The proposed move by the International Cricket Council (ICC) to keep the stump microphones during the World Cup in England in May poses a dilemma.
On the one hand, the ICC is trying to get the game and its heroes closer to the fans by allowing them to get into the thick of things. On the other hand, words said in the heat of the moment will also be made known to the fans and this may prove detrimental to the players concerned.
The recent case of Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed and West Indian fast bowler Shannon Gabriel proved that it can go against the players. Both received four-match bans for comments which were unworthy of their stature.
First of all, it must be understood that sports has become very professional in nature. This leads to a lot of aggression and attitude on the field of play.
Things are said in the heat of the moment which would even make a sailor blush. The so-called “Gentleman’s Game” died a slow death back in the 1960s and 70s.
Using foul language and vulgar actions are acceptable within limits. But with the use of stump mics, who will determine what is fair or unfair?
Games are often telecast by the home broadcaster and it will be their discretion over what to use and what not to. In the past, there have been instances where the home broadcaster has used selective comments which have fomented trouble.
The recent Test series between India and Australia in Australia is a prime example. The exchanges between Indian wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant and Australian captain Tim Paine got widespread coverage.
There were other exchanges too which need not have come into focus. But the home broadcaster used it to give Australia some advantage.
Sledging has become a big part of the game. Hence, comments from the wicketkeeper, nearby fielders or the bowler may add to the viewing pleasure. There is a constant use of foul language which will also be picked up and broadcast.
It must be remembered that sports has universal appeal to all ages. There is always the danger of a kid learning some of the colourful language which is used on the field.
At that impressionable age, he may think that using bad language is part of the game. He will surely emulate his heroes, bad language and all, when he grows up.
Furthermore, there are some comments best left on the field of play. And the less people hear it the better. The ICC has admitted that opening up the stump mics will be a fine balancing act for the broadcaster.
Since it is a live situation, controlling the content may be difficult if the mics are open throughout the match.
One can understand the ICC’s eagerness to add this innovation to please the advertisers and sponsors of tournament. These companies spend millions and they need something additional to normal coverage to satisfy them.
But cricket has gone beyond the control of the boards. Player behaviour should have been cracked down back in the 1970s when it first started getting ugly. It’s too late now. The various boards around the world want sports to be also an entertainment.
Stump microphones may add to the show business bit but it will come with a price…