We may have won the Champion’s cup, but there is no doubt that Cricket is in trouble. Cricket in India was once a religion, and its sportsmen were Godsend. While their followers may have had their days of doubt and anger when things didn’t go as intended, most of them maintained their faith throughout. If not the result, at least the process was natural and enjoyable, they’d rationalise with their inner skeptics. Recently, though, cricket has not only been losing its reputed aura and followers, but also its innate knack of delivering excitement has depleted, along with its commercial potential.
Ironically, it is the greed for a greater individual commerce that is actually destroying the sport’s current commercial value. Amongst others, three Indian cricketers of the Rajastan Royals team in this year’s Indian Premier League (IPL) 6, one of the world’s leading domestic cricket tournaments, have been alleged for fixing. One of them is the international Test bowler Sreesanth, who is often the target of media scrutiny, while some of the others rumoured to be involved also include several political dignitaries and Bollywood personalities. Fixing in general has been so prevalent in IPL, that ‘prophetic’ messages detailing the results of forthcoming matches are often circulated before prolific matches, even on social media. Understandably, it hurts to learn that those dropped catches, no-balls, and dot balls, which excited audiences and opponents to no end, could have all been planned and conspired. But before one naively blames only the Indians for tarnishing the image of cricket, the uninitiated ought to be reminded that cricketers from other nations have also been recently caught for corruption in cricket: three Pakistanis were jailed for their spot-fixing misdemeanours against England in 2010, while this month Bangladesh’s Mohammad Ashraful has also confessed to match-fixing.
Such is the extraordinary hype in and around Indian cricket though, that one mostly hears of just them. Unsurprisingly then, countless organizations have cashed in on them for brand endorsements. Whenever a sportsman temporarily loses form, the inside joke would be that he was spending more time modelling than at training. After all, endorsements is a win-win proposition for all; it gives the sportsmen plenty of goodwill publicity and multiplies their bank balances, TV channels anticipate a rise in TRP as they broadcast celebrities in action, while the brand themselves envision credible growth whence promoted by a recognized national sportsman. Sadly, what also often grows as a result of their increased endorsements are the cricketers’ inflating egos. Yuvraj Singh seems content on making his living by resting on his laurels more as a cancer survivor than a current cricketer, Virat Kohli sees his popularity as a ticket to boost his captaincy chances or flare up at his nearest opportunity, while Sachin Tendulkar picks and chooses the trainings and matches he wishes to play in just as he would pick his next car to purchase. While each of them have worked hard to earn their deserving positions, one can’t help but extrapolate their attitudes into arrogance.
For a team already equipped with such paparazzi and prosperity, it is hard to see how the enticement slight increments could lure them into corruption. Unfortunately, it seems that those who are not as blessed with a sellable personality or confidence become the most vulnerable target. As the rich get richer, the apparent disparity inclines other talented individuals into selling their morality. While this is no excuse, one shudders to think of what could happen if this trend of self-victimization continues. Spectators would feel like they’re not watching a genuine team sport, but just a group of incomplete and unhappy selfish individuals commercializing themselves as commodities.
To assume that the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) is ignorant and not involved in the mishappenings would be wishful thinking. Fact is, the BCCI financially and politically is too strong to be influenced by any disciplinary measures suggested by International Cricket Council (ICC). If anything, the ICC seems to succumb to the BCCI as it supports them by scheduling more matches for the Indian cricket team than most of the other teams. Consequently, the Indian cricketers become even more recognized, while simultaneously the total cricket betting increases, thus sowing the roots of further fixing and corruption in cricket.
Although we shouldn’t turn a blind eye on these misdemeanours, we cannot command cricket to stop altogether; genuine cricket enthusiasts could be denied their entertainment and livelihood. Before more people crumple their faith on the sincerity of the sport, now may just be time to introspect and drive cricket back to the steerings of the players on the field, rather than in corporate offices.
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