By Sam Sooppersaud
Last Sunday, August 11, 2019, was a beautiful sunny day. The temperature was in the 80’s. A slight breeze was blowing, with no showers on the horizon. It was a suitable day for a cricket match, and, that’s precisely where the beauty ended for a cricket match at Lido Beach in Nassau County, New York. The American Cricket Society (ACS) was in a semi-final game against Galaxy Sports Club, in the Eastern American Cricket Association’s (EACA) 40-overs competition.
I was at home doing nothing, as they say. I could not do any manual work because I recently had surgery done to my left elbow and, was recuperating. So, I decided to take the half-hour drive to Lido Beach cricket ground, to watch what was billed to be an exciting clash. At the same time, meet up with some of my friends and acquaintances, whom I had not seen for a few months. Being a cricket fan, I am nearly always at one cricket field or the other, taking in a cricket game. Due to my almost constant presence at cricket parks, I have gotten to know quite a large number of cricketers and cricket fans.
When I got to the park around 1:00 PM the game had already started and the batting side had already lost three wickets with the score in the forties. Soon after, mayhem broke out. One of the teams and its supporters (I will not name any names here as my intention is only to highlight a problem that needs to be addressed, and not to create embarrass anyone or any club) somehow became obsessed with the idea that the umpires were impartial, and that they were against them. There were constant shouts of disapproval from that team’s players and directed at the umpires, on decisions which they felt were “wrong.” Play was delayed numerous times due to dissent and players “taking a stand.”
The culmination of a disastrous day of cricket came when the second side batted. With the score in the sixties and only one wicket down, and the second wicket partnership entrenched, the fielding team must have felt at that stage that the game was slipping away from them. Then further mayhem occurred. I had left to go to my car in the parking lot to get a snack. On re-entering the ground, I saw several spectators on the field of play. The manager of the fielding side was almost halfway into the field of play, and several spectators and the manager were shouting the “foulest language” no self-respecting person would want to hear. On inquiring further, I was informed that the Umpire had not given a batsman out when it was clear to some that he was caught, in the opinion of the source and those in disagreement with the Umpire’s decision.
The disgruntled team’s spectators joined by the manager, remained on the field of play, and needless to say, the match was held up for nearly ten minutes, despite the umpires’ best efforts to calm the “invaders,” and to get them off the field so that that play could resume. They did not budge. I saw the two umpires come together and had a conference. Of course, I could not hear what they were talking about, but I am quite sure it had to do with the outcome of the game. On observing the umpires meeting, the invaders vacated the field, and the match resumed, with a hail of expletives and vulgarity directed at the umpires. As we would say in Guyana, the “most stinking cusses.” One spectator even suggested violence towards the Umpire. The fielders joined in the dissent, but I cannot say whether they also had abused the umpires. I also cannot say here whether the fielding captain said anything to the Umpire.
I did not doubt in my mind that the recalcitrant spectators were supporters of the fielding side. I have gone to several of this club’s games and have seen the same people over and over. It was a disastrous day of cricket. I made a call to Rudy Persaud, president of the EACA and spoke to him at length on the matter. He acknowledged that he had received several complaints from various persons, and told me that one of the umpires who officiated in the game had called him and related to him what took place. However, Rudy admitted that there is little he can do about the matter because he has not received a formal complaint and a match report from the umpires. However, he told me that he has spoken to several persons who mentioned the names of those involved.
This coming Sunday, August 18, the finals in the EACA 40-overs competition will be played, and I advise players, officials, and spectators to exercise caution so that we would not have a repeat of what transpired in that semi-final game at Lido Beach. It is my advice that all of us come out to the park to enjoy what is billed to be an exciting game, with a feeling of friendship, sportsmanship, and camaraderie.
Let us come out and enjoy the match in the Spirit of the Game. Tom Smith in his 2003 book “New Cricket Umpiring and Scoring” opined, “Cricket is a game that owes much of its unique appeal to the fact that it should be played not only within the laws but also within the Spirit of the Game. Any action which abuses this spirit causes injury to the game itself…the major responsibility for ensuring the spirit of fair play rests with the captains.” Yes, it is the responsibility of each team’s captain to see that his players participate within the Spirit of the Game and the Laws.
A captain should emphasize to his players that the umpires are the sole judges of fair and unfair play further, that their decision is final. Period. Players should be encouraged to comply with the directives of the umpires, and not to criticize, by word or action, the decision of an Umpire. Showing dissent or behaving in a manner which might bring the game into disrepute, should at all times be discouraged. An absolute “No, No.”
A player or official contributes to the Spirit of the Game in numerous ways, particularly with respect for opponents as well as teammates, the role of the umpires and the game’s traditional values. The sport of cricket has always been regarded as a Gentleman’s Sport from its inception. Historically, the sport has been played by men of a particular class and stature. That tradition exists up to this day, and present-day players must maintain that same spirit with which the original players regarded the game.
Very often today we see players violate the sanctity of the game in various ways. It is against the Spirit of the Game to dispute an umpire’s decision, by word, action, or gesture. Directing abusive language towards an opponent or Umpire also brings the game into disrepute. Violence or the threat of violence has no place in a cricket game. So come this Sunday let us all go out to the cricket park and do our part to ensure that the Spirit of the Game is maintained.
Last Sunday, at Lido Beach I tried to do my part by offering some advice to players and officials. I was met with a barrage of F’s and S’s from folks for whom I had the highest regard. They really surprised me with their responses toward my advice. Basically, I was saying to them that the Umpire’s decision has to be adhered to, that his decision was final. Those individuals subsequently apologized to me, but it should never have happened.
The views expressed in this column are solely those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of www.usacricketers.com.