TODAY -

Who Cares About It Anyway

Maisnam Bomcha *

 11th Manipur Veteran Cricket tournament  at Luwangshangbam Multi Purpose stadium on 11 January 2012
11th Manipur Veteran Cricket tournament at Luwangshangbam Multi Purpose stadium on 11 January 2012



"The genesis of the whole drama over spot fixing can be traced to some English cunning grace. They wanted the game to be another tool to dominate and divide the Indians"

Ever since that cricketer named Shreesant who looks more like a B grade movie villain and his lesser known colleagues of club Rajasthan Royals were arrested in Mumbai, news channel TV and headlines of leading national English dailies have been all about the cricket spot fixing scandal. Hot and breaking news in India during the past two weeks or so have been cricket, solely. This, above the unabashed and tiring over coverage, in both the electronic and print media, of that drama of a sporting event called the IPL.

The TV news channels in particular has been doing a daily bout to outdo each other in repeating pieces of news of thieving and related farce connected to the game. At least two principal TV news channels claim uncovering the fixing scandal, each pulling every trick out of the bag to make the reporting and discussions more TRP friendly and making loud claims over the same pieces of new tit bits as their scoops. The butchering of nearly 30 people connected to the Congress Party in those jungles of Bastar, Chhattisgarh by the Maoists was relegated to the background; so strange is our news sense.

As endlessly huge is cricket's present media glare, so is my personal amusement; both in the comical, ever rising decibel levels in the reporting and discussions and the absurdity of the whole sordid drama. More than that; I even take an almost sadistic pleasure at each progress of the whole Tamasha. The murkier, the better. I don't like cricket.

I don't like a game whose shortest version even, last almost a whole day in which most players stand idle wearing sun glasses while a few of them run around predictably. I wonder why people love a game so much whose results are drawn in more than 70% matches after having played for full 5 days. I despise spectators who show an almost religious like allegiance to a game so overtly aristocratic. Didn't George Bernard Shaw call cricket, '...a game played by eleven fools and watched by another hundred fools'?

My personal answer to the question of the reason behind the national fixation on cricket is simple; the colonial hangover is yet to pass and Indians still love imitating the English Gentleman. Can there be a game which reflects an aristocratic decadence as cricket does? Much as I wonder at the strange phenomenon of sustained sporting thrills of a game which lasts 5 days, I find it increasingly hard to accept the adage of cricket being a Gentlemen's game.

Not anymore. Those Englishmen who played cricket in Imperial India more to intimidate the Colony they ruled, by way of impressing the locals by doing something exclusive, than for sporting leisure; were mostly people of authority in the Imperial dispensation, hence; all Gentlemen. In any case people, who were white in colour, wearing suits and neckties, were gentlemen to a subdued and exploited people. History has moved; notions, even wrongly evolved, have not. Cricket is not a Gentleman's game, cricket is an English game. Barring one or two, the game is played by former colonies of the British Empire.

The genesis of the whole drama over spot fixing can be traced to some English cunning grace. They wanted the game to be another tool to dominate and divide the Indians. So they condescended in 'gracefully' allowing a few local royals and brown Babus to rub shoulders with them playing cricket together. The commoners were not 'fit' to play the game. That super hit Hindi movie Lagan is a testimonial. During Imperial India and early independent India, cricket remained an 'elite' game. After independence the elitist element of cricket has been reinforced by a glamour quotient. And naturally a mass dream was thus born. Every child, every youth who is in the know of the game, in any form, any way, wants to play it. Americans are known to love watching movies wherein American soldiers win against their Vietnam counterparts. The bitter truth of the drubbing they received at the hands of the Vietnamese in those jungles was nearly impossible to swallow for the Americans. A false sense of an American heroism naturally became an elixir and thus John Rambo and a few other reasons which romanticised the great American debacle was lapped up and turned into a staple to soothe a hurt national ego.

A similar heady balm is provided by cricket to a huge majority of the public in a country where the distribution of wealth is so confined to a minuscule privileged layer, as seen rarely in other parts of the globe. Only, a better mix is being enacted out there in any stadium where matches of any form of the game are played.

Starved of opportunities to get rich honestly, Indians dive headlong into the world of vicarious glamour provided by cricket. And the rich, the powerful and the famous exploit the opportunity ruthlessly to the hilt. From the Royals to the Stars, gracing the game played at leisurely pace and a dreamy eyed spectator; the mutual complementation can't be more ideal.

The hoi polloi play out a dream and society's creamy layers further various unholy goals, all at the same time and centred on the same milk cow. Those sixes by a Sachin Tendulkar are thrilling but those who throng the stadium and those glued to the TV, more importantly get a sense of pleasure in imagining getting famous and noticed.

The present rut cricket is in, was waiting to happen. In a corrupt country like India; where there is abundant money, corruption is bound to creep in. And cricket is a very rich sports, in fact one of the richest in the world. The BCCI may have its own rules and a constitution, but it is the personal integrity of those who implement them which is a breeding ground for mismanagement and misappropriations.

I pity those millions who have been duped by those hooligans after having followed each and every ball of tournament after tournaments lasting six weeks as if dear life itself depends on leaving everything to watch it. Cricket, as it is in India, may not happen anywhere else. The estimated size of the betting on the just concluded IPL was a whopping 20,000 crore rupee. Cricket is big time money, top level glamour.

That explains why so many ex-players of the game are associated with it years after retirement. The administrators, the commentators; all are highly paid, all get very powerful. Saying that they want to pay back something to the game is tantamount to asking people to make one an MLA or MP to serve the people. I have not heard of any non-profit cricket academy run by good ex-players.

And our politicians. Functionaries of cricket administration in India, be it the BCCI, the State bodies or bodies which run tournaments read like a who's who of mainstream Indian politics. Cricket is one common ground of convergence for them. In Parliament or Assemblies they will not cut across party lines for the common good of the people, but in ensuring their weighty presence in those bodies, they are one: Politicians.Most politicians in India wear Khadi, thereby supposedly declaring their respect and love for things Indian.

I have nothing against Khadi or Swadeshi, but I hate the hypocrisy of our Netas. First, what you wear doesn't make you patriotic; second, most of them throw those Khadis the moment they are out of public glare. If our politicians care so much for Swadeshi, why don't we see any political stalwarts in the running of Swadeshi games like Kabadi and Kho-Kho?

More skeletons are tumbling out of the closet. After the eye wash enacted by the BCCI chief N Srinivasan and his cronies in Chennai, fresh accusations are being levelled, this time against none other than the Indian captain, MS Dhoni. He is reportedly a 15% stake holder in a sports company which controls 4 other national level cricketers.

A captain who has a strong say in the selection of the national team taking 15% of the profit earned by the company on these 4 players! Can the brazen loot being carried out by these venal goons get any further?

I don't have any committed locus standi on this absurd imbroglio. But certainly got a lot of amusement in the steadfast, call it shameless, stand of that Srinivasan fellow in, at least for once, not giving way to the pressure exerted by our electronic 'mediacracy'; particularly by a certain bespectacled loud mouth of an anchor.

Srinivasan refused to resign un-conditionally: thereby saving the TV news viewers of a childish gloating by him and his channel of 'yet another victory' as if he has just rescued the nation from a certain disaster.

Yes, to me, the cricket fixation of us Indians is indeed a disaster. The persistently frequent scandals in Indian cricket and and the unabashed mad following is a loud reminder of what Socrates once said, "The people get the government they deserve".


* Maisnam Bomcha wrote this article for Hueiyen Lanpao (English Edition) as part of "Different People, Different Places, Different Times "
This article was posted on June 05, 2013



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