15 October 2019 12:52 PM

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SREELATA S.YELLAMRAZU | 14 JULY, 2019

Cricket’s Jersey Wars Loom Large This World Cup

The perfect spectacle to unveil this concept clumsily borrowed from football


The ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 is fast approaching its climax, and most teams are left ruminating on what might have been. With the inquests beginning in earnest, here’s a bit of ‘fabrication’, toying with the concept of the humble cricket jerseys that this time occupied centre stage.

The International Cricket Council has long held a desire to compete on par with FIFA’s Football World Cup. When it could not do so in numbers – a self goal if ever there was one – it decided to introduce a strange sideshow into World Cup 2019: the concept of matches played “home” and “away”, highlighted through a needless dressup that involved players’ changing uniform kits.

The ICC rule reads: “For televised ICC events all participating teams will be required to provide for two different coloured kits, except for the host country who has a preference in the choice of colour and may, if it chooses to do so, provide only one coloured kit to be worn in all matches throughout the event. In advance of the event, the teams will be notified which coloured kit will be worn in each match.”

The Council decided that World Cup 2019 was the perfect spectacle to unveil this concept clumsily borrowed from football. It mattered little that there would be next to no confusion for the fans, given that the fielding team is generally identified by its presence off the pitch and the sheer number of players, whatever the colour of their jerseys.

If the ICC was attempting to cash in on the idea of “limited edition” merchandise, it picked the wrong prop. Here’s why.

Go for Green!

The men in blue played a smart game, pretending to be colour blind, enjoying quiet time away from the game. This, even as the fiery, political ignoramus saw red over orange – true Indian cricket fans could spot India in the orange for years instead of the other way around – screaming ‘saffronisation’ from the bunkertops.

(He need only have looked up at Headingley during the match against Sri Lanka, when a plane flew by trailing a banner that read “Help End Mob Lynching in India”, which had BCCI chairman Vinod Rai writing to the ICC to say “These are divisive political messages which have no place in sporting arena.”)

Claiming to be oblivious to the unveiling of the proposed orange jersey – still blue at heart – for the match against England, the team looked the other way.

“We bleed blue,” bowling coach Bharat Arun stated for emphasis. Captain Virat Kohli was quick to clarify, “For one game, it’s fine. I don’t think permanently, we would be heading in that direction because blue has always been our colour.”

Meanwhile the BCCI has more tricks up its sleeve. It has decided to teach a lesson to those calling it a sitting duck for the ICC’s jersey decision.

Rohit Sharma took over from where Shikar Dhawan had left off, scoring not one but three centuries against teams sporting green – South Africa, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

If the BCCI believes that not orange but green is to blame for India’s shocking display against England, maybe they should have made England wear green!

Given that World Cup 2023 is slated to be held in India, the BCCI will have sway and its say.

Even as the hullabaloo continued at home, particularly when India lost to England with that ‘cursed’ orange (and blue) jersey, the Netherlands lodged a protest with the ICC: “If you won’t let us play in the ICC Cricket World Cup, we want our jerseys back!”

Orange you listening? With the Netherlands only an “associate” member, no one was.

Lucky Yellow Anyone?

Sri Lanka took their time. They did not have their finger on the pulse of what was fundamentally wrong with the team’s strategy. It was only after beating England that they came to their senses.

It was the yellow jersey, dummy!

Sri Lanka requested the ICC – as strange a request as any – that they be allowed to play the largely yellow and blue uniform they had sported against England for the rest of the tournament. Although the ship had virtually sailed for the Emerald Isles, Sri Lanka wanted one last lucky charm, literally.

The second-choice jersey was approved. Nobody had that much yellow on them, not to confuse them with Sri Lanka anyway, and the ICC had no objection.

It was another matter that South Africa still managed to beat the Lankans who were on the stupendous high of having cast doubts in the minds of the rampant England team.

Sri Lanka will now look at whether the jersey bleeds colour after wash. Maybe that would explain their wane?

Missing the Obvious

Pakistan’s cricket fans went into a tizzy, even comparing their team’s World Cup run to their only successful campaign back in 1992. Even Imran Khan, then captain and now prime minister, seemed to have missed the obvious.

