World Cup 2019: The spirit of cricket is alive and well

South Africa's JP Duminy (2R) shakes hands with Australia's David Warner (2L) as South Africa's Imran Tahir (L) and Australia's Steve Smith (R) look on after the 2019 Cricket World Cup group stage match between Australia and South Africa at Old Trafford in Manchester on July 6, 2019. (Photo by PAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images)

On-field umpires and match referees be damned! Cricketers have often taken the liberty of voicing their contempt for rules on the field and crossed the thin line that divides what’s cricket and what’s not.

In an era where skirmishes and fines have become the norm, this edition of the World Cup has witnessed some magical moments on the field that brought out the true spirit of sportsmanship and qualified for a future ICC Award that celebrates sensitive behavior on-field– both towards one’s opponents and to the fans who make superstars out of ordinary souls.

Over the past six weeks, there have been some memorable events both on the field and beyond that make us believe that sporting spirit is very much alive and kicking. Each of these moments became a memorable spectacle for the prying camera that has been everywhere in this tournament– in the sky, around the boundary and even among spectators. Here is a list of such events that made this tournament special:

  • Leading the pack is our own Virat Kohli, whose behavioural antics have taken up as many column inches in newspapers as his effervescent batting. But the man who never balks at sledging his opponents actually came to Steve Smith’s rescue against jeering Indian supporters, asking them to refrain from booing the Australian batsman over the SandpaperGate affair. Smith described it as a “lovely gesture” and was seen patting the Indian captain on the shoulder.

  • Another incident that broke the Internet was the sight of the New Zealand players consoling the Windies’ Carlos Brathwaite, who came within five runs of inflicting a shock defeat on the Kiwis. After the knock, as the burly West Indian crouched over his bat attempting in vain to hide his tears, the Kiwi players broke their celebration at the last wicket and gathered around the fallen hero. Later Brathwaite acknowledged the gesture and said he was friends with a few of the Kiwis and described them as some of the “finest people in the world.”

  • David Warner, once the bad boy of the Australian team, is a chastened man today. Not only does he let his bat do all the talking, the left-handed opener has been on a spree of winning hearts, be it during his IPL stint or at this World Cup. After menacing Pakistan in a league match, Warner handed over his player-of-the-match award to a young fan in the stands. The young fan, who was cheering for the team throughout the match was surprised at the gesture and said so. “We were just waving the flag and he just came over and gave it to us,” he said

  • The Aussies, once again known for their boorish on-field behavior, charted a new path this time. After the last match of the league phase, the Aussies came rushing down the stairs to meet and greet Imran Tahir and JP Duminy who had announced their retirement post the game. The Aussies shook hands and shared a hug with the two veterans, who led the Proteas off the park after they defeated the reigning champions by ten runs in a high-scoring game. Once again Warner was in the lead, suggesting that the Aussie opener is indeed a changed man now.

  • The Indians shared two off-the-field moments with their fans and none was more poignant than Virat Kohli meeting the oldest Indian fan, 87-year-old Charulatha Patel. Kohli himself took to Twitter to share those magical moments. Vice-captain Rohit Sharma also sought out Mrs Patel to seek her blessings, and furthermore, presented a signed hat to a fan who copped one of his mighty sixes in the stands!

Our cricketing superstars do have a heart that ticks for their millions of fans. On a larger note, these poignant moments from the World Cup should be enough for the ICC to institute an award for fair play. At least in this, they could take a cue from the IPL.

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