In cricketing parlance, the concept of a textbook shot by a batsman is attributed inter-alia to class, perfection, command, etc. It’s usually executed with authority, accuracy and authenticity. Not everyone can do it. There are some essential prerequisites, namely experience and a good eye among other things. The ball is usually hit with such power and precision that it races to the ropes at lightning speed with the cordon of fieldsman left absolutely dumbstruck. The only gesture they could ever extend would be a look of utter anguish and despair.
Cricketers of the caliber of Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardena have not only demonstrated such exquisite stroke play but have immortalised it. They will remain in the Sri Lankan cricket-loving psyche for years to come. It’s no wonder that Sri Lankans take refuge in following and enjoying their game of cricket. One plausible reason may be to give vent and release the ever-building stress against the unbaiting and disgusting corruption and, more recently, absolute mockery of a constitutional crisis.
The opposite of a perfectly timed stroke is the infamous agricultural stroke. A variety not usually advocated by the fluent and proficient except maybe the recklessly ambitious, someone with an abnormal, unfulfilling childhood with fixations and worries of not being able to hold a straight bat. Such individuals may be very tentative in brandishing the willow in conformity with the correct scientific process and as such could potentially imperil others both physically and visually. In all honesty they should have never entered the game of cricket in the first place.
The agricultural stroke is usually categorised as a kind of injudicious cricketing stroke not found in coaching manuals. No technique is required whatsoever to play these kinds of shots. It’s usually played with the swing of the bat across the line of the ball. In most cases you either miscue or miss it completely and get adjudged leg before wicket. The stroke often causes a chunk of the pitch to be dug up by the bat due to which reason it is called an agricultural shot.
The fundamental danger of this kind of stroke is the apparent audacity of the batsman to swing the bat wide across the line of the ball. It’s carefree, immature and totally irresponsible. Such bizarre cricket confounds the keen spectator. Such cricketers have no moral authority to be on any decent team.
Former farmer turned politician and current Executive President of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, Maithripala Sirisena, is currently in the limelight having swung the willow in typical cavalier fashion. Launching himself into a stroke, attempting a swashbuckling agricultural swing, he ballooned the red cherry up in the air. He came irresponsibly charging down the pitch to a reasonably good delivery which he should have treated with respect and miscued it. A leading edge lifted the ball up in the air into the deep where he was caught quite comfortably.
And that wasn’t the end of the story. He blamed all his indiscretions on his deputy, who incidentally was batting at the non-striker’s end. No mention of his rash, incautious approach, it was all about the deputy and his myriad faults. What followed was most daring. He took the liberty to appoint his own deputy in gross disregard of all the rules of the game. When spectators took to the street and lodged a formal complaint with the selectors, up went the finger again to a roaring and tumultuous ovation. The red light on the mega screen was endlessly flickering. The former deputy was reinstalled. He unfortunately still has the job and as expected is unable to curb or eschew his characteristic penchant to complain, grumble and spew venom. A little bird whispers that he is eagerly waiting for the next opportunity to run him out.
If only he had worked hard on his technique quite early on in his career and worked on his demeanor things would have been much different. And now he goes down in history as one of cricket’s ugliest batsmen. A cricketer who doesn’t know how to play each delivery according to its merit and importantly projecting himself as unreliable and untrustworthy.
Cricket is a gentleman’s game. It first appeared in the 13th Century and the game only gained popularity in the 17th Century. The only worthy and redeeming bequeathal of colonialism. It was first played by English aristocrats. They decreed the game would be played in a gentlemanly manner, no sledging, cheating, bodyline bowling, temper tantrums or excessive appealing. If the batsman knew he was out he should “walk” even if the umpire decided otherwise.
Sri Lanka has a long way to go before it learns to play the sport in a manner befitting a true gentleman. All of the ungentlemanly traits listed above are sufficiently present in most of our 225 legislators. As a matter of urgency they must be taken to the Lord’s cricket grounds not to play the game but run 25 rounds and enjoy its fresh air.