A Gentleman's Game?

That's it; I don't think I can read the Indian newspapers any more!

My country of residence may have changed, but the rituals have remained the same. Morning breakfast, a glass of coffee and a scan of the morning papers. The only difference being that the front pages (and almost every page thereafter) of the papers in India seem to carry on them stories of scams, scandals and the rich getting richer at the expense of the poor. Maybe it is a matter of perception but to me the number of such stories seems to be higher than what I was used to seeing elsewhere in the world. Throw in the stories of rape, and helpless women being subject to lust and uncontrollable sexual urges of the males in this (already male-dominated) society and the papers make for even more depressing reading. Even if one did wake up from the right side of the bed in the morning, reading the paper would make you feel just the opposite. It's a feeling as though there is no hope here! Sad huh? But there was hope....

So, I had begun to turn to the section of the paper I love the most and one that I know would give me joy, entertainment and some sense of hope -- a hope that there are people out there who are still earning an honest living, and in the process bringing joy and happiness in to the lives of millions out there. Over the last week, that hope has swiftly vanished too! As I watch the match-fixing (spot-fixing, whatever you want to call it) scandal in the IPL unfold, I can honestly say that I have absolutely no interest in the newspaper (and maybe even that particular sport) anymore. For the Indian newspapers dedicate almost the entire, if not the entire, sports section to cricket. It is almost as if no other sport exists or matters. So it is but natural that when a scandal breaks in the much beloved 'national' sport, every square inch of the sporting columns are dedicated to who said what, and what's been happening on and off the pitch. Goodbye basketball, tennis, football and F1!

What is sad about the entire [match-fixing] episode is not the fact that a few cricketers, or a few bad apples, decided to spoil it for the rest. That is natural, it is even normal I would say; we are all human and susceptible to the basic temptations of life, and greed is after all one of the seven cardinal sins -- it even happens in other sports, let alone other walks of life -- so why not the cricketers? What is sad though is how the entire episode has been handled and how the commentators, particularly those lackeys of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) have conveniently glossed over this large elephant in the room. I read a tweet from cricketer turned commentator Sanjay Manjrekar that said something along the lines of 'our job as commentators is to talk about the cricket on field, and not discuss matters of it'.

My question to him is, why is it not their job to discuss this? Isn't this part of the game now? It seems to be a regular occurrence in the sport and something that keeps cropping up every now and then. Can anyone honestly say they've forgotten the scandal that erupted in 2000? At that time too, nothing much was said, and the much touted committee and report that came out of it was hushed up, bans handed out, and the matter swept under the carpet. Why are they making the same mistake again? Why shouldn't the people know the entire story? I mean, aren't we the paying public? Or do you truly believe we are incapable of understanding anything? Aren't we the reason this sport exists today? Then why shouldn't we know? Is the public considered foolish enough to believe everything they see on TV and not want answers? They say public memory is short, and maybe the belief among the powers that be is that by not saying anything, and pretending as though nothing happened, people would forget.

Today, we are talking about corruption and cheating in a league that is worth millions of dollars, if not billions. The Indian Premier League (IPL), modeled along the lines of England's football league, the EPL, witnesses player transfers and salaries in the millions. In such a scenario, the stakes are high(er) and the greed factor therefore manifold. But this league, like any other sport, is nothing without its key ingredient... the fans! There are many such T20 leagues around the world, but not half as successful, and definitely not half as rich. The fan base in India is huge, the obsession is high and the idol worship reaches levels one would consider ridiculous --- these people would do anything and withstand any amount of 'torture' to get a whiff or a sighting of their favorite cricketer. Maybe It is because of this love and unconditional support that they are treated like s**t.

Maybe it is time for these same fans to stand up and say no to the sport they love, till they are treated fairly and respectably, both in the stadiums (you will know what I am talking about, if you've watched a game from the stands in India) and outside of it. After all, we have seen protests that have received some degree of attention and witnessed some form of action (however minor) recently in Delhi. Is this the straw that broke the camel's back? And therefore is it now finally time to topple the big, bad empire and bring the game back to the people who matter and care... its fans? If it is, then it probably should start with the man at the top, who despite his claims of innocence represents the biggest conflict of interest in the league. His claim that 'the BCCI will take its own course and the law its own' shows his level of arrogance, brashness and pure disregard (blindness?) for everything around him.

Sadly, what used to be a gentleman's game, can no longer stake its claim to that title anymore. It's just not cricket!

P.S. I still watched the IPL final, but couldn't help but question and second guess every piece of action that unfolded during that three-hour span.