In the early 17th century, it was decided by English aristocrats that cricket would be played in a ‘gentlemanly manner'!
Often, the phrase, ‘gentleman’s game’ is used to describe cricket. When we think of cricket, we think of mild-mannered men in white flannels, with their shirts tucked in and their neatly parted hair. A pat on the back, a gentle handshake or sharing a joke while walking back to the pavilion are also the images that pop up in our mind. It is a game that, so they say, segregates the classy from the crude, and ‘the boorish from the benign’.
The first reference to cricket was in the 13th century, and the game only gained popularity in the 17th century, when English aristocrats started playing it. They decreed that cricket would be played in 'a gentlemanly manner', which meant no sledging, cheating, bodyline bowling, temper tantrums or excessive appealing.
Cricket is a unique game where in addition to the laws, the players have to abide by the "Spirit of the Game". So what constitutes this intangible spirit? It is walking when a player knows that he is out, even if the umpire hasn’t said it yet, not claiming a catch that was grassed, refraining from an ‘lbw’ appeal when the player knows there was an inside edge, and abstaining from abuse of an opponent.
Historically, the standard of sportsmanship was considered so high that the phrase "it's just not cricket" was coined in the 19th century to describe unfair or underhanded behavior in any walks of life.
However, now this phrase is surely debatable, as there are common phenomena of match fixing, scandals and bookies. The cricket ground has turned more into a gambling den. The players want to earn easy money by hook or by crook, hence they easily fall prey to fixers. In a country like India, where cricket is considered a religion and cricketers are treated as Gods, the recent expose in the grounds of cricket sure makes the people feel cheated.
George Bernard Shaw once said, “Cricket is a game played by 22 fools and watched by 22,000 fools,” however after the recent let low of the spirit of cricket, it won’t be wrong if changed to, “Cricket is a game played by 22 fixers and watched by 22,000 fools.”