By Ananya S Guha
It is high time that we now underscore the importance of cricket in our national sports and lay emphasis on other games and sports. I am saying this not only because the Indian Cricket Team is even losing at home and Test Matches do not exist in the team’s vocabulary. I am also saying this because the entire sports of cricket has been monetized in such a crass manner, that cricketers no longer play for the country but play for the money. Otherwise how would explain one of the cricketers making brash statements in Kolkata last year, during the event of a book launch, complaining about the food served and comparing it with what is dished out in IPL matches.
There can be just no comparison between the cricketing association of a state and the IPL. If the cricketer wants better fare to be served to him, I think he might just latch on to IPL only for is life. Such public venting of private feelings is totally uncalled for by a cricketer of the stature and importance of Virender Sehwag.
India is consistently playing badly in Test Matches. This is because cricket has become lucre, and the source of inspiration is not playing well for the country but playing well for money. It is a shame that so much national waste is going to cricket when people in the country cannot earn a square meal a day. Cricketers are demi-gods and everything about cricket is a new found avatar, especially because of IPL and the shorter version of cricket.
Gone also are the days when cricket was a gentleman’s game meant not only for the connoisseurs but also in some cases the erudite. A former Captain of England Mike Brearly was not only a graduate of philosophy from one of the leading Universities of the world, but was a voracious reader of serious books.
Now let us look at the sport scene in the country apart from cricket.
If foreign coaches can be imported for cricket then I fail to understand why the same cannot be the case for other sports.
Recently, during the Champions Trophy the Captain of the Indian Hockey Team said that Indian Hockey was on the road to recovery. Will anyone take the words of a Hockey player seriously? I also read that Leander Paes has won about eighteen or nineteen Grand Slam titles. How much do our public and the media talk about it?
If we are to look at sports development in the country in a more holistic and concerted manner we have to institute sports academies like that of China to catch them young and then train budding sports men for years. Sports should also be an integral part of education, allying it with vocational education or separately sports education. Then only can we think of a more total development in sports, instead of only singling out cricket and making it opium for the masses. The Cricket Control Board of India is the riches in the world. They have enough money. Let them continue to do their bit to promote cricket. But let the other sports also take the front seat as they truly deserve and let sports academies be set up for them in a rationalistic manner with an eye for the future.
And this future should be on a long term basis.
Now with the storm surrounding the IPL controversy cricket has not only become a source of corruptibility, but also very murky. The money factor has permeated the game so much that both cricketers and administrators are in the rat race to earn more and more irrespective of any moral compunction. Cricket has progressed or rather regressed from match fixing to spot fixing. The phraseology spot fixing is another new entrant to the vocabulary of cricket. It is ominous because it cannot be controlled in any way if an individual player wants to harm his team. He can bowl loose deliveries, he can bowl wide balls, he can bowl no balls and he can do anything to let the opposition off the steam. Similarly, a batsman can play deliberated strokes to help the opposition. This is become so ridiculous that instead of trying to bring more and more stringent regulations to the game the ICC remains mute. And as for the BCCI, the less said the better; it is only interested in power mongering. And this goes with money. It is also high time that the government intervenes to stall the tainted corruption that goes with this game, which is for all practical purposes a profession in India. Little known players who play in the IPL are not interested in serving the country, or to play for it as long as their coffers are filled. All the money that is poured into cricket is at the expense of other sports and games. The BCCI over four decades has accumulated wealth due to crowd pullers in venues such as the Eden Gardens in Calcutta. And once it wielded both; power and political clout, thanks also to the intrusion of politicians in its echelons it started exerting power over ICCI as well. Such is the saga of Indian cricket where not cricketers but politicians and would be administrators started ruling the roost of Indian cricket and administration.
Now, we have the sorry sight of film actors coming into this business of cricket and cricketers becoming actors – look at all the advertisements and the jingles and you will know! The nexus is simple; cricketers, politicians and actors, to be precise Bollywood. What more lethal and insatiable connection could you get? And all this as I said earlier at the expense of other sports. It is high time now for the government to lay embargos on this putrefied nonsense.