A majority of people in India are counting minutes and seconds as they continue to hope that their cricket team will win the final of the cricket world cup between India and Sri Lanka. The media have whipped up a frenzy in India with all English news channels having full length pre and post analysis of the match that is yet to be played. Prayers are being said in different languages and in different ways, all seeking divine intervention for the team. Will India win another world cup after its maiden and only triumph 28 years ago? That is the question on everyone’s lips. The expectation is so big and one wonders what the fuss is all about.
In a cricket mad nation there are other voices too. Those who say that after all cricket is but a sport like any other, that spending a whole day in front of the television is a waste of time, what is special in cricket when the national game in India is hockey and other sports and games are neglected by the government?, what has the cash rich Indian cricket board done for other cash strapped associations and the poor in this country?, and aren’t cricketers pampered brats who by and large enjoy life and play with the emotions of a billion people?
On the other hand cricket has become close to what is a religion in India which brings people together, gives hope for a people who otherwise don’t have much to hope for, gives a sense of purpose and confidence seeing India beat top teams in at least one game, and is very lucrative and attractive as youngsters see it as a way to become successful even if you are from a small time town.
The very supporters who are completely behind their famous players are the same ones who have attacked the houses of cricketers when they made early exists from earlier world cups and lost to Pakistan. The over the top belief in the players brings about extreme reactions on winning and losing. From promising to go nude to not eating food during the entire match, people have different ways of parting with something to make their team win. More than the players, it is the supporters who are trying almost everything to ensure a win.
But cricket is not about perfection and neither are cricketers perfect. This obsession we have brings about impractical and unbelievable acts. But the cricket world cup final is after all just a match like any other. The thrill of having India play is of course there but it should not make one crazy. Some points we could consider while watching the game are
1. Cricket is part of an industry. This includes different brands, merchandising, advertisement, and lots of money at stake. An industry always has its own compulsions and wants. Cricket then becomes a part of these and the game goes into the back ground.
2. Cricketers are human beings. The usage cricket God is only a usage. Cricketers are as vulnerable and susceptible to failure as any other human being. Putting someone on a pedestal puts unwarranted pressure on him/her.
3. A sport or game should not have nationalist overtures. The greatness of sport is that it can bring people together and break boundaries. When it is used to further nationalist ambitions, it loses the very purpose for which it exists.
4. Cricket means money and betting. A sport like cricket means a lot of money in a place like the subcontinent. Money brings in the possibility of betting and betting brings in the pressure of fixing matches. There have been a lot of allegations and no team is free from such allegations.
5. Cricket is entertainment. When we are able to detach cricket from nationalism, patriotism, diplomacy and pride, we end up with cricket as entertainment. Cricketers are entertainers. And we see cricket to relax and entertain ourselves. The IPL itself is a concept which has caught on to entertainment as its unique selling proposition (USP). When we see it this way we will be entertained thoroughly.
6. Cricket should give back what it receives. The cricket governing body the BCCI (The Board of Control for cricket in India) is a cash rich body which spends under 10% of its revenues on development of cricket. Then what does it spend its money on? As spectators we should pressurise the BCCI to give back what it receives from the people of this country. The pay back could be in the way of scholarships for youngsters from poor backgrounds, building housing for the poor, adopting whole villages and offering its money for building facilities there, providing health care to poor cricketers and their family and so on.
So, let the match begin. No pressure, no dreams. Only entertainment!!!