Friday, March 23, 2007

A craziness called Cricket

May your pitch in the sky be evenpaced, the boundaries small and the sky always blue – Anon

If you live in the Indian sub-continent, you can’t help but allow yourself to be consumed by a certain style of crass craziness, called cricket. It is a stupid, longish, slow game -- unlike soccer or badminton -- but has an unusual tendency to take ordinary people to new levels of frenzy. There is only one topic discussed in useless government offices and swanky corporate cabins: Cricket. A billion unsolicited advises, suggestions, proposals. Every mortal has one, at least. If the home team performs well, the hoi polloi will dance as if there is no tomorrow. As if they have hit upon some instant collective jackpot. If – God forbid – the results turn out to be otherwise, all hell suddenly breaks loose. The cricketers’ homes are immediately raided, stoned and vandalized. The choicest abuse is reserved for the ballyhooed blokes.

Media, which makes a quick buck in the entire comicality, adds to the brouhaha. Two-hours to go. Screaming headlines. During these cricket matches – especially the world cup ties – religious-types are given to perform special prayers -- which is really funny -- beseeching heavens for a quick win. Another matter, the gods mostly cold-shoulder such importunity. I am astonished at this flapdoodle.

Cricket is a sport. Ok. It is not even the national game in some of these cricketing countries, where people go to stadiums to watch a game in temperatures touching 45 degree Celsius – plus 113 Fahrenheit. Acceptable. It has a mass appeal. People stay awake to follow every single bowl being bowled and every single run being run. Concedable. The plebeians name their children after wicketkeepers. Ok. Then it starts to get a little weird. People mistake the game – that is fraught with uncertainties like any other game – for some kind of a must-win gamble. It is a beautiful game but it has sadly been glorified. It is high on hype. At some point I reckon cricket has stopped being a civilized, gentleman’s game. It has long been commercialized, packaged, branded, over-puffed and promoted beyond our imagination. I don't wish to denigrate a sport that is enjoyed by millions but I feel just too many people are trying to explain cricket glossary without having a bit of cricketing sense.

The world cup is on and already the fever has reached a mad pitch. Tonight, India clashes with Sri Lanka. An Indian win will mean complete hysteria. The first causality: Media. Advertisers will grin. Betting meters will go berserk. Ordinary souls will suddenly feel blessed. If India loses, expect a billion swear-words. In 19 different languages. Some 1650 dialects. United colors of insanity. God knows what else! Back in the windies, the Jamaican police are already saying that the Pakistani coach who died this week under mysterious circumstances was murdered. The once-unifying game has stooped to such shallow levels. Poor Bob Woolmer.
Godspeed Bob, go in peace.

Meanwhile…The mania persists.