Since cricket is going to be the flavour of the coming month (and some more), it makes sense to talk about it... I guess!
Francois Gautier has written a column on Rediff, titled Cricket, the Destroyer in which he derides the sport of cricket in the Indian context. I do not quite agree with some of the arguments he has presented.
Yet, both India and Pakistan should consider this: cricket is a colonial game, a leftover of the British Empire. Cricket was played in the 19th century by rich, idle maharajas and upper class Indians, who wanted to look more British than the British and aped the English in whatever they did, whether it was hunting tigers, owning a Rolls Royce, or playing the 'gentleman's game.'A very very common argument against cricket. Agreed!... that cricket is a colonial leftover that the Indians have taken to like fish to water. But then so is our parliamentary democracy! It is an exact carbon copy of the British parliamentary system. Why then are we still using it. Why not go in for the Presidential form of democracy just to rid ourselves of this colonial leftover. Or better still, lets devise a totally new system of democracy that'll make us proud to be Indians... our very own system that isn't inspired from the one that was (and still is!) practised by upper class Britishers who spend all their time having tea and biscuits, when they are not debating trivial issues in the confines of the parliament building.
It was never a sport for the masses. It is a pity that after Independence, both the governments of India and Pakistan encouraged cricket. This South Asian obsession with cricket has had catastrophic consequences on the national psyche of these countries.Ohh! in fact I thought the effect of cricket was just the opposite. Why does Mr. Gautier think cricket is an elitist game and not for the masses?! In fact, cricket is and always has been a spectator sport. It may not be just 90 minutes long as soccer or 70 minutes long as hockey... but it has always attracted spectators, whether it has been played on green English meadows or in emotional cauldrons like Eden Gardens in Kolkata. Lets see... the quintessentially Indian game/sport of chess is as elitist as it gets.
There is unfortunately a conspiracy between the Government of India and the big business corporations to inflate the importance of cricket because they make so much money out of it. The amount spent by multinationals and national companies, for instance, on the pre-publicity for the present cricket World Cup is nothing short of shameful in a country where basic necessities such as drinking water are badly lacking.C'mon... I'm not even gonna comment on this naive argument. When you have no other argument to present... give the conspiracy angle to buttress your argument.
It is equally disgraceful players, however talented they are, endorse any product, from soft drinks to cars, from electronics to foreign credit cards. As sportsmen of international standing, they should show some sense of balance in the choice of products they associate their image with. Crores of rupees are spent on artificial, tasteless ads for Coca-Cola and Pepsi that not only incarnate American imperialism but also lead to obesity and chemical imbalance in the body. If only the profits of multinationals would benefit poor Indians, but they mostly go in the pockets of American multinationals and a few rich Indians.Haha! ... the Left speaketh!! The use of socialist comments like these never fails to generate sympathy among the "patriotic" audiences.
Cricket stifles all other sports. Because of the sponsorship and advertisement solely focused on cricket, much more deserving and physically harder sports, such as track and field are neglected and other athletes get very little sponsorship and media attention. As a direct result, India's world position in sports, considering that there are a billion Indians, is abysmal and nothing short of disgraceful.I simply don't subscribe to this..."Cricket kills other sports" viewpoint. Where was the hype and craze for cricket before that magic 1983 triumph in England?!! It existed in India just as any other sport... well, probably slightly more popular than other sports. Hockey was the apple of everyone's eyes... with the Indian team being the tour de force of world hockey. That triumph of 1983 changed everything. Cricket came into focus as the sport in which Indians could actually be world-beaters. Also, the Indian dominance in international hockey scene was on the wane. All this led to crowning of cricket as the numero uno sport in the country. After the opening up of the Indian economy in the early 1990's, big money started coming into cricket as the corporates looking to sponsor sports naturally plumped for cricket which was the most popular sport. Added to this was the rise of players like Sachin Tendulkar whose individual talents shone like beacons in game that was essentially a team-sport. Endorsing of products by stars, be it movie stars or sports stars, is a global phenomenon and does not have anything to do with aping America.
It is also high time that sports be taken off the hands of politicians and bureaucrats, who have shamelessly exploited it for selfish purposes and left it in the mire it is now.On this point, I agree 100% with Mr. Gautier. Though, it begs to be mentioned that a certain percentage of politicians and businessmen in the sports-governing bodies, is a good thing too.
Then curiously... Mr. Gautier gets confused about what he is supposed to write and starts talking about things like "saffronisation of education", meditation, pranayam and religion. Gee!! ... and I thought he was talking about cricket being a bad thing for India!
It is high time the Indian government enforces a limitation on the number of international cricket matches played abroad and starts focusing a little more on other sports. India lags 30 years behind China and 50 years behind the West in most sports.Well! what does restricting the number of matches played in a year have anything to do with the upliftment of other sports?!! Confusion reigns supreme!! And finally... he hurriedly rounds of his column saying
Shame on you cricket, the destroyer.Hmmm... what can I say!
By the way... a couple of days back, I heard an interview of ace commentator Harsha Bhogle. He said, "As long as India continues to be an unhappy nation, cricket will thrive. The day that Indians are a happy people, cricket will lose its raison d'etre."
Think about it!