Has the gentleman’s game been put to shame?

Updated July 03, 2019

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India's captain Virat Kohli (R) celebrates with teammates Kedar Jadhav (C) and Mahendra Singh Dhoni (L) after the dismissal of England's captain Eoin Morgan during the 2019 World Cup group stage match between England and India at Edgbaston in Birmingham, central England, on June 30. — AFP/File
India's captain Virat Kohli (R) celebrates with teammates Kedar Jadhav (C) and Mahendra Singh Dhoni (L) after the dismissal of England's captain Eoin Morgan during the 2019 World Cup group stage match between England and India at Edgbaston in Birmingham, central England, on June 30. — AFP/File

WINNING and losing is taken as part and parcel of the game where you win some and lose some. That is how sports is considered to be played, if contested within the spirit of the game. But when that spirit is floundered in a manner suspicious in the eyes of those who matter then eyebrows are raised and questions are asked.

Several experts including those who have played this game at the highest level like former Indian captains like Saurav Ganguly and Sunil Gavaskar have also questioned the way India chose to lose their World Cup match against England, making not only a mockery of the contest but also putting the game to shame.

Read: Dhoni go-slow against England stirs Indian fan fury

For India, a team looking well prepared to win this Cup and with an incredible record of no defeat in this competition, to make their intent so glaringly clear to surrender when victory was theirs for the taking makes us all think whether that was for a reason to keep Pakistan — their traditional rivals — away from the semi-finals.

Success and failures in any sport largely depends on tactics no doubt but not at the cost of sportsman spirit. The Indian team is now being suspected to have done exactly that. Which brings me to ask: why should India stoop that low or be worried of Pakistan being in the semi-finals. After all India hold an indomitable record against the men in green in not one but all their head-to-head World Cup fixtures.

Was it political then or the fear of unexpected that Pakistan at times come up with to clinch a victory from the jaws of defeat. In this competition Pakistan beyond their supporters’ belief have not only beaten South Africa but also the favourites England, and New Zealand.

Had India won against England at Edgbaston, Pakistan could have easily managed to creep up to the semis by beating Bangladesh.

The ifs and buts of all these permutations can either put a team in control or bring them down from their ambit. Pakistan’s case now hangs in the balance.

India’s snail-paced chase against England — scoring only 28 runs in the first ten overs — and then when well in sight of a victory letting the game slip through Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Kedar Jadhav’s sleepy tactics to allegedly lose the game on purpose remains a source of worry.

That is what the game’s pundits have come to realise and those who know their cricket are complaining of suspicious tactics applied by Virat Kohli’s team.

Owing to India’s loss to England Pakistan now have dropped to fifth spot on the points table, and they are hoping to win their last league match against Bangladesh. Moreover, Sarfraz and company expect New Zealand to lose their game to England at Chester-Le-Street to be somewhere in contention for the last-four stage.

That does not sound too encouraging because Pakistan are trailing on run-rate too.

Dave Richardson, ICC’s outgoing chief executive, has come out with a statement to look into the England-India match. However, this does not seem good enough when every probing eye has their own suspicion about the manner in which India dished out the win to England.

Read: England deal India bruising 31-run defeat in must-win World Cup clash

India, a proper all round team  of this World Cup, may still be able to achieve victory but they have certainly not helped themselves to be respected for the way they went on to lose a highly-profile match at Edgbaston last Sunday.

Published in Dawn, July 3rd , 2019