By Sam Sooppersaud
The game of cricket has often being referred to as the “Gentleman’s game”. It was originated centuries ago and was played by the Lords and other English aristocrats to “pass the time in a gentleman’s way”. From its inception, therefore,  cricket has always been associated with “gentlemanliness” and all who are at a cricket game umpires, players, spectators –  are expected to act in a “gentleman’s (woman’s) way.  A code of behavior was written into the cricket laws (rules) prescribing the responsibility of each person at a cricket match. Foremost in everyone’s minds should be the feeling of sportsmanship – The Spirit Of The Game.

The umpires are always in charge of a cricket game. Photo by Ira Cohen.

Tom Smith’s NEW CRICKET UMPIRING and SCORING has this to say, “ is a game that owes much to its unique appeal to the fact that it should be played not only within the written laws, but also within the Spirit Of The Game. Any action which seem to abuse this spirit causes injury to the game itself….” The Spirit Of The Game involves everyone engaged in the play, among them the umpires. They are the sole judges of fair and unfair play, and it is against the Spirit of the Game to dispute (argue) an umpire’s call (decision).

In international cricket disputing an umpire’s call is an infraction deemed “showing dissent” to the umpire’s decision” and numerous players have been fined a large percentage of their match fee, and a few underwent suspension, after being found guilty of this infraction by the match referee. Sadly, there is not sanction against our local players who frequently engage in diatribes with/against the umpires for decision which they, the players, feel are wrong. These players are unwilling to accept that the umpires are the “sole judges of fair and unfair play”. The openly argues with and sometimes abuse the umpires with demeaning language.

Presently in the NYCR there is a rejuvenation of the game among the youths. The cricketers are younger as opposed to about a decade ago when the average age of the cricketer and in the late twenties or early thirties. Today we see kids as young as fourteen and fifteen years playing the game. A sure sign of a bright future for cricket in this country.  The Public School Athletic League (PSAL) and the Police Athletic League (PAL) have been the leaders in bringing youthful cricketers in the cricket park. These two organizations have contributed immensely to the improvement in the standard of play among the younger players. A number of players from these programs have been selected to represent, or have gone on to represent the NYCR and even the USA at the Senior, the Under-19, and the Under-15 levels, among them Amarnauth Persaud, Prasanth Nair, Kavishwar Bridgpaul, Trevor Singh, Andy Mohammed, Trevor Ross,  and others.

The PSAL and the PAL are providing the youths with the opportunity to play competitively and hopefully to improve their skills, be it with the bat, the ball, or in the field. However, playing regularly and getting better are not all we look to in a player. Yes, every player wants to excel in what he does. It is only natural for him (her) to want to do so. But in order to get the full “jest” of the game, the utmost fulfillment as a player, he must play the match within  the ‘Spirit of the Game”.

Too often we see numerous youths with a “give it to the umpire” attitude. They are ready to argue the umpire’s call, even to abuse and berate the official: in more exact words, “showing dissent to the umpire”.

Only a few days ago I was officiating in a game at Baisley Park in Queens, when a number of players, including a few in the NYCR and national limelight, openly, and in an argumentative manner, showed dissent to an umpire’s call. This is unacceptable in the game of cricket.

The youths are our cricket future. Whether our cricket rises or falls depends largely of these youthful cricketers. They have to train the body and the mind, alike. Keeping fit means doing their, “road work”, and other routines, in addition to training their minds, create a positive mental attitude. They must inculcate in their minds, the attitude of “The Spirit of the Game”.

What can be done to alleviate this problem?  I feel that cricket coaches, trainers, and club administrators must make this a priority. It must be drummed into the heads of the players that dissenting an umpire’s decision is absolutely not acceptable.  These leaders must be prepared to sanction any player who infringes on the umpire’s ability to be the “sole judge of fair and unfair play”. The Captains must be prepared to “run a tight ship” in the field. It is their duty. Cricket Law 42 (1) says as follows, “the responsibility lies with the captains for ensuring that play is conducted within the spirit and traditions of the game…”.

I strongly feel that spectators also have a huge role to play in contributing to the spirit of the game. As cricket fans we go the cricket park to enjoy an exciting day of cricket, at the same time rooting for our favorite club. We want our team to win, but, I hope, not at “any cost”. We should want our team to win “fairly and squarely”. We would also expect the same from the other team, should they win the game.

But, as I have mentioned before, mistakes are made, at times, by those engaged in a cricket game.  A batsman’s choice of a wrong shot which gets him out, a bowler serving a juicy full toss which is dispatched to the boundary, a fielder misjudging a simple catch, or making an errant throw in a sure run-out situation. Hey, to err is human. Same with an umpire. He may make a decision which at the time seems correct to him but later realizes that it was the wrong decision to make. But at the time, he felt it was the correct decision, made using his best judgment, and in good faith.  We do not us the UDRS in our local cricket. Even in international cricket where this technology in employed there are sometimes uncertainties and doubts.

Now to answer my question “how can the spectators help”. As spectators we should accept the realization that mistakes are inherent in a game of cricket.  We should allow ourselves to “go with the flow” of the game. The umpires are there to ensure fair play. Their decisions are, as we say, “final”.

We should resist the temptation to shout out to the umpire that he had just made a wrong call. This would only exasperate a situation if the players were also getting on the umpires for perceivably making that wrong call.

We go to the cricket park to enjoy a day of exciting cricket, whether we are players, fans, or umpires, let’s enhance this experience by staying within the “Spirit of the Game”.

The views expressed here are those of the contributor, and do not necessarily reflect those of