MS Dhoni, the epitome of calmness under pressure, stormed to the field from the dugout when confusion arose due to a no-ball. Although Dhoni drew flak from former international players, and also received a subsequent 50% fine on his match fee, an important question needs some debating – do players have a freedom of expression or does reverence for laws, seniors, and the game take precedence?
This argument is not only restricted to cricket but can be applied to any form of sport – even if the umpire or referee is wrong, and players, due to utter disappointment and frustration, even question the decision, they are quickly charged with ‘bringing the game into disrepute’. There is one thing as fixing matches or using sandpaper to alter the ball – these are blatant instances of bringing the game into disrepute, however, applying the same yardsticks to players who challenge the decision of an official is high-handedness. While Dhoni has certainly erred by storming on to the middle, there have been instances in the past when a mere discussion with umpires over their calls has led to heavy fines on cricketers.
Purists are influenced by the romantic belief that the decision of the umpire is final. Players are expected to accept all decisions without showing any emotion that may be ‘disrespectful’ to the officials. However, these expectations are unrealistic because in spite of all the money and limelight, players are genuinely passionate about the sport they play. And, when an opportunity to showcase their skills is taken away from them unjustly, they cannot be expected to behave like a robot – they will show emotions, even when they try real hard not to show them. This is not to say that umpires and referees need to be castigated for making wrong decisions – like players, they are also under humongous pressure, and are prone to err.
The need of the hour is that instead of having a blanket ban on any form of dissent, governing bodies should adopt a more humane approach. If plumb LBW is not given out or a game-changing no-ball is not spotted by the umpires, players should have the right to respectfully ask the umpire if the decision can be reversed. So may scoff at the idea of reversing an umpire’s decision, but there have been brave examples in the past when umpires, realizing their mistake, have reversed their decision – this is much before the DRS was put into place.
Giving players the freedom of expression does not mean giving them a license to humiliate or abuse umpires. That, again, is a clear-cut offence of bringing the game into disrepute. Umpires need to be respected at all costs, but it is their decisions that can be challenged and questioned. Again, this stands true when you are in the middle of the action – if you in the dugout, dressing room, or pavilion, you leave it to the players are officially permitted to be out in the middle. Freedom of expression is a fundamental right of every human being and within the ambit of any sport, some modifications can be made that archaic laws put into place centuries ago are in sync with contemporary times.