Throughout their World Cup campaign one thing stood out about the Sri Lankan captain. It was Jayawardene`s magnanimity, decency and sense of proportion; an extension of his sportsmanship. Even after the final defeat, the captain never whinged: no sour grapes, no excuses, no passing the blame on the weather, poor umpiring or squash balls for his side`s defeat. Instead he admitted the better side won. That`s all.
There is a lesson in it for all of us. Firstly, to accept defeat with grace. To accept that the better side won the match. To accept that an incredible innings was played that day, the likes of which we shall probably never see again. And if we are trying to put it all down to a squash ball in a glove, then, let us at least be aware not to appear churlish whilst we set about doing so. Petulance can have its limits.
?No dinner invitations or Christmas cards!
I am quite certain I will definitely be in the minority sharing such views. Probably in some quarters I will even be open to ridicule. But a critic of the game cannot sidestep issues and worse, side with the majority fearing popular sentiment that may be at variance with his own thinking. So swimming against the current it has to be, if one`s conscience does not allow otherwise. With all due respect to all who have written so strongly on the subject, I wish to present a line of thought which is not likely to earn me invitations to dinner or even receive the odd card at Christmas. Never mind!
?Prefer reliance on objective than subjective thinking.
Logic in these matters often helps. And logic tells me that a squash ball given the location shown in the pictures and allegedly used for the purpose of propelling a hit a long way will not serve the purpose. Certainly not in the manner thought out by most of those who have rushed so hastily to pour out their venom in print.
?What an encumberance!
Just a minute. Before you go on the boil I ask you to go back to your days of wielding a bat. The main consideration about a grip is how relaxed or comfortable you are when doing so. Having a ball stuck in your palm, squash or otherwise and embracing the bat handle whilst embracing the squash ball as well, would be a pretty tall order for anyone willing to try it out. In other words, if the bottom hand were to go round the handle of the bat as well as embrace most of the squash ball`s circumference as well, it will result in a very insecure grip of the bat with the bottom hand to say the least. Not the sort that would help Gilchrist deposit Chaminda Vaas 15 rows into the stand beyond long-on.
?The purpose was to make him change the grip and not hit longer.
We have learnt that the purpose was to help Gilchrist towards an orthodox grip; to prevent his bottom hand from tending to rotate too much towards the back of the bat as was his wont. If a close study of pictures of the ball`s location is made, it would be noticed that it was directly beneath the base of his middle and ring fingers. That would leave a pathway clear in the rest of his palm to allow the bat handle to pass which would lend towards a far greater orthodoxy in Gilchrist`s grip. So it appears the ball was there to make him change his grip and not help him hit longer. If that is a load of bunkum, all our local heroes should emulate Gilchrist, supplant balls inside their gloves and start hitting balls into the closest river.
?The positioning is vital to the argument.
The positioning of the squash ball is vital to the argument. Had it been anywhere else than where it was, at least the hysteria would have some basis. Now it hasn`t, because by securing the squash ball where it was, all what Gilchrist achieved was a more orthodox grip by searching for a comfort zone in the remainder of his bottom palm. He achieved that by turning his bottom hand more towards the front or the face of the bat, automatically. If Gilchrist`s previous grip resulted in uppish sliced shots towards third man and backward point area, the new grip saw them off. So the squash ball served to prevent the bottom hand rotating towards the back of the bat through the creation of discomfort beyond a certain point. Gilchrist might have achieved the same effect had he discarded the squash ball and stuffed any other spherical object instead, to serve the same purpose. The purpose was to create a `stop` and relocate the hands on the handle towards orthodoxy, rather than gain the alleged advantage.
?Surely, not that dumb?
If gaining an unfair advantage was the motive, Gilchrist would also have been extremely foolish if not naiive in making a public exhibition of the fact that he carried a squash ball in his palm by repeatedly pointing to it in full view of millions of viewers. At least lets give it to him, he isn`t that dumb.
?What about heavy bats and all protective gear?
All protective equipment and strappings which sportsmen wear are in one way or another, performance enhancing. Be they chest pads, helmets, thigh pads, arm guards or a varied assortment of batting glove designs, and what went into them. All sorts of designs and fortifications have been introduced in the wake of players demanding greater safety for their fingers. But still no one has queried either those, or the obvious unfairness of the use of heavier bats by some, or even the widespread acceptance of protective equipment for close in fielders. The use of a box, shin guards, chest guards and helmets can be said gives the fielder an unfair advantage in that it allows them to stand intimidatingly close to the batsman which they would never do, otherwise.
?In the end it is just how good you are in what you do.
Despite all the hullabaloo, at the end of the day what matters is how good you are at what you do. No amount of stuffing gloves with whatever the balls - tennis, golf, squash or even sheep`s testicles ? will matter. If a batsman simply cannot bat, he wont make runs despite all the balls. Similarly whatever a bowler may do ? in eschewing more comfortable boots, taping of ankles and shoulders or eating bananas for more energy - if he cannot bowl properly, he wont take wickets. Similarly, should coaches be banned along with technology, gear improvement and healthy diets, simply because it may gives some teams which could afford them greater advantage over the others?
?Response from the custodians of the Laws.
The MCC being the custodians of the Laws made a recent clarification on the issue, and the ICC forwarded it to a local `Blog.` The Law they said, only specifies what external and visible protective equipment is permitted. Such as helmets, pads, batting gloves and forearm guards. None of them ? barring wicket-keeping gloves - carry any definition or prescription to design or size. Since there is no restriction in Law even on the external form of batting gloves let alone their interior, no Law they say, has been breached in this instance.
The MCC have recognized that players, mostly batsmen, wear other items for their protection, but since they are not visible and therefore not external. Therefore no objection is raised. Had such items as chest protectors or even helmets been banned, the authorities could be held responsible in the event of serious injury or death occurring as a result. The MCC has also recognized that the squash ball was not for protection from injury, but to improve the way the batsman gripped the bat handle. They saw the squash ball no less fair than the widespread practice of having two or three grips on the bat handle - to which no objection, official or unofficial, has ever been raised. They were both used to improve the grip. In conclusion they have indicated that the incident could not be classed either as contravening the Law or as breaching the Spirit of the Game.
?Missing the most valid point.
I believe the majority who have rushed to ink their thoughts have missed a valid point. It is that Gilchrist`s bottom hand did not encompass the squash ball as well as the bat whilst gripping the bat. Instead, the squash ball merely shifted the location of his bottom hand on the handle, towards an orthodox grip. Possibly it lightened his grip more than tighten it. And it certainly stopped his bottom hand from moving back around the bat. So if the grip was improved as a result, it was no different to a batsman having two or three grips on his handle to achieve the same purpose.
?Looking at the positives than dwelling on the negatives.
All good men everywhere, may want to slow down on the hysteria and avoid stirring up needless conflict. Particularly in areas which can show us up in the worst possible light. Instead it may be a great idea that the entire nation rejoices in the fact that the team did well enough to reach the final. That was a tremendous achievement in any language. Far better fancied teams couldn`t go that far.