Ravichandran Ashwin is no stranger to controversy regarding the “spirit of cricket”: just ask Jos Buttler. But during the 2nd phase of the IPL, Ashwin did it again. For those of you living under a rock, a KKR fielder threw the ball at Rishabh Pant’s arm while he was running (not on purpose… I think) and him and his batting partner Ashwin took an extra run. Morgan and Southee didn’t like it too much and words were said. Next ball, Ashwin is out and Morgan and Southee gave a massive sendoff. More words were said. In the next innings, Ashwin gets Morgan out and gives him a massive sendoff. More words were said. Ashwin vents out his frustrations in a 6 tweet long thread in response to Morgan calling him a “disgrace”. Again, more words were said.
This whole saga is laughably petty and much like the “he stole my ball”, “no I didn’t!” situation you’d see on the playground. Some of the opinions on social media on this are equally petty: Shane Warne said that Ashwin was “disgraceful” and said “Why does Ashwin have to be that guy again ?”. Others have lamented the sacrilegious breaching of the holy “spirit of cricket”, the divine scriptures scribed lovingly by the cricketing gods. Oh what scandal! Oh what abominable sin!
But before you start bawling your eyes out, what even is the spirit of cricket? Not to worry, I’ll tell you: the spirit of cricket is a unicorn. A pearl white unicorn with a magical horn. A unicorn that rides rainbows, instantly heals wounds and does other unicorny stuff. Unfortunately (sorry unicorn fans), this unicorn does not exist.
The “spirit of cricket” is not written. It’s is an obscure shapeshifter that shifts to to shape of political correctness. The “cricketing gods” who wrote the unwritten scriptures are 19th century, 50 year old, ancestral wealth relying aristocrats (who don’t mind a spot of gambling) for whom cricket is what croquet is to us today. Not a sport but a game of recreation. So what are we doing following these non existent rules.
Now back to the Morgan/Ashwin/Southee/Warne feud: Ashwin is absolutely correct to take the single in the same way he was absolutely correct to mankad Buttler. Morgan is wrong to be furious about Ashwin taking the run but by no fault of his own. The 1984-style brainwashing regime of the “spirit of cricket” peddlers has polluted all corners of cricket. Morgan and Warne aren’t alone. Many sane minds believe that running of a deflection caused by a poor throw is an unspeakable taboo even though it’s not prohibited in the laws.
All this talk about the “spirit of cricket”, what about the laws of cricket. Poor chap! His spoilt brother (who doesn’t actually exist) attracts the all the devotion while his honesty is left neglected in the miserable rain. It should be simple: follow the laws and you are a good sportsmen. Don’t follow them and there will be consequences. None of this vague spirit of cricket buisness.
Let’s wade into the walking debate: in the India vs Australia women’s test match, Punam Raut walked to the pavillion after the umpire gave her not out. First we’ll try the “spirit of cricket” logic: according to the scriptures, Raut is a pious sportswoman who embodies the “spirit of cricket”. However, she is also a disrespectful sportswoman who shamelessly defied the word of the umpire which is against the “spirit of cricket”.
Now we’ll try the laws of cricket logic: did she breach the laws of the game? No. Play on. And now we’ll pretend she didn’t walk: did she breach the laws of the game? No. Play on. Punam Raut took a personal choice to walk and I respect that, it’s not against the rules. However, what I don’t respect is the “spirit of cricket” peddlers eulogising it as some herculean feat. We have no room for the hypocrisy of the “spirit of cricket”. We need the efficient honesty of the laws.
Ravichandran Ashwin is a valiant commander in the war against the “spirit of cricket” and we must follow his example. Together we must run out every sneaky batsman lurking out of his crease and run every run regardless if it is deflected off a body-bound throw. Together we can vanquish the “spirit of cricket”, the obscure shapeshifter, the pearl white unicorn with a magical horn. Oh and give the poor old laws of cricket some love.