Today we welcome back Abhijato to TFT. It seems that England supporters aren’t the only ones despairing at the state of the game they love …
It’s become hard to care about the cricket anymore. I’ve always loved the sport for what it is – perennially imperfect, occasionally irritating, and gloriously rewarding. But over the past couple of months, a switch in my life seems to have been flicked off by a mysterious force straight out of a Murakami novel. I can’t pinpoint the exact reason for it, but whenever I look at a scoreboard nowadays, I fail to be as excited about live sports as I once was.
Maybe, this began during the IPL. The incomplete-as-of-now 2021 season came around too soon after India’s series against England. The second wave of the pandemic was yet to reach its peak back then. People were losing their lives and looking for resources to save lives everywhere. The tournament and the cricketing bureaucrats, on the other hand, were engaging in a cash-grab as blatantly as they ever had. There were reports of medical resources being hijacked as ‘back-up’ for the players. And the glitzy production value haunted viewers when viewed in the backdrop of the empty stadiums the players were putting up a spectacle for.
Soon, the pandemic seeped into the tournament as well. The reason for the outbreak remains a secret. And my passion for the game seems to have disappeared just as mysteriously around the same time. Maybe, this correlation does not prove causation, but it’s been fascinating to realise even the sight of England collapsing to the Kiwis in recent days has … left me feeling less schadenfreude than usual.
Now, I’ve been as happy as I’ve ever been – highly productive, embarking on a new career, and spending quality time with my loved ones. But the cricket seems to be getting slowly nudged out of my schedule. Is it because I’ve grown more satisfied with myself as an individual? I can’t honestly confirm that.
What I do know, however, is that I’ve grown more aware of the world. I’ve always had more of an idea about what goes on in the backdoors of Indian cricket when compared to the median cricket fan in the country. But this pandemic has put many things in perspective, including the real-life cost of being a cricket fan in a country plagued by innumerable socio-political problems.
Most active India players made a series of coordinated tweets with the hashtag #IndiaAgainstPropoganda a few months ago in response to foreign criticism of the government’s handling of the farmers’ protests. The entire thing reeked of propaganda itself. It is not a coincidence that the de-facto leader of the BCCI is the son of the country’s Home Minister.
The world’s biggest cricket stadium was recently inaugurated as well, and renamed after the country’s PM. In an overt attempt to make subtlety roll around in its grave, either end was named after the country’s richest industrialists – both are close allies of the incumbent regime.
I do not aim to get political here. For the most part, after all, the bureaucrats in world cricket have reached across the political aisle in a bid to be corrupt and incompetent together. It makes for wholesome viewing, as long as you discount the consequential damage each of their decisions causes to an inconsequential sport.
The recent fiasco about Ollie Robinson made me even more aware of the people who exist in the world. He’s going to be a fantastic cricketer if luck supports him from now on. But the lesson his retrospective suspension has taught me is just a reinforcement of what the world has taught me over the past few months – morality is unquantifiable, and all our souls fall into the grey area between righteousness and sorrow.
I do not mean to get overtly emotional. As a matter of fact, as I write my first cricket piece in a long time right from my heart, I do not feel the pangs of excitement I did while describing the endeavours of Pant or satirising the English reaction to a subcontinental loss.
Maybe, I’m overreacting to a slump in my passion. The upcoming World Test Championship Final is going to be exciting. The five-set bout of India v England has the potential to be a classic as well. In every sense of the word, I should be an optimist about what the cricketing world hopes for me.
But I don’t think I can ever be as excited about the game as I was back when I failed to correlate the intentional incompetence of cricket with the real world. Alas, awareness about the interconnectivity of the world is both a boon and a bane. But once you start to perceive the game in the grander scheme of things, there’s no going back.
I’m not going to shut off cricket from my life. For all the sombre realisations I’ve penned down while writing this blog, I still love the sport for what it is – still perennially imperfect, occasionally irritating, and gloriously rewarding. The world is a better place because of it, and deserves to watch and appreciate the game for exactly what it is.
Maybe, watching Rohit Sharma pulling off the front foot in Test whites, and chuckling at Stuart Broad’s celebrappeals is going to nullify my recent malaise. But I doubt it. It’s not a bad thing, really, nor a particularly worrisome alteration of my feelings for cricket. It’s just what it is.
When I settle back into my seat in the coming weeks and start watching cricket again, I hope to forget about the worries of the world when the going gets good in the middle. After all, isn’t that what we all hope for, and the reason why we started loving the game in the first place?