The Fair(y) Tale Of Cricket
Once upon a time there was cricket...
Ah! The Glorious Uncertainties Of Cricket...Chetan Sharma smacked for 6 by one Miandad taking poor Chetan into the pages of inglorious records; Allan Donald perhaps too mesmerized by Klusener's 'straight ' bat push, forgot his Karmic Dharma of crossing the 22 yard to earn a run, depriving South Africa a place in the finals and immortalizing Steve Waugh's remarks to Gibbs-'You've drop the world cup mate'...or Apna Bangla Bandhu torpedoing The 'Blue Billions'..
'The Glorious Uncertainties of Cricket'- an expression to rationalize when the 'minnows' win and the men-who-know loose. But I came to know of it quiet late in my life..In fact I didn't felt the need to ever Rationalize my defeats...Let me narrate to you a childhood practice of mine...I don't practice it now (( I cannot afford to)) but remember it every time when the word cricket comes in...So come with me and unleash your imaginative faculties, for a 10 year old is playing Phantom Tournaments.
It was when picture tubes in most of the houses were black and white, 1987 World Cup had just happened and definitely two things stood out in that cup.. Navjot Singh Sidhhu ((what a sensational cup he had)) and Dhirubhai's Reliance, Harry Potter was not born, kyunki saas was only saas and not bahu, the televised Ramayana had that weird light and sound effect on every 'teer' of Rama, the Babri Masjid was intact and Sachin was going to make his debut. It was in these times when my Phantom Tournaments were played.
Oh these tournaments.. the venue use to be the Terrace of my home,...Me and my bat, pad, gloves ((no abdominal guards for I knew that the ball wont be coming)).. I pretended as a batsman, imagining a bowler coming, having my own imaginative field placing and here I go...I'm ready with my bat, an imaginative bowler is coming full stride and delivering the ball.. it could be a Yorker, a short pitch one or a slower. I had to negotiate it.. sometimes I passed and believe me sometimes I failed also... Imagine.. only the batsman was in person i.e. me and rest of the players 'Phantoms'... But, decisions were fair...India used to beat Sri-Lanka and get beaten by England.. The Indian team ((not Team India)) had Gavaskar and Srikanth opening the innings, Vengsarkar use to come at one down, followed by Manjrekars, Shastris and Devs... The English team had Gooch, Lamb, Gower, John Emburay.. they looked strong on paper and therefore Kapil and his men were beaten very often! Imagine.. A 10 year old playing the entire tournament all alone! Madness you can call it but such is the madness which Cricket generates.. full of sportsmanship and innocence. I was both the player and spectator, both the voyeur and the subject-. The game was played in all fairness and this is 'The Glorious Certainty Of Cricket'-a fair trial of strength and skill on a 22 yard strip.
But during my 'Phantom Tournaments' there were no 'commercial breaks'. Cricket in In India was still not a television sport. Kerry Packer had happened but that television phenomenon was restricted to the "land of kangaroos' and we were still drinking 'Kalyani Black Label Beer' and not Fosters...But that was late 80's...when One-day matches on TV abruptly ended with 'Rukavat Kay Liye Khed Hain'.
Then came 90's and Cricket Fans in India ((not necessarily playing my 'Phantom Tournamnents')) got up at 3 in the morning. 92' Benson Hedges World Cup had started. All coloured! ((Hey..come on..i'm not being Racist!)) We woke up to 'Stump Vision' and 'Rukavat kay liye Khed hain' became the folklore of television history.
90's also inculcated more 'envy' in your neighbour coz you had Onida now and there were more Bpl's ((no, not below poverty line people, they are there anyways..)) but Bpl colour television set's .The colour Blue was never the same again.
Then one day Aastha was born ((remember our billionth baby)) and we all became a Billion. Within no time we all became Blue Billion
Imagine in 87' Ravi Shastri doing 'Only Vimal' with Viv Richards and Steve Waugh... but then our player went smarter and became a 'Complete Man'.. but he wanted more from Cricket and therefore 'appealed'-'Yeh Dil Maaange more'...and more he was given.. his every four and every six and every googly fetched him 'Visa Power'. He became more powerful, we became more voyeuristic, cricket became more Television. Kerry Packer was smiling. The companies were smiling. The cricketer was smiling. But who will have the last laugh?