Khan slammed incumbent captain Sarfaraz Ahmed for decisions at the toss. But had he or the team looked closer, they could have had a word with the ICC à la Sri Lanka. It was all in the colour of their jersey of course!

Experts will recall that the Pakistan cricket team under Imran Khan wore a pale fluorescent green, while Ahmed’s team sports a darker, drabber shade. No wonder Ahmed looked so washed out. If only Pakistan had nipped the problem in the bud.

Identity Crisis

Afghanistan were confused. Understandably so.

Their team were sporting blue, though they looked and acted nothing like their English counterparts.

This identity crisis caused Afghanistan to underperform. It was only when they saw India, that they saw themselves in the mirror. Their performance peaked amid the Men in Blue.

Their sponsors Amul might need to get the right creative team on the job of finding Afghanistan the right jersey, of just the right shade of blue, for the next World Cup.

One hopes the only thing blue about them next time will be their jersey, not their outlook after this rather controversy-marred World Cup whose saga continues off the field.

Marooned?

The West Indies galloped like wild horses on the beach. And then suddenly the waves came crashing to wash away their reignited hopes.

No one can fault the colour of their jersey though. The colour maroon is as unique as the Windians’ flair for the game.

But there is a problem: the West Indies appear to have taken the name of the colour to heart. That’s why they found themselves marooned.

Their strategy has been all wrong from the start! Why try to live up to the colour of the name instead of their past reputation?

One of the few teams that did not think to spend money on uniform and kit colouring, perhaps they should have spent money on someone to explain to them the significance of the colour maroon.

They should look it up because maroon by common parlance does identify with their style of play: confident, creative, passionate.

No Identity Crisis Here

Afghanistan were taking inspiration from the wrong neighbours. They could have made a course correction had they consulted Bangladesh before landing in England.

Bangladesh’s original World Cup jersey sported a dark green exterior that had Bangladesh fans angry and confused. They did not want to be misidentified as Pakistan.

The team management took the advice to heart and added some red. Only the red did not blend. There was some disgruntlement, much the same as when Bangladesh couldn’t put their foot to the accelerator and boot out one of the bigger teams.

They did run out South Africa though, right out of the gate.

Bring It Back!

South Africa, immediately upon returning home after beating Australia, decided to take the first step towards changing their chequered World Cup history.

They have launched a campaign under the banner ‘Bring It Back!’ in reference to the 1992 World Cup jersey. After all that was the only edition of the World Cup where South Africa weren’t chastised or labelled chokers at knockout tournaments or mocked for finding unique ways to send themselves crashing out.

The team will soon announce a petition demanding the reinstatement of the 1992 World Cup jersey – but they have decided that as the Rainbow Nation, they will be inclusive.

They will expand the petition that the same jersey – albeit with different colours – be brought into play for everyone, in the spirit of fair play.

It wouldn’t hurt South Africa though because they do carry the reputation of doing well in bilateral series and not in multi-team tournaments. That being the case, having everyone were the same jersey will perhaps recreate that feeling of facing the same opposition – a bespoke bilateral contest. Mission 2023?

(New Zealand would have signed the petition but for the fact that they are now stuck with the moniker Black Caps. And the Fern was stolen by their rugby team. So no fern, no vintage colours. How they must envy their fans who turn up in ghost jerseys of the past!)

Go Go Gold

The Australian team has left the cricket world baffled.

How could a team that lost its captain and vice-captain to a rather devious plan of ball tampering, caught on camera, bounce back in only a year’s time to make such an emphatic statement on the world stage?

Those wondering how David Warner was a man so changed and charged, had failed to look at Australia’s uniform.

Warner’s many transgressions on the tour of South Africa came in Test whites. Put him in gold and he doesn’t know any other way to bat than to plunder!

The bold, gold, garish, audacious, gaudy, canary yellow uniform brought out the five-time world champion mindset in even the greenhorns. Just ask Alex Carey.

Yet while green has been the dominant theme this World Cup, Australian cricket fans were none too pleased about the green around their collar.

The idea of green and gold – a term of reference that never sat right, because the Australians either went all yellow for the limited editions, or sported white flannels with only their baggy green in Tests – was found unbecoming.

Australia’s X factor was clearly their jersey. Having gone down without a whimper to England, with not even a silver to their name, they know now what to blame.

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