The battle lines have been drawn and the daggers and spears are out. The BCCI is waiting to see what Lalit Modi will do with its show cause notice. Lalit Modi meanwhile is in a huddle with his lawyers and friends, waiting to make the next move. May 11 and following could restart the IPL debate on national television in India. Those who were friends with Modi have now turned foes and new friends have emerged to save his skin. What is the fuss many may ask? Modi has brought entertainment to India and in the process has got thousands of youngsters to get interested in the game and make a living out of it.
I learnt to play cricket in 1985. My introduction into Thiruvalla, a small town in Central Kerala known for its middle east millions, and cricket was a side by side act of fate. The decision of my parents to come to live in Thiruvalla was largely taken to make sure that their three children would get a sniff of the Mallu morals and grow up to be fine individuals. Whether they were successful in this is a totally different matter! The mind of the ten year old boy wandered and stopped at a near by field where young boys were playing a game that was alien to him. His instinct to crash into the cultural setting there made him learn the game. He realised the boys who were from different communities were playing a game with a coconut branch, wonderfully crafted into a cricket bat, or atleast sort of. The ball too was a make shift one made of a small base of a premature coconut seed, covered with newspaper and tied with a thin rope which one got from the recycled ration shop supplies.
Each and every space was a cricket pitch. The backyard, someone's uncultivated paddy field, or a small stretch of road. We would play till someone came and shooed us off our makeshift pitch. We would start when the natural sunlight came on and stop when it went off. Everything was gleaned off what we could find and there was a style in our lack of training. Each one would put a hand over the other shoulder and care nothing about caste permutations and class divisions. Everyone was welcome to play.
The raw cricketer in me turned into the semi professional cricketer after 1991, showing up for team selection for the Pathanamthitta district team, of which Thiruvalla was a part. What little leg spin bowling I knew was put on test and I was expected to be decent with the bat as well. I was picked for the under 19 and under 23 squads and there started my cricket journeys going to Trivandrum and Alleppy to play the district level cricket tournaments. Lets face it. I was not a brilliant cricketer, but I enjoyed being part of a then poor team which went on to ruffle a few feathers here and there. My short cricket career came to an end with a totally different innings of studying to become a priest.
I was in Thiruvalla recently for the St. George festival. It is a vibrant festival celebrated by church members of mainly the Jacobite and Orthodox churches in Kerala. St. George happens to be the patron saint of many countries. His appeal stretches beyond cultures. The picture of the soldier slaying the dragon is what many of us remember from our childhood days. At the time I thought that St. George was a dragon slayer. Today I realise that he is much more than that. For those who suffer injustice, he is a symbol of a fight against such injustice. This makes people feel that he is their protector and that he intercedes for them in times of trouble.
Thiruvalla has changed. My parents and several others would never let their kids out to play cricket. Today I have come to notice that parents drive their children to cricket grounds to attend expensive cricket training camps. Earlier we never had a cricket kit but would rather make do with what we found. Kids had fun. Today 8 year olds have to carry around huge cricket kits which are bigger than them. The look on their face is the look of an office goer. Not at all enthusiastic. Its as if cricket is a job for them.
With all the goings on of the IPL now, St.George makes a triumphal entry for me. Obviously he is not carrying a cricket bat. (It would be quite a picture though!) But he still has something to say. 'Stand for what you believe in no matter what'. Its even worth dying for! Cricket today has lost its innocence. It has become a career and a job. It has become big money. But times like this should make us think that cricket after all is also just a game. But its a game which can teach us lots. Its something that makes us women and men learn that life in India is stuck in caste equations and unjust structures. But that does not mean that we remain in it. We learn that coming together makes us better than staying away. Earlier cricket made us fight these injustices and run from our homes to be with our friends from all communities. Today we are taken to glorified stadiums but have forgotten the true learning that we should have from this great game.
I am not going to come on a horse with a spear, ready to annihilate the wrong doer of the IPL. I am just saying that the IPL has robbed me of my innocence (what little of it that is left!). So I hope that we can all look up to someone like St. George. Someone who will stand up for what is right. I am not looking for the BCCI to punish some scapegoat. I am rather hoping that they see the essence of cricket and hand it down to future generations.