Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Not cricket

Increasingly, I am getting irritated with cricket and wonder, why we devote so much of our lives following the silly sport. Intended to write a proper essay, but to keep the argument sound and rational, here are a few salient reasons for doing away with the national past-time.

1. Cricket wastes time - In this net-age, where technology changes everyday and every week, there is a new blockbuster, on and off celluloid, we cannot allow a sport to take so much of our precious time. To have an abridged version lasting a full day is a blasphemous waste of time.

2. Cricket kills competition - Since we play it in series (matches of 3-5), it means a month's worth of media-space (newspaper, magazines, tv, radio) spent in covering the series. That means that much less coverage of other sports. Since, media is saturated with cricket news all the time, sports followers are exposed to and discuss little else. The happenings in other sports - big and small are completely neglected and sports enthusiasts are never given a chance to build interest in newer pursuits. It is a vicious circle, where, since there is lack of following, other sports are ignored more. Look at the fate of great non-cricket sportspersons like I M Vijayan, Bhaichung Bhutia, Dhanraj Pillay.

It only pays to be pursuing individual sports like golf or tennis, which are highly remunarative even if you are amongst the top 200 (think Bhupati, Paes, Sania Mirza, Jyoti Randhawa, Jeev Milka Singh).

Other big sports like tennis, football, rugby allow breathing space for other sports to be broadcast and covered on the same day. Cricket, the monster obscures all else.

3. Cricket is Boring - Cricket lasts a day at best and 5 days at worst (purists claim that is the best). Much has been romanticized about the elegant cover drive and the graceful leg glances. Sachin's straight drive has been made to be the stuff of legends. Cricket has been traditionally blessed with great literary writers, who wanted to be set themselves apart from the yobs who followed the beautiful yet raucous football. These are the guys who have put eulogized the beauty of the game. Yes, there is grace and style and elegance in cricket, but so is there in football, curling and even marbles (you would know if Ramachandra Guha wrote about gotis). If you follow a sport doggedly, then I am sure you can dsicover and revel in beautiful minutiae. It's all there, but is noticed and applauded as a virtue only by the romantic followers - one who will watch a silly 5 day test with no result and claim that it was worth it for the elegant late cut by Tendulkar on the 2nd day just before tea. Such claims have been made time and again - that the one shot or the one delivery made it all worthwhile.

It cannot be worthwhile. Because you wasted five whole working days, for one shot, when you could have gone and done something more worthwhile (like playing cricket yourself). Better still, gone ahead and followed some less mind-numbing game. You can still catch with the cricket highlights of good shots and dismissals later

4. Cricket is elitist - It is said that cricket was accepted so widely in India, because it didnt involve body contact as in other team sports like football, rugby, hockey. The attitude even now continues. Cricket is expensive if you want to pursue it at a higher level. The batsman looks as if he is going to war. Esp, kids, just look extremely funny - with the huge pads, arms guards, the oversized helmets, and Hulk gloves. If you want to play "real" cricket, you always need expensive gear. How about keeping it simple and yet truly entertaining? Just one ball and a beautiful game.

5. Cricket is primarily skill, less fitness sport - Nothing wrong with that, except imagine a country of billion followers of the cult of cricket. Cricket tells you that its ok to have a paunch, be a mediocre fielder and even smoke. Remember its only NOW that the fielding standards have improved, but still, people are shocked to see you coming off the field with your clothes dirty. The ball comes to the fielder only in a while, so most of the time on the field is spent just following the game, without being actually involved. Running happens intermittently, so, you don't even need to have great stamina like in other field team sports.

Parents want their kids to be batsmen. Less effort, more mileage. Fielding and even bowling is less respected. Nana Patekar says it best "Tu fielding kyun kar rahaa hai. Tujhe Tendulkar banana hai, Kaif nahi".

6. Too much administration - The positioning of fielders, the change of bowlers, fielders during over change (how about just moving the batsmen around), the run-up, the hush-hush strategizing, the shining up of ball, the weather, the pitch - all makes the games too complicated. Compared to all the faffing about, the actual play-time is extremely less. So, to have played cricket means, you have actually not played much.

Let me add that I have played cricket and enjoyed playing. Friends will vouch for the fact that I was not bad.

My problem is with the importance that it gets and were it less popular with the masses, I would be even fond of the game.
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