Cricket is no longer the game it used to be. Only a handful of fuddy-duddies with no relevance to the contemporary world continue to believe that cricket is a metaphor for life itself. The saying, “It isn’t cricket’’, to describe something that is uncivilized will find no resonance among the English cricketers who peed on the pitch at the Oval. The cricketers were celebrating the winning of the Ashes. It obviously did not strike the players that this was a bizarre way of expressing their jubilation at defeating the Aussies. What is equally remarkable is that there has been no word of regret from either the players who performed the appalling act or from the manager and the captain of the English team. The assumption seems to have been that by winning the Ashes the players had earned for themselves the right to perform a private act in public. It seems kind of redundant to condemn or criticize the players for urinating on the pitch of the Oval for two reasons. One is that any criticism would be meaningless to those who perpetrated the act. And second, words of condemnation tend to ignore the enormous change, in terms of sociological background, that cricket has undergone since the middle of the 20th century.
There is no point in denying that cricket, especially cricket in England, had a class element attached to it. The most blatant manifestation of this was the division between “Gentlemen’’ (read amateurs) and “Players’’ (read professionals) that was the hallmark of English cricket in the years preceding the Second World War. Apart from this, the unwritten codes of etiquette and behaviour on and off the field had a veneer of gentility to them. Cricket then was an extension of a summer weekend in an English country mansion. The situation began to alter when the kind of people interested in playing and watching cricket began to change. Popularity was cricket’s worst curse from the purist’s point of view. Sections of the population for whom gentlemanly codes of conduct were alien entered the cricket field. Cricket also became more competitive and good manners became less relevant. Changes in the form of the game reflected the sociological transformation. But perhaps even those who have accepted the inevitable intrusion of loutish behaviour into the cricket field will wonder if peeing in public is cricket. The action has also set a new benchmark in English social practices.