I have been crazy about the game of cricket since childhood. The records of Bradman, Richards, Gavaskar and other greats were on my lips. The gentleman's game was enough to make an active fellow out of a lazy child. Like me most children in India devour cricket as the one and only religion. It's a uniting factor for more than a billion people of this country. Apart from the greatness of the above-mentioned players and many more like them, cricket was also famous for its honest practices and fair means.
But the emergence of the Great Cricket Tamasha, the Indian Premier League, has brought about a drastic change in the game and the way it is played. All is fair in IPL for the owners and players, and commercialisation has taken the shine out of a game which was once regarded as the most gentlemanly, where the things which mattered more than the way the game is played were honesty, uprightness and integrity of the players. Gone are the days of players like Lala Amarnath, his son Mohinder, Gavaskar, Kirmani and Kapil Dev and many other legends who, apart from being great players, were men of integrity who used to play their game religiously.
For them the thing which mattered most was not the money earned through matches but the personal satisfaction they used to feel while playing the game honestly. There were very few players who used to get arrogant or abusive on the field. Serial abusers like Harbhajan Singh and Virat Kohli wouldn't have found a place in the Indian team then. It was not just the way one played that was considered reason for a player to be in the team, but the way he used to behave with the players of other teams on the field.
Things were somewhat better till the late '90s. But as the 21st century came, cricket too took a drastic U-turn, from being a game played by gentlemen to a game financed by corporates, with teams owned by film stars who do not know even the rules and regulations of the game.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India has started to act like a corporate body which has allowed its members to get connected with the IPL franchises. IPL is nothing but a vulgar dance of arrogance, where corporate honchos spend their money earned through the exploitation of workers and the poor. How can we become a great nation when a large chunk of our population is not able to enjoy the fruits of democracy and independence and we keep boasting about Commonwealth Games, IPL and blahblah?
Should we feel proud that young girls imported from the Balkans are asked to dance in front of thousands of people, youngsters and old men alike? Has anyone tried to know about the miseries which these girls go through? Does anyone know how these girls are misbehaved with at the after-parties? In the words of Mukul Kesavan, 'The cheerleaders are young women paid to tart up the tournament with their bodies, to strut their stuff for mainly male audiences in a country where every adult woman has suffered the predatory gaze (and worse) of Indian men.'
In the age of IPL and corporate-driven cricket matches we cannot expect the players to be honest towards their country and the team for which they are playing. The day may not be far off when we will hear voices in favour of match-fixing to be legalised, just like there's a demand for corruption to be legalised by calling it suvidha shulk (convenience charge).
The revelation by a television sting operation on match-fixing is just the tip of the iceberg, and points to a mad bad world where everything is for sale in the name of cricket.All said and done, do we have any answers to the questions of a farmer in Vidarbha who commits suicide because he doesn't have money to repay his debt? We don't, because we are the people whose conscience is dead, we do not want to see beyond our concrete jungles.