The Fourth Umpire provides his insight into the lives of cricketers. He writes:
"...everyone's read about and expressed an opinion on cricket's latest scandal - Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif failing a drugs test. That Shoaib would partake of a banned substance probably does not come as a surprise to many, but I suspect even the most hardened cynic would be shocked at what goes on in the cricketing world."and
"...some of the things I have either seen with my own eyes, or heard about from one or more of the parties involved include:I fear that his writing is the voicing of a common misconception amongst cricket lovers and watchers.
- recreational drug use (okay, that one's not going to surprise anyone)
- discussion of how to start with creatine (not considered doping, although it's banned in many countries), and go on from there
- cricketers on the phone to their wives whilst in bed with someone else (no, this is not one of the ones where I was standing in the room)
- notes being passed between the dressing room and groupies with arrangements of where and when to meet
- requests to officials/management to arrange 'dates' with specifical types of women
- exchange of 'love letters' over many years with multiple women (by married cricketers, of course)"
First things first. I consider the taxi driver who helped me get to a meeting today, a "hardened cynic". According to him, we should replace all computers, including the one that tells him the location of his next passenger, with papers and pens. Why? "Because, pens don't break down - do they?" I am not sure he realises exactly how much that computer has helped him earn the living that he does. For all intents and purposes, this man should join the Amish community.
Shock horror, shock horror. Why am I talking about a taxi driver (Don was his name, by the way) when our cricket bat/ball brandishing starts are committing sins of adultery and (shock, horror) recreational drug consumption? You will find out soon.
Let me first remind all and sundry that the above statements are mere allegations , not proven by any conclusive evidence, yet. In the case of performance enhancing drugs, its probably because cricketing authorities are years behind where they should be in relation to their testing programs. Secondly and more importantly, I ask you: what does it matter if these activities do indeed take place on a regular basis, as the Fourth Umpire implies?
I do not condone the use of recreational drugs, for I have witnessed first hand the damage they cause to the healthiest of people. Kids, do not take drugs - of any variety. However, if a cricketer stupidly decides to ignore all expert advice and evidence and consume recreational and/or performance enhancing drugs, he should be punished appropriately.
That is not the point, however. Why should we be "shocked" to learn that cricketers are any different to other sports stars. We have had plenty of instances of cricketers being caught taking recreational drugs. Cricketers in some countries enjoy the same lifestyles and vices of footballers and movies stars. It does not take a rocket scientist to deduce that some have, and will, continue to succumb to the power of fame and peer pressure and pop a pill or smoke a joint off the field. If you thought otherwise, welcome back to the real world.
Additionally, if I was a sportsperson I would also take great offence to the addition of creatine to the list above. Creatine is not, and has never been, considered an illegal substance in the world of sport. The fact that some countries ban it, is no reason to cast a shadow of suspicion over honest people. Some countries ban women from voting, even cynical Don would not consider that an acceptable practice.
The remainder of the Fourth Umpire's list concerns the infidelity of our revered cricketers. No matter what corner of the world you live in, you will know of at least one person who has cheated on their partner/spouse. Unfortunately, it is a very common event in this day and age. We all know that. Then, why is it so "shocking" to hear of cricketers cheating on their wives?
I don't, for the shortest second, pretend that cheating on your partner is acceptable. However, once again cricketers are human beings, just like you and I. That they happen to hit or bowl a ball better than most of us is no reason to expect them to be morally or ethically superior to the rest of their species. I am sure even cynical Don has heard of the many high profile philanderers in the world of sport and is not naive enough to believe that us "normal" people along with football stars and politicians can commit adultery, but not our esteemed cricketers.
The fact that single cricketers enjoy the company of women and seek to spend time with them, away from their profession, should not be cause for concern. The girls involved, almost always, willing partake in the shenanigans. Every boy and his dog has, at some point in his life, wished to live the glamorous life - replete with groupies and good looking women. Then, why do we con ourselves into believing our cricketers are any different to the rest of us. They are living their dream and making the most of their appeal while they can. If they are unfaithful to their partners, they will eventually be found out and punished accordingly.
Even after constant reminders via the media about exalted personalities falling from grace, it astounds me as to why the cricket watching public refuses to believe that cricketers are any different from us. They only have 36 chromosomes, just like you. They only have one brain, just like you. They want to be loved and adored, just like you. Even the "innocent, simple gentlemen" that play our great game are made up of flesh and bones, just like you. Why, then, should they not be susceptible to committing the same mistakes as you?
Wake up and smell the roses, ladies and gentlemen. Even when the spirit is willing, the flesh will always remain weak.
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