Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Slapping fields and the pre frontal cortex

Brain-stem for brain-stem we are no different than our predecessors in the Darwinian scheme of things. Where we are supposed to be superior, is in the development of the prefrontal cortex of the brain. Simply put, this means that while the brain stem is the source of all the primal and instinctive reactions in us, a decently developed prefrontal cerebral cortex, allows us to reason and react, and envelopes our psyche with some sober thinking.

Dr Shamsah Sonawalla , consultant to Mumbai's Jaslok Hospital and associated with Harvard Medical School, , in an India Today article on why more and more youth are committing suicides these days, states that a study of today's maladjusted youth (including teenagers), has shown up a lack of sufficient development in their brains' prefrontal cortex. The prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain that introduces a sober aspect into our behaviour, something that allows us to reason out our impulses and thoughts, and discourages us from doing rash and aggressive and dangerous things.

The recent happenings on the cricket fields of Mohali, throw up several questions. And it all has to do with the status of development of the cerebral cortex, not just of the players involved, but also of the BCCI, if you think of it as a person, with, of course, brains.

It is well known that economic well being related to sport has changed very fast over the last 10-15 years. The RATE of change is so big ,that it primarily affects the mindset of those players who (a) have come into the game in the last 6-7 years and (b) are likely to have a relatively underdeveloped prefrontal cortex, for a variety of non cricketing reasons.

Take two players with markedly underdeveloped prefrontal cortices. Observe their rise and their perceived successes. Harbhajan, post Australia, and with the euphoria of having a nation stand behind him, still could not reason himself into putting a stop to his brain stem reactions on the field. Observe Sreesanth, in an interview prior to the Australian series , replying to a question saying "I am Sreesanth", not in answer to a name query, but as an answer that shouted "whatever i do, is OK, because I AM Sreesanth".....and notice his uncontrolled weeping subsequent to the slap, a desperate instinctive reaction.

The slap was just waiting to happen. If not Harbhajan to Sreesanth, then maybe the umpires. Why is it that we have never seen Tendulkar shaking his fist at someone from the opposition ? Or Rahul Dravid, mouthing bad words and glaring at players ? Kumble, I am sure, swears at troublesome cricketers, inaudibly. There are some younger players who seethe with anger but prefer not to let off steam on the field.

There is a reason. Discipline while growing up, coupled with discipline in their sport. It means taking the worst with the best. Controlling outbursts. Channelising emotions and energies. Their parents are to be applauded.

The BCCI, if it was a person, would certainly have a severely underdeveloped pre frontal cortex. Here is an organization, wallowing in funds, with world level clout. And what does it do? Goes overboard supporting Harbhajan in Australia, by foolish actions like threatening to pull out . Then faced with an ICL offering fortunes for cricketers to play with them, it reacts, with a remarkable lack of concern for the effects of all this glitter on young cricketing minds, and suddenly throws up the IPL. In highly publicised scenes reminiscent of corporate takeovers and auctions (with money no problem), grand purchases and buying of cricketer loyalty takes place. These are not well thought out reactions of an individual or organization , that plans for the future, comprising , say of the next 10 years. It is the gut reaction of an organization drunk on power, money, and an adoring audience of, what in India , are referred to as cutlery.

Kerry Packer tried something similar years ago. A lot of the cricket associations were still "middle class" then, and relied on the mental strengths of their cricketers to stay away from it. Many years later, Kerry Packer's set up merged seamless with world cricket, or vice versa.

The slap was incidental. Tomorrow something else other than palms may be used. There is no end to abusive words. Their use has to be restricted. Slap dash reactions from the parent organization encourage slap dash reactions from the players , with weak pre frontal cortices, conditioned by insufficient parental guidance.

Violence was always there in sport. The ability to curb it needs to be present.

Many years ago, our wicket keeper Farroukh Engineer(who fined Harbhajan), himself raised bats with Abid Ali the bowler, after an on field disagreement. However, this was taken to its rightful end, inside the dressing room, where both raised bats, but ended up throwing water on each other, and their disgusted manager, G.S.Ramchand. Slightly better pre frontal cortices, conditioned by stricter bringing up and a thought for their playing future.

Rashid Patel, a left arm bowler, chased the late Raman Lamba to the boundary with a stump raised in his hand, during a West Zone-North Zone Duleep Trophy game in 1991. North Zone had piled up 700 runs and this frustrated Patel. He was banned for 13 months by a BCCI, (which was not yet hobnobbing with the world's latest four Indian billionaires, and selling them cricketers).

The Slapping was just waiting to happen.

Will the BCCI, use its "rich" cerebral cortex, and look into some counselling for these two bowlers ? Monetary fines will not work. Thanks to IPL , they have more than enough.

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