Denesh Ramdin, the West Indies wicketkeeper, was rightly fined 20 per cent of his match fee this week for gratuitously insulting Sir Viv Richards with a paper-waving celebration on the fourth day of the Edgbaston Test. The Trinidadian, who unfolded a sheet with the message "YEA VIV TALK NAH" after reaching his century, poisoned the atmosphere of the match and brought the game into disrepute.
A version of the above paragraph has circulated around the world's media since the weekend. That it is intellectually lazy, misunderstands the spirit of the game, and insults those who love sport as a human spectacle has been no impediment to its ubiquity. In fact, the disgraceful fine slapped on Ramdin is part of a sinister trend spreading through the game: the emotional policing of leading players by bureaucrats and officialdom. This is now a threat to the integrity of cricket.
The condemnation of the Trinidadian has been universal. Here's an editorial in the Trinidad and Tobago Guardian: "[Ramdin's] disgraceful and disrespectful display on Sunday deserved a severe penalty as well as a strong reprimand. It was unsportsmanlike behaviour which tainted a rare moment of glory for the team. If he cannot accept constructive criticism from one of the greatest cricketers ever to come out of the West Indies, how can he be expected to learn and develop as a sportsman?"
What utter tripe. Put yourselves, dear pundits and scribes, in Ramdin's position. This 27-year-old made his debut against Sri Lanka in 2005, and has averaged 23.84 since. Critics have constantly argued his place in the side was owed not to his talents, but the lack of talented alternatives. He must have been plagued with self-doubt as to whether he would score a second Test century, and yet tickled by the hope that – because the first one (Barbados, 2009) came against England – perhaps he could reach three figures again on this tour. But his scores in the first two Tests – 6, 43, 1, 6 – filled him with dread anew.
Then he reads the great Sir Viv, in a newspaper, chastising him. Nor was Sir Viv alone. On Saturday, a Guardian writer mentioned Ramdin in an article with the headline "West Indies' renewed Indian influence is stodgy rather than spicy".
Given all this opprobrium, are we really going to condemn a young man for celebrating, with chutzpah and cheek, a century that is the culmination of years of hard work, dreams and despair?
Roshan Mahanama, the match referee, clearly thinks so: "We all understand the importance of celebrating a milestone," he said. "However, one should not use that time as an opportunity to hit out at one's critic or send messages to the world." Excuse me? The celebration of a milestone is precisely the moment to hit out at critics and send messages to the world. Ramdin, being an innovative, tenacious type, articulated that message using pen and paper.
And where is the harm? Sir Viv, who never wore a helmet when batting, can cope with a public rebuke. Then some argue this is a slippery slope: if we allow players to get away with waving paper, soon they'll be mooning at fans. Like all slippery-slope reasoning, this is playground philosophy.
Ramdin's fine comes weeks after the ECB's idiotic decision to fine Kevin Pietersen for sending a mild tweet about Nick Knight. Other players, like Australia's Shane Watson, are increasingly punished for their colourful, crowd-pleasing antics on the field.
Do we want a sport played by automatons or real people? If the ICC thinks Ramdin acted contrary to the spirit of the game, they must have a very narrow view of what it means to play Test cricket.