The spirit of cricket is something that to many is a nebulous concept, and that is why the guardians of the game, the Marylebone Cricket Club, added a preamble to the laws.
That preamble lays out a broad framework for the spirit in which the game of cricket is to be played.
‘Cricket owes much of its appeal and enjoyment to the fact that it should be played not only according to the Laws, but also within the spirit of cricket. The major responsibility for ensuring fair play rests with the captains, but extends to all players, match officials and, especially in junior cricket, teachers, coaches and parents,’ the opening paragraph of the preamble to the laws of cricket reads.
This is really the basis of all sport but in cricket definitions of fair play can differ.
‘Respect is central to the Spirit of Cricket,’ the MCC declare. ‘Respect your captain, teammates, opponents and the authority of the umpires. Play hard and play fair. Accept the umpire’s decision.’
It wouldn’t be difficult to find instances of international cricketers behaving outside of the spirit of cricket. The introduction of decision review system often means batsmen and bowlers can now politely dispute the umpire’s ultimate authority as well. The cracks in the spirit of cricket are apparent, but that doesn’t mean its idealism is not something to cling to.
Bred into the culture of cricket is this understanding of how the game is supposed to be played, but the intensity of the sport takes participants away from the philosophy of the game.
That philosophy can only be bent and rationalised so much, as individuals who cross the line find out.
The spirit of cricket is the basic code of the game, but it moulds the character of a sport loved by billions.
‘Create a positive atmosphere by your own conduct, and encourage others to do likewise. Show self-discipline, even when things go against you. Congratulate the opposition on their successes, and enjoy those of your own team. Thank the officials and your opposition at the end of the match, whatever the result,’ continues the MCC.
‘Cricket is an exciting game that encourages leadership, friendship and teamwork, which brings together people from different nationalities, cultures and religions, especially when played within the spirit of cricket.’
Among of the few prescriptive elements of the MCC’s loose definition of the spirit of cricket relate to celebrating the successes of your opponent. In the international game, it is a rare sight, but almost everyone who plays cricket knows when to congratulate an opponent.
The spirit of cricket is central to preserving what is special about the game and should guide all who play the game.
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