All ex-cricketers ((retired or axed) became experts, News Channels increased, Cricket shows on them mushroomed. But something was missing.. Oh yes..sex... Mandira was brought, the 'silly points'on the field increased but so did the TRP's. All you cricket connoussieurs-mind you.. Mandira is not an aberration in cricket but very much a part of it.. she will not hit the last ball for a six but will 'fix' the eyeballs.. Kerry packer is happy.. we are happy...no problem with that-when we can challenge Queen's English then why not her cricket.. Cricket became entertainment. More money came, more sex poured in...from entertainment cricket became a tittilation .
So now you have a Hansie Cronje involved in 'fixing' a match, stripped of his captaincy, loosing the national cap only to be 'killed ' in a crash a few months later...you have a certain Abhijit Kale accusing a national selector of demanding money from him for a place in the National Team... and yes matches were being 'fixed' in India also. Kerry packer went quiet, the cricketer was still smiling. The fan was confused.
Money kept flowing,more Pepsi's and Cola's were gulped,.But the thirst doesn't stop here. Our sheer pleasure of sitting back and watching our alter-ego perform with bat and ball made us more demanding.The angry young man is busy romancing a 16 year old. So who will be our saviour?.Yes you have the answer..Sachin,Sourav,Veeru,Dravid, Dhoni ...Their bat an extension of our damaged ego. But even they need energy..so 'Boost' is the secret of Sachin's energy, Dada has 'sona-chandi'chyavanprash in his kit bag, Veeru gets frequent messages from his 'Ma' exhorting him to hit more sixes((thank you Reliance for letting us know that apna Veeru is such a 'mama's boy)),Dravid needs Glucose and Britania biscuit and Dhoni gets his power tonic from bikes and hair creams. Cricket became fast,furios,risky-the 'formula-oneisation of cricket is achieved.
Money, sex, adventure, heroes, villain, corporate world... So who's missing? Yes you guessed it. Bond, James Bond. 2007 World cup became the 007 World Cup. The cricket coach of a national team is killed and our Bond comes in. Mark Shields. His area of visit- Hotel Pegasus in Jamaica ((leave Casino Royale for Daniel Craig.)). He is everywhere with detectives, investigators, forensic experts, Scotland Yard .His every sound bite makes more of news than six sixes of Gibbs or four wicket in a row of Malinga. Our cricket correspondents are metamorphosed overnight into crime reporters. Wow what a change of profile and that too 'saat samandar paar'. Pakistan played badly to West-Indies and Ireland and was therefore knocked out. Apne Bacche in blue were left black and blue by Gandhi family's Bangladesh ((I think this is was the other Rahul has claimed!, is'nt it)) and Sri-Lanka. So, instead of praising the new hero's of Bangladesh and Ireland we are finding our villains, and that too off the field...So our reason of defeat...Too much endorsements and 'fixed' matches.
I still remember the morning after that fateful evening when 'apna' Chetan was hit by 'unka' Miandad for a six off the last ball.. Cricket pundits in 'addas' were busy narco-analysing India's defeat ((or was it Chetan Sharma's defeat))... he should not have bowled the full toss', ..'no,no,no..he was actually trying a Yorker but just missed on it...'arre nahi yaar,usko seedhi-seedhi ball deni chahiye thi...arre bhai captain ka galat decision tha usse aakhri over dekar.. India's defeat was everywhere and unfortunately Chetan became the household name for all the wrong reason.. But fortunately we were only discussing cricket. That was a time when we didn't need a cola to swear that we eat, sleep and live cricket...
But I wonder if a Chetan-Miandad drama is unfolded today.. The most vocal explanation for this defeat could be 'Abbey Yaar..yeh match to fix tha'...What a simplistic explaination.. No talk of Full-tosses, of Chetan's folly or Miandad's cricketing acumen...just one word...and we are all 'Fixed'... Kerry Packer is nowhere to be seen, the fan is angry, the cricketers are confused.. Where has all that fairness gone...
Now I imagine myself playing my 'Phantom Tournaments'.. a self-doubt hits me like a toe crushing Yorker.. Now, will I be able to play a 'fair game'? I wonder.