06 February 2019

The 'done thing' is rarely done

Adam Gilchrist walked in the 2003 World Cup semi-final
but 'walking' is not the only 'done thing' that's rarely done
When batsmen nick and and are caught behind, typically they wait for the umpire's decision. When it's just a shave, the decision is not easy. Some batsmen walk. In other words, they know they've nicked it, they know they are out and they walk. That's so rare that such batsmen receive a lot of praise for it's a 'done thing' that's strangely rarely done.

In the Royal-Thomian encounter of 1976, the entire Royal team appealed for a 'caught-behind' down the leg side. The umpire immediately raised his finger to the disbelief of the batsman, the late Lalith Ratnayake. A collective write-up by the Thomian teams from 1975-1977 describes the incident thus:

'The batsman appeared clearly shocked, as the ball had only grazed his shirt on the way to the wicket keeper. He instinctively shook his head and made his way back to the pavilion with his head down like a true sportsman. His reaction was enough for the Royal captain, Saldin, to think twice. Had the batsman been any of the 10 other Thomians in the team, Saldin would probably not have even considered doing what he did. After a quick "conference" with his teammates he requested the umpires to call the batsman back. Saldin and all his team mates were certain that the batsman concerned would never have reacted the way he did if he was in fact out.' 

Another 'done thing' that's rarely done. Let it be noted that in that 97th annual Big Match between the schools, STC had Royal on the ropes. Let it also be noted that this was long before we got the Decision Review System and Hot-Spot. 

Now cricket is supposed to be a gentlemen’s game. Golf enthusiasts might say that their’s is the gentlemen’s game. Rugger enthusiasts will quip, as they often have, ‘cricket is a gentlemen’s game played by rowdies, rugger is a rowdies’ game played by gentlemen.’  

Who is a gentleman though, and what of ladies? A radical priest by the name of John Ball, who travelled the length of England in the late 14th Century, stirring up the peasant class in a revolt against their feudal landowners and who was incarcerated and possibly excommunicated for his efforts, asked the question thus: ‘When Adam delved and Eve span, who was then the gentleman?’

It is pretty arbitrary and a self-label rather than the product of general agreement. It is no coincidence and there’s nothing innocent about the fact that we are conditioned to believe that those who are wealthy, are ‘polished in their ways’ and are well dressed can do no wrong. 

And yet, the greatest crimes against humanity have been commissioned or perpetrated by the so called gentlemen and ladies of this world. They get away with it more often than not, simply because they are products of and also produce a system of privilege where they are the principal beneficiaries. 

Nevertheless, we often here people exclaim (at times shaking their heads to emphasize), ‘that’s not done!’ They say ‘bad show.’ They also say ‘not something one expects from a gentleman (or a lady as the case may be)’.  

The truth is that those in privileged positions in structure of power can and do indulge in hanky-panky. They do the ‘not done’ things. Their foibles and even crimes go unseen for a certain kind of dress, a certain kind of bearing and certain trappings help make their wrongdoing invisible or else, simply, go uncensured. 

A certain ‘lady’ who waves her so-called aristocratic lineage and has made condescension a trademark in her uttering recently responded to a comment on Facebook in this way: ‘I heard you were a school teacher. If so I pity your students. I have read the asinine comments you make on social media, dear headless lady. Don’t you think it’s best you remain silent and be thought a fool than open it (she probably meant ‘mouth’ here) and remove all doubt?’

The ‘lady’ has a point. One says something and in saying one describes oneself. Who has been more caustic here? Who comments are more asinine?  Some might say that the author of the above comment has clearly described herself and in fact has painted herself in a manner far more grotesque than the person she’s dishing out advice to, whereas her cheering squad might insist  that she did ‘the done thing.’  

It is easy to get lost in the relativism of it all and descend to a point where ‘anything goes.’ The problem is that this world is already toxic and doesn’t need additional poisons. 

We just can’t stop people who wish to be nasty. There are ways around the relevant laws which make for decent social intercourse. It is hard to legislate against a determined and caustic mind. 

When someone tweets something that is clearly unwholesome and can (and has!) cause(d) a rift among cricketers, there’s very little one can do to repair the damage.  The important thing to remember is that you have to find a way of insulating yourself from such distractions. That could be the ‘done thing’ relevant to the circumstances. ‘Let the dogs bark the caravan moves on,’ one can tell oneself. following the old Arabic proverb which finds resonance in many languages. 

In other words, ladies and gentlemen, a lady or a gentleman is recognized less by the particular curriculum vitae but what’s said and done. That’s where we encounter ‘the done thing’ that is of value. That’s where we discover ladies and gentlemen and where uncivilized rogues reveal themselves.   In other words the more important ‘done thing’ gets done, and true ladies and gentlemen begin to stand out in a multitude made of the sophomoric.