Do we lack sportsmanship?

The euphoria shown by our public for the current series of World Cup 20 being held in Dubai is remarkably exciting. In view of our deteriorating security conditions, most countries had refused to play cricket on Pakistani soil, with the result that the cricket lovers felt deprived of watching good international cricket. In this background the people have evinced unusual interest in the current World Cup series. About three days before the beginning of this Tournament, almost all TV channels started telecasting special programmes and focused on the Pakistani cricket team’s performance in the forthcoming series in which all experts of the game and former Test cricketers participated. I keenly watched these programmes but was disappointed to see that most of these reviews were lopsided or heavily biased in favour of Pakistan.
There is no doubt that Pakistan’s past performance in international cricket is praiseworthy, and there are many milestones of success to our credit, but that should not mean that our team has become indefatigable and that we do not face any challenge from the present competitors in the field. True sportsmanship demands that we must accept our success with humility, and remain steadfast to meet greater challenges in future. We must remain calm and composed in the face of defeat and failure, which is a part of the game.
India, of course, is our chief rival, who becomes our easy target, more so because of our political differences. But we must not underrate her past performance in World Cup cricket, and should always treat her as a challenge to reckon with. The media commentators also scathingly criticised New Zealand for her cancellation of her earlier tour to Pakistan for security reasons, saying that we will avenge our ‘disgrace’ in the on-going championship. Most things said about NZ’s refusal to play on Pakistani soil and our intention to avenge this ‘insult’ were not in the true spirit of sportsmanship.
It has become our habit as well as that of the media, to use offensively strong adjectives (“like blowing the opponent to smithereens,” or to “roundly trounce the rivals”) to describe the defeat of our contenders even when the match had been even-sided and its fate was decided only in the last couple of balls. Instead of gloating over our achievements, we must display humility in our victory. Sportsmanship teaches us ‘fair play’ which instils in us discipline, teamwork and cooperation. It also cultivates a sense of friendliness and enables us to accept defeat cheerfully. Discipline must also be maintained in any sport we play, as it controls one’s fancies, impulses and desires. A sportsman must maintain his composure and remain calm at all times.
Sportsmanship is an aspiration that a sport will be enjoyed for its own sake, based on considerations for fairness, ethics, respect, and a sense of fellowship for one’s competitors. Those who do not take defeat in good spirit are remembered as “sore losers” who lack a sense of sportsmanship, for winning or losing a game does not matter so much as the quality of sport which is displayed. A good sportsman can be a ‘good winner’ or a ‘good loser’, but cannot be a ‘bad winner’ or a ‘bad loser.’ A good sportsman will always treat others fairly by maintaining self-control while dealing with others.
Sportsmanship is a quality which is as relevant to sports as it is to human life in general. It is essential that in all spheres of our life, we should meticulously act in accordance with the spirit of a true sportsman to face all our successes and failures with equanimity and grace. Being a good sportsman includes treating others as one would like to be treated by others, to cheer the opponents for their good performance, and accept responsibility for one’s own mistakes, and to remain cool in all circumstances.

The writer is a provincial civil servant in Punjab and an author.

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