Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Cricket, a primitive game played with tools on cricket pitches......well it has come a long way since then, with the almost war like situations on the ground, to countries like India and Pakistan coming to a halt when 22 men dressed in gentlemanly white (or rather blue and green, with warpaint greased on their faces!!!) take to the field. My tryst with cricket is slightly odd. I have always enjoyed the game, played more to enjoy than to win matches, watched more with the joy of watching the thump of wood and leather meet, the ball race towards the ropes, rather than a country winning.
I have not really been a die hard fan of a particular cricketer, bunked schools and colleges or stayed awake at nights to cheer India (although I have done my share of it, back in school days, but not much after that). What I have really enjoyed in cricket is the the deadly thrill of Malcolm Marshall bowling a bouncer to the cricket's little champion Gavaskar at the other end, the great Sir Vivian Richards truly cricket's greatest king sending the ball to every corner of the ground he pleases with the ease as if he was squatting a fly. Of course, some memories will always be etched in my memory - the Prudential win at Lords with Kapil and his team waving from the balcony, Gavaskar running that 10000th run in Ahmedabad, Sachin the schoolboy facing the music of Pakistani greats - Imran and Akram.
Cricket is a game that truly combines the best of both mind and body, it has it's share of strategy much like the chess and the outdoor thrill of soccer and may I say very few games have that, and thus it's popularity will always remain.
Cricket is the heart and soul of a few million people across the globe, who would be there to watch every ball being delivered, come what may. That's where I feel the agony of the present state of game lies. For years, most of us who have watched cricket, have always considered it be the best, which very few games could rival not something as cruel as kick boxing or as esoteric as golf. It has the best of everything. It had art (you had see a cover drive played by Gower or a square cut by Vishwanth). It had it's share of strategy, heart stopping thrills (tied test, one run wins!!!) and mass hysteria(the roar at Eden Gardens!!!), what more could a game be???
Alas, I feel that was what it was it's undoing. It was too perfect to go on undiluted for ever, and then came in the BETTING. Betting is something which in one stroke destroyed what cricket has always stood for - fairplay! We have always said - "It's just not cricket"!!! The saying seems to have lost some of it's shine after a lot of money kept exchanging hands and the players pre-determined outcomes of matches.
Match fixing came as the deadliest blow to the game, and however much one is a die-hard fan after every match in some corner of the mind there is that lingering feeling of whether the match was played in the right spirit or was it stage managed. The feeling of watching a nail biting finish will never be the same as like in pre-match fixing days.
When you follow a test match bowl by bowl for the five days, not doing every work that comes in your way and at the end of it you come to know that those 22 jokers were actually enacting a scripted drama with the outcome already known to them. It comes to you as if somebody has kicked your stomach after a full meal!! It now seems to me that when the players fix the outcome of a game and money changes hands, they must be laughing at the sight of a billion people cheering foolishly!
The match fixing episode tarnished the game........ left a few of us utterly disillusioned but a large majority of the following still remained. Cricket's greatest scandal did not have the ripple it deserved. People continued to bunk schools and work, watch matches, and more or less exhibit the same amount of enthusiaism there was earlier. In this process the game never got completly cleansed of the evil and the parasite remained (it is like a dormant volcano which sometimes billows smoke but could well throw up lava again)...we should have boycotted cricket let those cricketers lose popularity (as well as their endorsement fees, drop them from being demi-Gods to the average Joe), totally give up on the game for a few years. The shock would have been too great for the cricket establishment the world over (they would have lost billions and really worked hard at cleansing the system which now they have not done enough).
We have let this rot remain....... not cleaned it enough, scratched the surface superficially and allowed the parasite to flourish underneath.
The game is not cleaned of match fixing ....tell me one in the audience in any match who can bet that the match was not fixed with a finger on his heart...nobody can!!
We are letting this rot continue, it keeps throwing up some cricketers as the villians whom we abandon, and continue to hero worship the others...till one among them also falls. It is like if you have played for your country you are assured of hero worship till you have been naive or foolish enough to get caught!!!
Make match fixing a punishable offence, ask the cricketer to be tried in court, take back his fees from the day if he has been proven to be cheating (take back his endorsement fees too)....... if you really want to cleanse the system. Nobody who plays for the country will dare cheat again.
Only then we can cheer a square cut to the ropes and a drive off cover with the joy it deserves!!!