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Sandeep Sahajpal, author of ‘The Twelfth Preamble’, shared his view on this when he said, “You should neither take life too lightly to lose control over it, nor too seriously to become absolutely inflexible.”

John Arlott has been mentioned in a previous article and while having a gifted imagination and descriptive mind, showed his perceptiveness further when he declared once that “We take life too lightly and sport too seriously.” There is a serious warning there.

Do we get the balance right?

Sandeep Sahajpal, author of ‘The Twelfth Preamble’, shared his view on this when he said, “You should neither take life too lightly to lose control over it, nor too seriously to become absolutely inflexible.”

Tim Ferris posted a short passage about living lightly with a character saying “It’s dark because you’re trying too hard.… Think lightly, act lightly, feel lightly. Yes, feel lightly, even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.” However, we must not take life as lightly as Albert Camus’s position of “Should I kill myself, or have a cup of coffee?”

But then, another writer declared that “So many of us fall into the trap of taking life seriously. We furrow our brows and clench our jaws in preparation for the next grand disaster of the day; we anxiously allot minutes and seconds to each task in our agenda with the precision of an astrophysicist.” Such may well be our views on life but what about sport?

The fact is that sport and life do go closely together. We often say, “Education is for life”; we also say, “Sport is integral to education”. It all means, logically, that sport is for life.

That means in addition that it is important that we get the equation right, that we get the balance, the perspective of life and sport correct, in terms of taking it lightly or seriously.

In recent weeks, Kevin Pietersen, the former English batter and current commentator and writer, posted a comment about a debutant South African bowler, during the South Africa versus India Test matches: “I like Nandre Burger. I like his pace a lot. The only thing I’d like even more, is if he didn’t smile as much and got more aggressive! Smiling at batters gives them a small win every single time. Bowl fast, seriously fast and DO NOT smile after most deliveries!” He was perhaps suggesting that Burger was not taking his sport seriously enough because he was smiling. 

In response, in an interview for BBC Sport, Burger was quoted as saying, "It doesn't bother me at all. Just because I'm smiling and enjoying what I'm doing doesn't mean I'm not aggressive with the ball. It doesn't mean I'm happy to lose or get hit for runs... We're taking it day by day. You never know when you'll get the chance again."

One writer described Burger's smile as “ubiquitous”, going on to say that “Watching him, one might assume he was representing a village side famed for its generous lunches rather than a nation that has produced the likes of Allan Donald, Andre Nel and Dale Steyn.” He is saying we should enjoy Test cricket as much as village (or school) cricket.

Some time ago, the nickname "Smiling Assassin" was given to Martin Crowe, a former New Zealand cricketer, who had a flamboyant, carefree aggressive batting style mixed with a cool composure.

The South African batter, AB De Villiers was also referred to as “the Smiling Assassin who could demonise bowlers”. It seems it is acceptable for batters to smile at bowlers (Pietersen was a batter!) but not for bowlers to smile at batters! Quite simply, they took their sport seriously, joyfully, successfully.

The sad truth is that all too often people take sport, and sadly even school sport, far too seriously. Every day we can read of fights taking place on sports fields and in the grandstands – yes, even at school. We read of abuse being directed at players, coaches, Boards as well as at referees, from the terraces, the internet and fields.

We read of threats being thrown, boasts being bragged, objects being hurled, matches being abandoned, because of decisions or results. Sport is not that important!

“Blessed are those who are intelligent enough not to take themselves too seriously; they will be appreciated by those around them.” The same can be said of those who do not take sport too seriously. They will be blessed; ask Burger.

Sporting fixtures at school are not life and death matters; they do not determine the worth of an individual or a school. Perhaps we take life too lightly by taking sport too seriously.

The fact is, in life we only get one innings, unlike in cricket. Furthermore, there is no review system, no VAR, no ‘No Ball’ reprieve.

As Burger said, “You never know when you'll get the chance again." We have to get it right first time. We are serious about that so smile on!

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