The celebrated Indian batsman and former captain Gundappa Vishwanath in a solitary off-cricket test match did something quite impeccable yet deviant. Following the dismissal of England’s wicket keeper Bob Taylor, he rushed to the umpire and had Taylor call him back to the crease, as he believed he had not taken the catch neatly. Decades later the illustrious batsman said in an interview, “Do you know I am still jeered for that?” referring to that decision of recalling Taylor.
Vishwanath is not a solitary archetype, but his instance is a rare one in the history of any sport. In today’s cricket, digital camera ensures the right verdict yet we find so many batsmen gesticulating their displeasure following their dismissal or several bowlers appealing repeatedly knowing fully well that the ball must have been missing the leg stump by yards.
Sportsmanship combines the entire gamut of attitude and conduct befitting participants in a game. Diego Maradona’s ‘Hand of God’ goal against England in the 1986 football World Cup, John Mc Enroe’s tantrums on the lawn tennis court or Trevour Chappell’s decision to bowl underarm in the Ashes series — sports has seen its fair share of unsportsmanlike behavior.
At the arena of contest, it is winning that matters and the paradigm must shift from winning to striving towards excellence. It is imperative to remember that there will be winners and losers in a game and the paramount thing is to accept victory or defeat gracefully.
Unfortunately, the pressure of public expectations and overambitious earnings ruin the clear vision of logic. The lure of financial contracts has converted playing fields into villainous fields of anxiety. Bribing and match-fixing are changes that have cast a slur on a gentleman’s game like cricket. We hope to see more competitive sports in the future, where sports would be enjoyed for their own sake — where a sports-person would give respect to his opposition team mates. Also when a player should strive towards the major goal of making the team flourish and not be engrossed in accumulating points in his own set of records. A team should unitedly accept the responsibility for a loss of game and with zealous mindset turn it into a glorious win. Failures should be treated as climbing steps for the ultimate achievement.
In the age of technology when every kid is busy flying kites on the computer rather than doing the same under the azure sky; sportsmanship has an integral role to play in one’s life. A sport is that ultimate proof of one’s caliber that cannot be paralyzed by subjective prejudices. Sportsmanship values are umpteen — virtues of patience, self-confidence, team work, discipline, leadership, and time-orientation and so on. What one learns through this is uncompromising reality that cannot be tamed to anyone’s sweet will of hypothetical sophism.