I distinctly remember that morning. I opened the news-paper and read that Juhi Chawla, among others, was buying her own cricket team! Cricket, for me, died that a.m.
What the hell was wrong with the world? Why was a Kurkure-salesman buying a cricket team? And she probably spelt the game with a K! The ball had begun hurtling down the slippery-slope. Soon there was talk of million-dollar salaries being offered. That’s when I realized what IPL stood for. International Prostitutes’ League.
With each passing day, I saw with dismay how the sports-writers/television anchors/media-pundits were going into frequent orgasmic frenzies, talking (very infrequently) about how this would help the game, and frothing (very frequently) about the money being spent! And all this, in our typical way, was in some perverse fashion an indicator of India’s coming of age. The new India!!! A resurgent world-conqueror (who’d stay benign, nevertheless) who was on the march. An irresistible march. And I was reminded of the old Confucian saying, ‘Thumping chests makes ribs crack!’
And then the big stars entered the league. A pseudo-playboy who makes money out of selling hooch; a superstar whose gamut of expressions runs from A to B; a billionaire whose broad shoulders carry the mantle of Corporate-India; an ex-drug convict posing as an executive in charge of the carnival; a dimpled actress who suffers from terminal hug-itis ………the list grew and grew as I watched in fascinated horror.
The not-so-poor cricketers were photographed alongside these stars, and their discomfort was evident in the sheepish smiles they flashed. There is something completely artificial about a ‘successful’ businessman/actor that these players couldn’t fathom, yet they were taken in by the bonhomie-act that both types put on so well. Soon, the sheepish smiles gave way to an arrogant smirk as the cricketers found their feet. And I watched on in dismay.
Then the tournament began. Nearly every newspaper carried almost 4 pages of news about the International Prostitutes’ League. The stadia were full. There was talk of a new generation being drawn to the game. This new generation included boys who wore their caps backward and flashed hand-signs popularized by rap-artistes. And girls who thought saying, “He’s soooooooo delicious” meant they finally understood the game! And I watched on in anger.
The commentators whipped the crowds into a frenzy. Every ungainly shot was applauded, cheered, placarded, and no matter where the camera turned, there were the same faces. Lips drawn back in a rictus that was supposed to convey enjoyment, eyes bulging out, hands splayed in the air, and jumping up and down. All around. Everywhere. Faces mirroring faces. And the commentators droned on about how the game had entered a ‘new era’. About how important it was to ‘move with the times’. About how excitement could be so easily manufactured! And I watched on in frustration.
Till one day, I couldn’t take it anymore. And I began conducting an informal survey of my own. My questions were very simple, that anybody who’d followed the game genuinely would easily answer :
Who were the three Ws?
Would Bill O’Reilly be considered great if he were to play today?
Why was Sobers’ first test century so very special?
Have you ever been to a stadium to watch a test-match?
And a few other questions. It was simple, ridiculously so. The idiot-generation, the new-converts to cricket hadn’t a clue!!! And I smirked!
I shouldn’t have been horrified, though. I would complain about the decline of test-cricket loudly and frequently to my friends. I believe the first step was taken with the introduction of helmets in the late 70s. While everybody will tell you that the sport is about talent and stamina and patience, not many will tell you that it is also built around fear. The fear of being hit by a ball can act as a wonderful spur to a batsman to be technically correct. And that fear was lessened considerably when helmets made their appearance. The natural result of this, over the decades, is the quality of players today.
There was this wonderful novel called ‘My God Died Young’ dating back to the late sixties by a Sasthi Bratha. I think the title is perfect for my relation with cricket today. Cricket is dead. Long live the poofters who wax their eyebrows and perm their hair and call themselves cricketers. At a pinch, they could probably shed their gear and join the gyrating cheer-leaders at the boundary!!!!
There are already acrobats, fire-eaters, motor-bike riding stutmen and other assorted clowns at cricket grounds nowadays. Why don’t they throw in a couple of elephants, call it the GRC and be done with it?
GRC, you wonder? That’s an acronym for Great Rayman Circus.
And for all the morons who think this is cricket, you also probably believe in the whole ‘India Shining’ bit, too. Oh well, delusions are good. Let us all delude ourselves and live happily ever after!!!