If you’d ever been under the misapprehension that the International Cricket Council (ICC) was an organisation that had any clue about cricket, today’s decision to fine Wahab Riaz and Shane Watson 50 and 15 per cent of their match fees respectively must have put that to rest.
Last night we saw a brilliant, aggressive, but ultimately unlucky spell of fast bowling from Wahab. An instant classic. Wahab bowled splendidly, swinging the ball back in towards Watson, bowling with pace, and making it almost impossible to get out of the way.
He was in Watson’s face after every duck, after every leave…actually really just after every ball. Sure it was aggressive. It was meant to taunt and provoke. And to be honest if it was Mitchell Johnson doing it to Misbah, everyone’s feelings about it probably wouldn’t have been so positive. But regardless, it was cracking cricket. No one said anything racist. No one got hurt. And the whole world loved it. As they should.
And it wasn’t just one way. Watson’s batting reminded the Sportress of many of the classic ‘gutsy’ displays of years gone by. This was a contest akin to Waugh v Ambrose in 1995, Langer and May vs the West Indies in Adelaide in 1993, or Graeme Smith with his broken hand, vainly trying to hold out Johnson and Australia in Sydney in 2009.
To suggest Shane ‘out with a calf’ Watson has the same courageous blood as Waugh, Langer and Smith is strange for sure. But he showed it last night. And sure it could have, and probably should have, turned out differently. But no one can take this away from Watto. Much maligned throughout the summer, Watto showed courage when it mattered.
And so as we sat down this afternoon to bask in the glory of cricket being the greatest thing on earth, we’re faced with the idea that Wahab somehow went over the top. The sarcastic clapping, the extended follow-through, and ‘acting in a generally aggressive manner’ were included as reasons for Wahab’s fine.
That this was over the top was news to anyone that has ever played any organised cricket. Fast-bowlers are aggressive. That’s part of their makeup. No one has never met a nice fast bowler – at least not while he’s bowling. They thrive on the threat of hurting you. Of hitting you. It requires they be aggressive. Fast-bowlers from grade to international cricket will whistle one past your nose, stroll down about 3 feet from you and say “look c*nt. Get out or get hit. I don’t care.”* This is normal.
And this makes survival even more satisfying. It earns respect – something Shane Watson surely has in spades after last night.
Without Wahab at his head and in his face, Shane Watson’s innings would just be considered another low-pressure score for Watto. Instead we are lauding him because he faced down genuine heat and survived.
Cricket is a competition. It’s meant to be fierce. It’s meant to be aggressive. And this is the World F*cking Cup. The competition, the aggression, the desire to hurt, survive and thrive should all be heightened in this event.
This is a time to celebrate. Not reprimand.
If only the ICC knew something about cricket.
*This has been said to me in grade cricket. I remember another time being welcomed by the keeper announcing “look at this c*nt with his c*nt face and its c*nt features. Let’s get some balls in his face like his mum had last night.” You know what my response was? Nothing. Best 27* I ever scored.