In today’s sports world, as ever, team cohesion is viewed as one of the key metrics used to measure success. When every member works together, the team as a whole comes out on top, and when a team does badly, success is hampered. What happens though, if a player fails the team, causing a loss, due to issues taking place off-pitch? Should the team still have a right to blame the player for the failure, or should special circumstances be viewed in a different, more forgiving, manner?
Recently this sort of event was exhibited perfectly in the Pakistani Cricket squad’s Moin Khan controversy. It all began when the team’s chief selector had been with the team and his family in New Zealand when he was spotted frequenting a Christchurch casino. In Pakistan, a fiercely Islamic nation, both gambling and alcohol consumption are prohibited, so Khan was quickly called back to his home country following the incident, only to be met by angry crowds at Karachi Airport. Two days later the team suffered a terrible 150-run loss by the West Indies in a extremely important World Cup match, leading many to blame Khan for his prior conduct.
According to Khan though, he was simply having dinner with his wife and friends at the casino, and although the team member apologised for the rather inappropriate choice of dinner venue, was he at fault? One could say that players should be able to enter a casino, play casino games or even indulge online at websites such as Lady Lucks, even if they aren’t necessarily in their home jurisdictions, without scrutiny, however given the religious feeling in his home nation, it’s easy to understand why fans and bosses have a reason to be angry. Still, though, blaming Khan for the team’s loss is a rather absurd viewpoint. How could the loss of one member, a chief selector at that, so massively impact the fortunes of the team at large? One can’t help but smell a whiff of scapegoating surrounding this particular controversy.
Of course, this isn’t always the case, and players’ team-impacting private issues can sometimes be blamed entirely on the player themselves. Take NRL, NSW and Canberra Raider player Blake Harrison. The player took time off of playing in 2013 due to a supposed family matter across the country in Sydney, but was spotted instead at the Clovelly Hotel (located 8 miles from Sydney) enjoying a night out with team mate Todd Carney. Harrison had blatantly lied to the club, lowering the zeal of fans and the team, potentially impacting the success of the team.
As we can see, when it comes to off-pitch issues, a case-by-case understanding needs to be employed, however it seems that if players are to be in the limelight, they’d best play by the rules, lest they become easy targets for the consternations of unhappy pundits and fans.