For me, some of the truest words ever were spoken by the late Robin Williams’s character in the epic 1989 film Dead Poets Society: “The human race is filled with passion. Medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.”
One can add sport to poetry, beauty, romance and love. Cricket, for example, is not necessary to sustain life, but it is what millions of people stay alive for. It fills their lives with passion.
We as players, coaches, administrators, officials, journalists and agents are incredibly lucky to be working in cricket, a sport and a passion other people “stay alive for”. It places a massive responsibility on us. When we bungle things, we rob millions of their passion to “stay alive for”.
There is only one way us who work in the industry can discharge this responsibility – by putting cricket first. Always. The players, the sponsors, the television stations, the administrators and all the other components that make up this wonderful game are important, but ultimately cricket itself is the most important thing.
I’ve been involved in the cricket industry for nineteen years. Never have I seen the dereliction of our responsibility towards those who “stay alive for” cricket as I have in the past 12 months: From corrupt and inept administrators to politicking, self-centred players and unethical agents, the list goes on and on. Is it any wonder that our stadiums are empty, sponsors turning their backs and the Proteas the worst that they’ve been since 1992?
Our cricket will only be cured when we put cricket first again. The legendary Liverpool manager Bill Shankly famously said: “Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I don’t like that attitude. I can assure them it is much more serious than that.” This is of course over the top. But if we replace “football” with “cricket”, it might just help us to remember that cricket is what millions of fans “stay alive for” and do the right things for cricket’s sake.