Messi wins again - Well of course he would, he's an attacker...

Lionel Messi

Prajay Naik looks at how attacking players in both football and cricket are valued compared to their defensive counterparts.

What does it take to win the illustrious Ballon D’or? Goals, Goals and some more goals.

What does it take to be the best cricketer in the world? Runs, lots of runs.

As David Beckham once quoted “Attack gives you glory, Defense wins you titles”.

Didn’t we see similar story in this year’s Ballon D’or, where one team’s silverwares were outclassed and outnumbered by an individual parameter in the name of ‘goals’.

Not taking anything away from Messi’s talent, I am here to showcase how the sport is getting carried away from being a team game to the individual game.

For the followed opinion, football and cricket have been taken as reference sports.

Starting with football if you look at the list of Ballon D’or last 10 years, you would not get frenzied with the persistent presence of forwards in top 3 positions.

Out of the last 12 occasions since 2001, 10 times this prestigious award has been bagged by the players who play in advanced positions.

Only one exceptions we can find in the list is Fabio Cannavaro (2006). Another fact about this list is that only 3 times goalkeepers have featured in top three of this ‘who is the best’ list, Oliver Kahn (2001, 2002) and Gianluigi Buffon (2006).

Among the defenders except Fabio Cannavaro, only Pablo Maldini could make it to the list back in 2003.

The same goes for Cricket ICC awards which were initiated back in 2004. Mitchell Johnson is the only specialized bowler to have won “the cricketer of the year” award back in 2009, considering Andrew Flintoff as an all rounder who went on to win the same award in 2005 along with Jacques Kallis.

We also have to consider that for Cricket there are specialized categories for all 3 formats of the game viz. One Days, Tests and T20s. Substantially in all 3 formats the awards have been captured by the one who were good at bat rather than with ball.

The question is if these are the team games then why do we have such discrimination in appreciation of talent? If you look basically, Football is about Attacking and Defending and similarly cricket is about Bowling and Batting.

You have to excel in all these departments to win a game and hence a silverware. That’s the simplest explanation but why is it the case most of the times that some sets of skills and abilities are termed superior to the other ones, although both are equally required?

Someone would argue that it’s goals and runs that win you the matches but what about the line of defence that work relentlessly to extricate your team when it’s most needed. In opine of people, Goals have measure where as this “defending” goes unnoticed most of the times in football.

In cricket we have runs and wickets, both measurable but what about the runs that are being saved by skilful bowling and athletic fielding.

It’s nature of the world in true sense that the mistakes of defenders, goalkeepers, bowlers and fielders are highlighted more than the deficiency of forward players (read strikers and batsmen).

How many times we notice a goalkeeper’s single mistake makes it to the front page of newspaper headline, whereas a sitter miss from striker gets mentioned in between the columns in relatively smaller fonts.

The same goes for cricket where bowlers, not the batsmen, are perceived as punching bags as they would be the one who would be blamed for a defeat.

The idea of scratching these players as scapegoats really questions the view of equality that people hold in their mind. Repugnantly, this inequality is leaving the footprints on the minds of NextGen players who will be knocking the doors of sports arena sooner.

I mean if you ask a child, engaged in football or cricket, about his dream, the common answers that you would get is Ronaldo, Messi, Kaka, Sachin or Ponting. What are the odds that someone would stand up and say that I wish to be like Pablo Maldini Or Fabio Cannavaro or Dale Steyn?

Two out of ten, may be. Let’s hope we change our perception and make sure that we don’t differentiate these players in the best and the rest.

image: © jeroen bennink

Register for HITC Sport - Daily Dispatch