If the idea that sport mirrors the world in which it is played in is true, then recent displays of cricketing comradeship and brotherly love should warm the hearts of progressives across the globe. For it appears that cricket’s age old traditions of rugged Boycottian individualism may be coming to an end.
The conventional view, within the sport, is that it is actually impossible to be happy for a team-mate, and that individual success is the only route to true satisfaction. An idea dating back, at the very least, to the era of the game’s first super star, WG Grace who was once bowled, only to replace the bails on the stumps and proclaim that: “They have come to watch me bat, not you bowl,” before he continued his innings.
Twice, though, in the last week, cracks have appeared in the united front of cricketing conservatism, as not one, but two players have broken ranks to celebrate the success of a colleague.
The first of the trailblazing woke-warriors was Mohammed Siraj. He stunned India, the world, and Tim Paine, by openly celebrating his batting partner, Ravichandran Ashwin, reaching his century against England. Siraj’s broad smile and vigorous fist pumping went viral during the second Test, even prompting legend of the game Sachin Tendulkar to reach for his phone and Tweet some gibberish.
Then, on Monday, Devon Conway, made the shocking revelation that he was more concerned about Ish Sodhi missing out on a landmark than himself.
Conway, who had blasted his way to 99 not out, off just 59 balls, before the New Zealand innings ended, responded to whether he was upset to miss out on his century by saying: “Naturally, [I am] a little disappointed [to miss the hundred] but good to get the win. Probably a little more disappointed for Ish [Sodhi] not getting his five-for, but happy days. It’s pretty cool.” Despite the usual “all Kiwi’s are great guys” caveats obviously applying here, this was an unusually selfless remark for a cricketer to make.
Those who are convinced that such displays of empathy are becoming the norm across the game have also been quick to jump on another example, from the series between Bangladesh and West Indies. Speaking at the end of a day’s play, Mehidy Hasan, who inched his way to a century whilst batting with Mustafizur Rahman, commented: “Mustafizur was very nervous, as he wasn’t sure if he would be able to give me appropriate support. I reached out to him and said to not worry and I advised him to play naturally, and take little to no pressure.”
This heartwarming tale, is however, deceptive. A little scorecard investigation, and some cricketing experience will tell you that this isn’t what was going on here. Mustafizur’s nervousness was induced purely from self-interest. Had “The Fizz” fallen before Mehidy reached his century, he would have been blamed.
Whether we will see other players revelling in the triumphs of their colleagues, or a retrenchment of Boycottian values, is yet to be seen.
If this trend is to continue one suspects the next step will need to be taken by one of the game’s superstars. A warm (Covid-friendly) embrace between an official and Virat Kohli could, for example, trigger a more socially-developed era for the sport.