t have the same flavour as it would have if it was well made. The complete player is the end result (the cake) and the different ingredients are dedication, hard work, competitiveness and a skill. Also, part of that cake recipe is the necessary traits of evil. They are the ingredients that seem like there is no need to use when without them the cake is nothing.
Many people criticise the necessary traits and attempt to stamp them out as soon as possible instead of accepting them and acknowledging that it is needed to reach the top. This needs to stop.
To clarify, I am not justifying cheating and personal sledging as I vehemently despise both and there is no place for both of them in our game. But what I am saying is that these traits have a part in our game whether you like it or not as without it the standard of international cricket is diminished.
Teams need these characters as that are often the missing piece in the jigsaw puzzle and is the finishing touch the team needs. I am not asking you to love the traits but I am asking you to accept them as our game needs them. There needs to be an evil side to the gentlemen’s game.