Cricket for all its elegance and style is not a gentleman’s sport, not anymore. Not that I am complaining. I started watching cricket during an era when the short curly-haired man from Mumbai, in his early twenties, was sending world-class bowlers to all corners of the ground to gather their cricket and biological balls. Sachin Tendulkar, more commonly referred by fans as ‘The Great One’ and by bowlers around the world as ‘Oh God, Have Mercy’, has changed a lot in the last couple of decades, what seems like not so long ago, moving from a swashbuckler to a serene maestro. I have always loved the big hitting aspect of modern day cricket which in some ways, I think, adds to the richness of the slow paced test cricket. But it was less about the number of sixes and fours, and more about the overall beauty and the small battles between the bat and ball that gave one-day cricket the mesmerizing effect. Cricket followers of my generation spent countless hours admiring/ fighting over the best and the worst cricketers and their skills or lack thereof. Every victorious match was followed-up by an in-depth analysis of every aspect of the game throughout the school, college, street and back yard conversations with friends and lost matches were discussed even further. Apparently, we know more about the game than the captains and players and the couches, not to mention the umpires. These days there is hardly anytime for that to happen, since there is already another match on its way and before you can say, ‘hey, I didn’t even see the toss!!’ the game is over and then the next one. This is the era of Twenty/20 cricket. This is the time of IPL, ICL, Stanford Tour, Phoenix 20/20 (that’s the local cricket league here in Arizona, in which yours truly is a player) where cricket is simply ‘that thing’ that provides a venue for eye-bulging profit, non-stop action (sans commercial break) and skin clad cheer leaders all in bright colors (not applicable to our league- [:)] and [:(] at the same time). Much like the generation of my Father and those before him who didn’t exactly like one-day cricket- the shortest form of the game at that time- who were in favor the Test version, there is some wide spread discontent at twenty/20 which is about 5 years older and not without reasons and the main culprit being the IPL.
Let’s face it- its nothing like cricket the way it was used to be. When a batsman drives sweetly a full and swinging delivery off a pacer through a desperately scrambling cover fielder, the reply was looped what often seemed like infinite times while the commentator explains repeatedly why and how that shot was considered sweet so that you never forget what and how a sweet shot looks like. I don’t think it is required to say what happens post wicket. The whole fielding team jumps in unison screaming and whooping, as they converge to pat the bowler while the batsman, crest fallen, trudges off the field, but not before he shows his emotions via actions. He may kick the bat at the ground showing self-disgust, or play the shot that got him out one more time at the imaginary ball so that people could see that he did every thing right, but it was the ball that went rouge or the classic one, looking at the sky and then back down and shaking his head as if the lord him/her-self has betrayed him.
Now as soon as such shot is played, or any shot for that matter, once that moment of play is done we cut to commercials where a tooth paste, shaving cream, deodorant or just about any thing you can think of, appears in animated fashion to explain in fifty second sound bites why you need it to score the omnipresent hot chic. I once saw a commercial in which a man wore a specific brand of Jeans (which looked rugged and blue much like – well, every other jean in the world) and then a sexy looking girl who was shown talking to some one on a phone locks hands with our jeans guy and they walk into –fade. Strange, it never happened to me or to any one I know and we have tried a lot of jeans. Anyway, that’s the state affairs in the world of cricket now. It’s less similar to ‘people with high skills competing for superiority under strict rules and gamesmanship’ and more resembling scripting a live action movie where you eagerly look forward for the sequence that is fight-song-fight-song-presentation ceremony. Next day, the tabloids show the breaking news, which is the celebrity who owns the team jumps up and down at the team dug out or makes a stupid comment about cricket which would make Geoff Boycott break into tears, not the winning captain or the team. As though this isn’t already so much fun (sarcasm), now a 10 minute break is added between every 10 overs, so that teams can strategize. Come on!! Ten overs of time is what takes players to get warmed up. The pure reason -sneak in a few more commercials about love Jeans. But who cares, this isn’t sharp shooting anymore, its spraying with an Uzi. Its like watching the evolution of Mother’s day- what started out as a revered acknowledgment of everything that is great about motherhood has ended up being this commercialized extravaganza despised even by its founder,Anna Jarvis,
All is not bad about it though. As honorably mentioned by Lalit Modi, the CEO of IPL, it attracts the best talent from around the world in the form of players, coaches and support staff and thus creates all kinds of new possibilities. The young domestic players get to share the same dressing room, and learn valuable lessons that could potentially give us a very deep talent pool for national squad. The franchise itself can fuel the invigoration and development of the country’s cricketing infrastructure whether it means better pay for, at least some of, the local players or better equipment and amenities for the grounds. Oh, how I remember Deep Dasgupta’s, a former wicket keeper for India, sad remarks about how they could not even afford a good set of Four-Square brand bat and gloves and must settle for the SS type only a few years ago. All said and done, lot of money is being made and looks like every effort is made to increase it too.
The BCCI, which in a desperate attempt to control and maintain its monopoly over Indian cricket, had banned ICL and anyone associated with it before the first edition of the tournament even began. It flexed its muscles enough to make other member countries of ICC to follow suit and ban their players who are part of ICL, and the ICC has recently denied ICL’s appeal to it that it must be given an ‘unofficially-approved’ status, so that the players’ national ban be lifted. Now in a latest development, BCCI is offering amnesty to the ICL players that if they end all ties to the rogue leaugue (put down their arms, so to speak) before end of May, their ban will be lifted a after one year ‘cool-off’ period (will be pardoned of their sins and the gates of heaven shall open, so to speak). Considering the fact that ICL was started in response to the pathetic performance in 2008 World Cup by the Indian team, which in turn woke up BCCI to start its own IPL – a Paris Hilton version of ICL. The Board of Cricket Control in India, with all its political and bollywood craftsmen has, apparently, failed to consider the fact that ICL can be utilized as a lower end version for the domestic circuit providing more opportunities for more aspiring cricketers. Then again, an agency that suspended all pension benefits to its former players of India who associated themselves with ICL and calls the country’s lone world cup winning captain, Kapil Dev, a betrayer, one shouldn’t be surprised.
I guess what I am saying is, Twenty-20 good.
Actions of BCCI, not so much [:(] .