This is not an uncommon gaffe amongst commentators these days: to err beyond measure, beyond belief even, and then to continue to hold the privilege of the microphone to make sweeping statements about the sport when the fan has traditionally looked for more from the commentators he/she has revered in the past. Even more dangerously, it tends to overshadow the real issue at hand.
The Joe Root versus Shannon Gabriel tiff on the field quickly became Sanjay Manjrekar versus Twitter, overshadowing once more the more crucial aspect of addressing the on-field argument in the first place. And the worst part is that the former Indian cricketer and a quiet opener at that appears to be making calls that would perpetuate such insensitive behaviour on the field.
Shannon Gabriel, the West Indies fast bowler, appeared to have called Joe Root, the England captain, gay judging by the response that came forth from the latter in the course of the third Test in St. Lucia. Root’s response, caught on the stump microphones as the umpires tried to break up the verbal tiff, had Gabriel in hot water even as the match progressed thereafter.
However, in what is increasingly becoming a common scenario amongst commentators who are not appropriately trained for the job but inducted by mere virtue of being former cricketers, there is often a comment or two that does not go unnoticed despite the necessary, almost monotonous drivel that is dished out these days in the name of commentary. While loudness and abrasiveness have replaced knowledge, equanimity and objectivity, there has, also, been a case when the commentator has been exposed only too easily and unfortunately as a sign of falling standards in the sports and not always just limited to the field.
What happened on the field should have been addressed, not the faux pas on the part of the commentators. This is not the first time Manjrekar has made comments that seem out of tune with the sports and with the times. The last time he alluded to mental illnesses and this time he is willing to cover up equally serious issues by suggesting that the solution to the Gabriel-Root argument is to turn off the stump microphones!
How does turning off the stump microphone highlight the issue of players’ sensitivity training to matters of race, age, gender and sexual orientation and how does it then eradicate the malaise in the sport? Instead of nipping the matter in the bud, it allows the sportspersons in question to get away with anything at a time when sledging has become an issue and the degree to which it is harmful not only to the team at the receiving end but also, to the team perpetuating it.
It was, also, one of the concerns raised when Sarfraz Ahmed, the Pakistan captain, included in his apology that while alluding to the race of a South African cricketer, he did not intended for his comments to be aired. How does a statement not being aired make it alright? There are still two people involved, one doing the damage and the other potentially incurring the damage. It is quite astounding that in this day and age there are no media spinners for these players as well as publicity agents who would know better to check the apology releases before they are made public.
Likewise, it seems commentators, particularly former players turned commentators, could use an opportunity to rewind to earlier times when the person holding the microphone outside of the cricket field, also, held privilege and responsibility to convey the game as it evolves, to allude to the game that came before, and also, to respectfully and thoughtfully raise the thinking for the fascinated listener about the potential changes that would make the game even better.
Instead the scenario has become such that the attention has moved away from a rather relevant, worthy issue at hand to a rather callous one, which is not how the game works, or should work.