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By The Telegraph Online
  • Published 27.09.09

The French have sex, the English have hot water bottles. Thus went a wisecrack coined in the 1960s. It would now appear that Indian cricketers have all become English. According to reports, a vision document intended for Indian cricketers contained the suggestion that players should have sex before a match to boost testosterone levels. This advice has created needless controversy. Players have withdrawn into their shells; some of them, according to reports, have expressed, off the record, their disapproval of this kind advice. Further, the coach of the Indian team, Gary Kirsten, has gone on record to announce that he had no role in authoring this document. He said that he and his family were deeply offended that his name had come to be associated with this kind of advice to players. It would be no exaggeration to conclude that moral outrage has greeted the proposal that cricketers should have sex.

Followers of cricket with longish memories will recall that there was a time when wives of players were not permitted to accompany the team, especially on foreign tours. The argument then was that wives would prove to be a distraction and their presence would hinder camaraderie and unity among team-mates. Boys should stick with the boys if they were to play well as a team. Donald Bradman, who broke many records, was also responsible for breaking this taboo. Nowadays, no eyebrows are raised when wives travel with the players. In fact, the prevalent thinking is that with the players travelling so much it is good to have wives/partners accompanying them. Their presence helps curtail loneliness and thus reduce stress on players. It would not be unreasonable to deduce that with wives and partners around players do occasionally sleep with them or whenever the need arises. It would be utterly unnatural if they did not since most of the players are young men at the peak of fitness and health. But it would be considered improper to even hint at any such occurrence. Sex is not to be spoken about, especially in India. Victorian prudery provides a convenient camouflage for Indian hypocrisy.

There is, however, another angle to consider. Almost all aspects of a player’s life have become open to various forms and levels of regimentation. His diet, his training programme, the reduction of stress and so on are all integral parts of a regime devised by the coach to enhance performance, to avoid injury and to maintain fitness. Players are a few steps away from becoming robots. To this is now added another aspect: sex is to become part of performance enhancement. Sex will no longer be fun and enjoyment. It will be programmed. There can only be sorrow at the plight of the players. They seem to have so little control over their activities. The game has taken over their lives. The old saying, “the game is the thing”, has acquired a different, if demonic, meaning.