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Recalling Madiba's immortal words

Sajal K Patra | | Updated: October 7, 2015, 2:41 PM IST

Sports in itself is unique in nature as there are very few people whose lives remain untouched by it. You can take it the way you want. For some it might come as a hobby, for some a reason to live and for some like me both hobby and profession. You can envy me for being in those five percent whose hobby and profession match.

We are divided by opinions but united by sports, so strong is its presence that it can heal a broken heart or a lost battle.

I personally prefer reading the last page of the newspaper which is full of accomplishments rather than the first page that highlights a man's failure, one may differ, so be it even if it's sad demise of a sportsperson. Sometimes, just to make a tragedy look even more tragic or cash in on it by making some quick bucks rather than simply treat it as news.

The sudden demise of Phillip Hughes is nothing less than earth shattering and there is nothing more sad than a life taken away too early. And all of a sudden all the news agencies seemed to have woken up and started reporting deaths of sportspersons with incessant regularity - for obvious reasons.

The hypocrisy of the cricketing fraternity is even more shocking where people started to care more about each other when getting hit or trying to bowl the bouncer. After all, you don't bowl a bouncer to greet each other. The first intention is to get the batsmen out, if not try and hurt them.

There are too many instances where this has happened in the past. The famous 1976 West Indies series when the Indians were absent hurt in a Test match where they just did not have enough players to bat and the then Indian captain Bishen Singh Bedi declared the innings with the team losing only 5 wickets. Anshuman Gaekwad, Brijesh Patel and Gundappa Viswanath were among the casualties and nobody thought that it was a game of cricket.

The bloodbath continued as the crowd was right behind the home team and Sunil Gavaskar in his autobiography referred the tour as barbarism to the core. Gavaskar paid the price and had to withdraw from the next West Indian tour in the aftermath of the words used in his autobiography.

The famous bodyline series was to stop Sir Donald Bradman from scoring runs and if I am to believe that, then it is more out of despair and boredom. The tactics were not only to stop him but to hurt him, precisely the reason why it was banned as it was too evident.

Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson were fearless and used the short ball not only to scare and intimidate the batsmen but also the players who were watching the game from the dressing room. Former Australian fast bowler, Len Pascoe almost left playing because he always feared that he might kill somebody. It is something about the red cherry that compelled him to become a monster with the ball and Shivlal Yadav found that out in not the best of ways.

In the 1980-81 tour of Australia, he almost broke every bone of Yadav's body, starting with a blow on the helmet, then shoulder, then forearm, then ribs, then the thigh and eventually ended up by breaking his toe.

All this, not because the bowler was certain that he is not going to kill anybody. It just became a norm and bowlers used to take pride in hitting the batsmen. Well, all of them might deny it but their actions and expressions will tell you a different story.

So, the death of Hughes was as sad as it can possibly get and it was a freak accident but to say that bowlers bowl the short ball just to intimidate the batsmen and not to hurt them is like saying I like alcohol because of the taste.

While I would like to express my sincere condolences to the Hughes family, it just took one session of Rohit Sharma to get the juices flowing in Mitchell Johnson, which got things back to normality.

Sports can indeed change the world, the great Nelson Mandela once said. I wonder how true Madiba was.

First Published: February 3, 2015, 5:22 PM IST

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