That sweet game called Cricket
That sweet game called Cricket

That sweet game called Cricket

An earlier rant that I had written on the deplorable state of cricket in its 20 over format. Now with allegations of corruption and spot-fixing, it might have been the proverbial last nail, but I still don’t see T20 dying out so soon. The audiences like it, the cricketers make a neat sum – what more is needed.

Whatever happened to that sweet little game called Cricket ? What I see now seems nothing more than a trash can of cricketing shots promoted as sports entertainment, masquerading in the name of a great game. It is too early to write off the twenty 20 version of the game in its popular avatar (the IPL), but I have my  reasons to dislike what they have done to the game.

English: A batsman is bowled early in a cricke...
English: A batsman is bowled early in a cricket match between two friendly sides at Kingswood School playing fields, Bath. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My earliest introduction to cricket came on the fields near my home where the bats were bigger than me and the only bats I could actually use, broke off from the handle even after protracted use (does the name Dattason ring a bell ?). I was never interested in watching TV then, but a couple of years later, we shifted to a new home where there weren’t any fields to play cricket in. That is when the habit of reading and re-reading match reports of the game on the last 2 pages of the Times of India and the Mid-day struck. International matches, Ranji trophy matches, Irani trophy matches, matches between English county sides..I would read them all and mentally, but diligently note down the performances of a few players who were making a name for themselves in the game. Later on, when my family got a cable TV connection, I remember waking up early during the Christmas and Diwali vacations and watching test cricket played in Australia. I would read up the match reports in the newspapers voraciously and follow cricketing news on the tube. The world cup in 1996 was my first exposure to a high-tension version of the game and little was I to know, that I would be hooked to cricket like a madman for the next 7 years. I played all the Indian improvisations on cricket for most of my school years, and though not a great student of the game, I was a devoted follower just like any Indian lad of that age. This madness was manifested in the form of heated debates on performances of international cricketers with friends, impersonation of their batting and bowling styles (even the speaking styles of cricket commentators), the maintenance of a cricket scrap book with pictures culled from newspapers and sports magazines and, even a collection of cricket cards that came free with a popular bubble gum.

It was only in engineering college that my dedication to cricket started weaning off, only to be replaced by one for the beautiful game, football. The T20 version of the game however, is like the proverbial last nail in the coffin, I cannot really watch cricket now, unless it is test cricket. I will therefore, commit the sacrilege of what it is, that turns me off in the modern versions of the game and also put down my reasons as to why it is that the IPL may never come close to the club format of football and other sports.

Cricket, in its most basic form, is a battle between the bat and the ball. It is as much of a joy to watch a batsman hit a gorgeous drive straight past the bowler or hoist a ball into the stands as it is to watch a fast bowler beat the batsman with a beautiful swinging delivery, or to watch a spinner bowl one that turns the other way, to the utter bafflement of the batsman. These days however, the shorter versions of the game have deteriorated into a battle between the bat and the (other team’s) bat. Notice how many statements you observe in the newspapers about how the curators of the stadium have prepared ‘batting’ pitches that would make for an entertaining match. Why can’t good cricketing pitches that test the mettle of the batsmen make for good entertainment for the crowds ? Maybe because sixes and fours and higher batting scores (and subsequently higher run chases) have become the benchmark for an entertaining cricket match. Can’t really do much with a sport that is not entertaining, can we ? Where will the money come from ?

Comparisons with other sports are unfair to a game that is innately different inA photo of a match between Chennai SuperKings ...

structure and duration but how much do you think have other modern sports changed in recent times ? Sure there have been variations in other sports too, but none so as to drastically alter the way the sport itself has been played. Cricket meanwhile, has gone from the 5-day format, to a 60 over match, to a 50 over match and now to a 20 over format all in the space of less than 50 years. If this is versatility, I disagree – it is an attempt to keep up with shortening attention spans and unfair expectations of an audience that does not know the sport too well. The fate of the 50-over format now hangs in limbo – who wants to see an ODI now when they can get much more ‘bang for the buck’ with a 20-20 version.

The only silver lining to the current version remains the exposure it brings to players in the domestic leagues. But even then, abilities like temperament, application at the crease and leadership remain untested because there is neither the time to read the game nor the patience to try something new.

And even if the new version might be reaching out to a bigger audience than ever before in the game’s history and making money for everybody involved, ultimately, in some way, it is the sport which is losing.

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