Cricket isn’t just a game in the sub-continent. It is a religion worshipped by zillions. You do not simply become a God of this religion unless you have mastered the act of sportsmanship.
Cricket India has never really accepted stars that have become masters of the game but have failed to embrace humility, respect and love for the audience, for their nation and for their compatriots.
In order to reward fair play and make it a characteristic to every single player gracing the Indian Premier League, the board decided to introduce the Fair Play Award. This award recognises the cumulative sportsmanlike acts that you have put up on the field, spanning from adhering stringently to the code of the game to respecting every individual present on the field.
Here we sneak a peek into five occasions that have exemplified the act of fair play, transcending the cricketer beyond the on-field boundaries.
1. David Warner hands Basil Thampi back his shoe before completing the run
David Warner has been involved in more than his fair share of controversy, none more so than when he was forced to step down from his position as the Australian skipper after being involved in the Sandpaper gate scandal. However, Warner has also been a phenomenon in the Australian ranks.
With three Orange Caps in his collection, Warner has made his presence felt over and over again in every edition of the IPL that he has played.
In one fine act of sportsmanship, he and Moises Henriques were en route to establishing a comprehensive victory for Sunrisers Hyderabad against an ailing Gujrat Lions. With a meagre 136 to win, Warner smashed a blistering 76 off just 45 deliveries before it was a touchdown for the Sunrisers.
Towards the end of the game, when the Sunrisers were in touching distance of victory, Gujrat Lions skipper, Suresh Raina introduced the young Basil Thampi in the attack. With rank inexperience, Thampi bowled in the slot at Warner and the Australian southpaw hammered the delivery straight back at him. In a failed attempt to field the ball, Thampi lost his balance and ended up losing a shoe.
Warner went out of his way to first hand back the shoe to the youngster, citing, “Here’s your shoe, mate” before completing the run.
According to a few, this incident lost its importance as they believed that Warner wouldn’t have done this in a crunch situation, but then again opinions from a paltry crowd won’t really tarnish the reputation which the Australian destructor-in-chief holds about himself.
2. Yuvraj pats Uthappa’s back to diffuse a heated situation
In an attempt to conquer an astronomical total of 208 against the mighty Sunrisers, KKR struggled against a regular fall of wickets. However, Robin Uthappa did stage retaliation with a quickfire 53 off just 28 deliveries. In his blistering innings that was embellished with four boundaries and four over-boundaries and while he was partnered by a steadfast Manish Pandey at the other end, rain paved the way for a crucial break in between.
Before the heavens opened, in a heated moment of exchange and with the pressure getting to the nerves of Uthappa, he ended up pushing Siddarth Kaul while attempting to take a run. This left Kaul bewildered as he appeared to have done little wrong and was never really expectant of such an aggressive act from a national superstar.
While the teams were headed to the dugout after play was interrupted with the downpour, Yuvraj walked up to his former national teammate and patted his back to show the KKR wicket keeper that there were no hard feelings.
Yuvi and Robin have been very close friends since the 2007 T-20 World Cup and both of them played an extremely pivotal role in helping India to lift the trophy in its inaugural edition.
3. Suresh Raina applauds Risabh Pant’s blistering knock
Suresh Raina was once a pivotal moniker for India in their T-20 enterprises and also a very lethal southpaw at number three.
Blessed with natural leadership skills, Raina captained India and was then shouldered with the onus of leading the newly built franchise, Gujrat Lions.
In a game against Delhi Daredevils, the Lions hammered a massive total of 208. With a required run rate of more than 10, Raina and his team would have expected to register a crushing victory over Delhi in the latter’s own backyard.
Incredibly though, Delhi overcame the total with 15 balls to spare, courtesy of imperious batting displays from youngsters Sanju Samson and Risabh Pant.
Pant was inching close to his maiden century when he was unbeaten on 97 from just 42 deliveries. However, he couldn’t reach the Promised Land, as he ended up nicking the next delivery straight into the arms of Dinesh Kartik.
Absolutely incredulous of what exactly unfolded and the fact that he went on to miss his maiden century by a whisker, he started the long walk back to the pavilion with a head hung low in dejection. However, much to the surprise of everyone, Suresh Raina, the skipper of the opposition, walked up to the rising sensation and acknowledged the genius of his blistering innings.
It is not often that you see a member of the opposition acknowledging the part a rival has played in the crushing defeat of his own team. This was a show of great respect from Raina.
4. Hashim Amla, the forever gentleman
The Indian Premier League played witness to one of Hashim Amla’s wonderfully sportsmanlike acts when Kings XI Punjab was pitted against Bengaluru and Amla was up against Aniket Choudhary in the opening over.
In a delivery drifting away from Amla, the South African ended up nicking it to Kedhar Jadhav. However, given the deafening noises from the crowd in Chinnaswamy, the nick was barely audible and the RCB players didn’t bother to appeal.
However, adhering to his candour and sportsman spirit, Amla started walking towards the pavilion knowing that the ball did kiss his bat.
With Aniket and Jadhav stunned, the crowd instead of erupting into a delirious celebrations, broke out into applause in acknowledgement of the South African’s honesty and sporting behaviour.
5. Mr Dependable for England is also Mr Fairplay for Royals
In a moment of cricketing madness which probably could have been inscribed as an act of instinctive brilliance from Ben Stokes, the English destructor signalled that he couldn’t make a clean catch to dismiss Alex Hales.
While playing for Sunrisers Hyderabad against Rajasthan Royals, Alex Hales lofted Ish Sodhi’s over-pitched delivery towards the boundary. However Hales didn’t connect properly and the ball was on the verge of falling short. Ben Stokes made up some incredible ground in the field and lunged to pull off what would have been a magnificent catch.
Amazingly Stokes did pull off the catch, but as he landed, his elbow struck the ground harder than anticipated and the ball spilt out of his hands. Impossible to tell with the naked eye whether the catch was dropped, Stokes got up and signalled that the ball had in fact hit the ground.
Not only did his own teammates acknowledge this gesture of honesty but Alex Hales raised his bat and patted it in a nod to this wondrous behaviour from the England maestro.