Friday, September 10

For Bettor or Worse

One more scandal. In Cricket. And with origins in our north-westerly neighbor. Before you yawn and throw the newspaper away, cursing them for rehashing old copy, pause a moment. Media baiting apart, recycling strategy does not sell newspapers, at least on a sustainable basis - and mine certainly wears its readership high on its sleeve. If this be the truth, there must be more to it, including a reason why Cricket has kept company with controversy with striking regularity of late.

My brush with the purported gentlemanliness of cricket came from pages of the same newspaper, years ago. The mid-80's, newly launched HT Patna edition headlined "It's Not Cricket" for some fiasco on the ground - the kind that’s hardly likely to cause you to blink in our more cynically evolved times! A question to the Pater elicited an etymological explanation in the game's history and tradition-rich lore. Not sure if it significantly altered my on-field behaviour (or lack of notable achievement), but much before Atticus Finch, it was an excellent introduction to that intangible called sportsman spirit.

Those wistful memories, though, are not the only reason to grieve the morass of modern Cricket. Mind you, the actual charges the tainted trio from Pakistan (and Akmal D’Artagnan) stand in the dock for, are neither unique nor original. More than a few of India's own, including our Hon'ble MP from Moradabd (though his erstwhile tarnished reputation has lately been alight with some other flame!) have shamed cricket and left even its diehard fans wondering whether on-field exploits are driven by sporting acumen or Mammonic influence. One can go so far as to argue that this skepticism; and an exposure overdose have led to Cricket's (relatively) flagging following - and gradual rise of other sports.

In any event, no nation has made such inseparable acquaintance with controversy as Pakistan. Go back but a few years and Pak cricket has been newsworthy more for unsavoury dealings and repeated individual misconduct than genuine cricketing reasons. If unconvinced, try and picture generation's-best-bat Inzamam (thus spake Imran; move over Lara, Sachin!), Peter Pan cowboy Afridi, sex-n-speed (pun intended) posterchild Shoaib Akhtar, twice-named Yousuf (more pun intended) and check if images of occasional glory are not tainted interminably with talent-wasting notoriety. Indeed Pakistani cricketers come and go (often for multiple voluntary and forced retirements!) but despite several efforts to clean their Augean stables, the muck refuses to wash off.

Perhaps all the internecine bickering and dubious (on- and off-field) debacles in Pak cricket could be brushed off as symptomatic of the rot in that country. The world has, after all, been comfortably numbed to bad news from Pakistan. Mourning the absence of sporting events in its geography is not easy given what transpired when Lankan Tigers last dared to venture there. Yet, history teaches us that existence of exclusion begets politics of hate. An economically challenged, educationally backward and socially fragmented state is fertile ground for the unleashing the worst within us. If no other, then this is good reason to shed a tear for Muhammad Amir. Not from the country's oligopolistic elite against whose doorstep lies the blame for most of the mess that is Pakistan, and whose fiefdom the nation's cricket has traditionally been; Amir would not have had it easy. His was a long, heroic journey from the Swat valley, now not famous for panoramic beauty but notorious for the war against Taliban; to matchwinning brilliance at Lord's. For a nation short on inspiration, at least of the right variety, such fairytale stuff was pertinent, to say the least. With those no-balls, alas, the spell is broken!

At another level, we must ponder if too much is invested in the game in the sub-continent: the ridiculous shenanigans before, during and after IPL ought to have triggered such thoughts anyhow. As case in point, consider the pointless brouhaha over another no-ball and symphony of sympathy for Sehwag (he too woke up to it overnight!). For sure lament the decline in the spirit of the game in such incidents but let us equally appreciate the larger context of its commercialization where, indeed, we have played a leading role. And certainly give those ill-founded, frenzied waves of jingoism a miss - it is, after all, just a game :)

PS: My vote too, for legalizing betting. Like the War against Tobacco teaches us, one plays them best when allowed out of the closet. Viva Transparency!

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Your effort is commendable and topics of discussion very thoughtful....but honestly I lost interest mid way....your writing style is a wee bit complicated....try keeping it more simple and lively for sake of your followers.:)

Your friend philisopher and guide...;)

Anonymous said...

Amitji,

So you still have a following and they want you to carry on their bidding -- why doesn't that surprise me :-) Like I said earlier, thoda sa Eco Soc is still at large, waiting for you to exhale!

-A