GOD save the Gentleman’s Game

No matter how much you decide to consciously avoid discussing about cricket, being an Indian, you cannot resist the temptation to talk about this grand religion. I dedicate my 80th post to the recent happenings on & off the field of cricket and the dangers the game is facing as a result of the same.

A BIG WIN ???

The City of Joy emerged as the most successful city a week back. No, I am not talking about economic development and growth; the parameter for success was the recently concluded grand reality show in which the city emerged as victors. IPL has seen cricket and Bollywood getting mixed together, but what we saw on our TV screens was amazing. For the first time, politics was merged with a sport with such extravaganza. It would have been much better if the Chief Minister would have achieved something BIG for the state in the last 1 year and then held grand celebrations. Instead, she cashed on big time on the sentiments which we Indians have for this game and “forced” the Feel Good factor and forced people to celebrate on the streets (Those very streets which are quite dirty in this city due to indifferent civic authorities). This victory in cricket might be sadly enough to ensure “Saat khoon Maaf” for the failed state government. The victory also caused no harm to the wearing brand image of the superstar. Analysis of his own celebrations after the victory can be a topic for some other post… The current cashing on this game reminds me of the festivals in India and its holy religious places. All have been turned into a base for political aspirations and other political interests. Sadly, with the alarming mixing of politics into cricket, the game is now slowly but surely heading the same way.

BT more interesting than TOI ?

IPL has ensured that the focus on off-field news like parties, controversies, scams,etc is as much as that on the on-field news, if not more.Perhaps Page 3 has become more important that page 23. Unlike other sports, the game had survived focus on unnecessary news on WAGS, drinks, drug abuse, etc etc for quite some time, perhaps not anymore.

Change in preferences

Everyone criticised the SLinga when he decided to retire from tests. More recently another smashing batsman from England has decided to call it a day from ODIs. The marriage of the Carribean smasher with his team management is always on the verge of divorce. The preferences of players has clearly changed. If they are getting millions for playing a few 3 hour games, why toil hard for hours together for lesser money. Yes, the name on the front of the jersey changes from that of your country to some county, but in the age of making quick money, does anybody really care ? No need to look abroad. In our own country, we are no longer producing Dravids & laxmans. All that we are , are a set of baseball players whose only intention seems to hit each and every ball out of the park. Some real change is needed to stop this undesirable change.

Unfortunately that change has not come from ICC

ICC guys need to go back to school and learn the real meaning of strategy. The problem at hand is real: Tests, ODIs are losing their popularity alarmingly, thanks to the phenomenal rise of county T20 cricket. The steps taken by it, are as usual,  too cosmetic to bring about any real change. How will introduction of 2 bouncers per over or pulling an extra fielder inside the 30 yard circle bring in more crowds to the stands? Or how will leaving the choice of day night tests to the participating teams fill up the empty stands during the tests ? Also the fact that ICC has not even considered changing a proven faulty D/L method is unfortunate. I am a strong advocate of the change in ODI structure suggested by the little master. By this way, the ODIs would combine the unique characteristics of 2 innings of tests and a 20 over per side at a time of the T20s. Maybe ICC is too feeble to give it a shot. As far as tests are concerned, let us accept the reality. Fans just don’t have the time or the motivation to watch a 5 day long event, which anyway results in a dead draw more often than not. Real entertainment is offered by the new format. And to add to it, the world is anyway not producing enough Test greats anymore. The difficult and the most challenging time for a great sportsman is to understand change and call it quits at the right time before being forcefully “thrown out”. Tests have been a hero for decades and produced heroes for long. Has the time come to call it quits ? I am for a phased and planned exit strategy. But it all depends on what the governors of this game think and act. In all probability, no real change will be introduced by them and the popularity of tests in the current format will continue to diminish..

The gentleman’s game is a beautiful game with a lot of learnings from it as I have mentioned in What has cricket taught me. Let us not reduce it to a just a tool for brand building for politics or Bollywood or just produce pinch hitters who make great bucks through short matches, but are not great fans of the delicate cuts,glance, flicks or the defence shots. Let it remain a good source of entertainment for news on the field and not much from off the field.

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