How important is it to win? It is pointless to ask this question in the context of competitive sport such as cricket or in electoral politics where one enters the fray in order to win. But is winning the only point of these practices? Must we win at any cost?
Not just about winning
If the only purpose of playing cricket is to win, then a quick and easy way is to have a five-over match. A few athletes with muscle power, clueless about the art of bowling, batting and fielding, would give you a win with their slap-dash cricket. However, five-day matches are valued because the very best skills of the two contesting teams are expressed only in games of long duration. A win without a proper contest between two highly skilled teams is deeply unsatisfying. It takes the joy out of the game and brings little respect. In short, an important purpose of playing cricket is achieving excellence and deriving aesthetic pleasure.
Equally important is winning the game fairly. Consider this: The match is delicately poised when Sachin Tendulkar is wrapped on the pads off a ball clearly pitching outside the leg stump. The entire Australian team appeals vociferously, the home crowd in Sydney roars, and the umpire raises the dreaded finger. A great batsman falls victim to a dubious decision and India loses the match. The whole country feels bitter, the ties between the two teams, indeed two entire nations, get strained. This is not hypothetical. Until the late eighties, Test matches were routinely dogged by controversy over home umpiring. Not that umpires were necessarily biased but on occasions, for instance under pressure from the home team and the crowd, they were forced into wrong decisions. Fairness in the game received a big boost when to prevent endless carping, mutual distrust and recrimination, neutral umpires were introduced by the ICC.
From then on, there has been continuous effort on the part of the cricketing fraternity to check biases and minimise human error….