31 December 2018

Sometimes if you don’t stand up, you fall

Carlos ‘Remember the Name’ Brathwaite is best known for his heroics in the World T-20 World Cup final a few years ago when he hit four consecutive sixers to secure an improbable win for the West Indies against England. Just the other day, now elevated as Captain, Brathwaite once again took matters into his hands in a very different manner.

It all happened in the fourth over of Bangladesh’s chase.  He reacted strongly when on-field umpire Tanvir Ahmed erroneously called a no-ball off Oshane Thomas. This was a repeat-error for Ahmed had also called Thomas for overstepping in the 5th delivery of that over. Bangladesh scored sixers off both free hits. 

Brathwaite stated that he was willing to risk sanctions for his intervention. For him, the logic was simple and clear. This is what he said at the post-match press conference: "Sanctions may come and go, but if you don't stand for something, you fall for everything.” 

And he elaborated thus: ‘My team-mates need to be stood up for and as the captain of the ship, I will stand up for them.’

This is not unusual in sports. Sometimes, for example in professional basketball, a player or even a coach will deliberately invite a technical foul. The opposing team gets a shot at a free point, but the reasoning is that this is compensated for by the team getting an adrenalin rush that will drag them out of say a rut of waywardness or a patch of dispassionate play.  

Brathwaite’s response was not prompted by such thinking, obviously. It was about right and wrong. It was less about the result and the penalties he might suffer. The key line, however, is not about the prerogatives of captaincy. It’s about standing and falling. 

Let’s revisit: ‘if you don’t stand for something, you fall for everything.’

There are many reasons not to stand. Convenience is one. One is not supposed to rock the boat. Why upset those who may have a big say in your future? Brathwaite is the captain and therefore it’s a tad easier for him. What if he was just another player? What guarantee that his captain, coach and cricket officials would support him, the way Arjuna Ranatunga, the Cricket Board and the entire citizenry supported Murali and how everyone stood with Arjuna when he stood with Murali?

That’s the challenge. It’s all about possible sanctions. Some can be heavy and like a dreadful injury even of a career-ending kind. 

‘Is it worth the risk?’ is the first question that comes to mind. In sports, like in business, one does calculate things. One weighs marginal benefits over marginal costs. It is not prudent to go with ‘gut’. On the other hand, if one spends a reflective life, certain things become second nature. Certain moments calls for instant response and in such situations ‘gut’ claims the day. Costs come later.

For all this or any of it or even some small element of the whole to happen, one has to have a good sense of right and wrong, however one wants to measure such things. 

The worth of taking particular stands can and will be assessed much later. That’s when the possibility of sanctions come into the equation. However, Brathwaite is correct about certain things. If you don’t stand, you fall. You fall but maybe no one will notice. Even those who do notice may not find fault. And yet, if it rankles within long after everyone else has forgotten, then it’s a sure sign that you’ve erred, that you didn’t stand up when you should have, and that as a result you’ve ‘fallen’.