Success tends to edit reality and render our perception askew

The rupee is taking such a beating that you might have to think of selling your flat — assuming it is in the right place and in the right city — to get hold of enough U.S. dollars or Euros for a fortnight’s holiday abroad with your family.

In a country where the callously deprived rural poor have to survive on Rs. 17 a day, in a parallel economy insulated from such misery gold has been consumed with such unabashed avarice that in a period of 12 months, import of the yellow metal has depleted the nation’s foreign currency reserves by more than $20 billion.

Unauthorised and illegal construction in eco-fragile environments — such as in the Himalayan region of Uttarakhand, — made possible by corrupt politicians and government officials, so that a handful get to become richer at the expense of many, has had a predictable backlash from nature, claiming tens of hundreds of lives.

But on Sunday, if Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s luck and the Indian cricket team’s rich vein of form hold, none of these things will matter.

For victory in an international cricket event — even if it happens to be a devalued tournament which will never again be played — offers the sort of balm to our wounded civilisation (thanks, Mr. Naipaul), that it seems like a miracle cure for each and every kind of ailment.

Macbeth longed for “some sweet oblivious antidote” to sorrow. A good many Indians know exactly what that antitoxin is: success in limited overs cricket.

Reflected glory

Of course, the first to raise a toast will be the oligarchs of Indian cricket, who are past masters when it comes to basking in reflected glory. These are the very men who, until the other day, might have thought, like Claudius in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, that “when sorrows come, they come not single spies, but in battalions.”

Now, as clever as they are, the officials of the Board that controls the emotional well-being of people in a nation of 1.2 billion — because it controls some of our greatest national heroes, our cricketers — will surely turn the successful campaign in England and Wales into an elaborate moral narrative, and perhaps indulge in a bit of chest-thumping hubris.

Did I hear anybody raise questions about Indian cricket’s credibility? Was someone talking about how corruption has wormed its way to the roots of the great game? And who was it that mentioned something about conflict of interests involving this senior official or that superstar player?

Surely, whoever said anything of this kind must be from the lunatic fringe; or perhaps the whole thing was a bad dream that we all woke up from at the same time with, incredibly, the same feeling — that it was nothing more than a bad dream.

So, let’s forget it and call for champagne. After all, dwelling on the negatives — as any psychiatrist worth his consulting room couch would tell you — is not going to get us anywhere, especially in a country where the only thing that everybody agrees upon as a sure-shot positive turn is victory at limited overs cricket.

Simple fix

It is not worth breaking your head over things that cannot be fixed; and almost everything that is wrong with our society needs a lot of fixing. In the event, we will settle for the simple fix, the one-drug-cures-all fix. Thanks Mahi, thanks boys!

Nothing like a fresh whiff of success to clear the stench that we have had to live with for so long — it is a demonstrably powerful tool that helps quieten our doubts.

“Whoever writes my script is doing an unbelievable job. So keep doing it,” said Shane Warne, after claiming his 700th Test wicket in a Boxing Day Test in December 2006.

This is certainly true of Indian cricket itself. And it is precisely because of this that the soul-searching process — necessarily a long and demanding exercise that requires intellectual vigour and moral courage — is seldom allowed to run its course.

Then again, even when the game’s image in this country took its worst beating in history, only a few weeks ago, nobody who knew the difference between a cover drive and an on drive or between an out swinger and a doosra would have questioned the skills of Shikhar Dhawan, Dhoni, Ravindra Jadeja or Ishant Sharma. Nor will they do it now even if India loses on Sunday.

But instant success on the field should not cloud the view as we look back to a time — quite recently, you might recall — when we were animatedly debating issues such as good governance and transparency in the Board, and the interests of the game in the long haul, especially in terms of prioritising Test cricket.

While rejoicing in the dream run of a young side, which certainly has the potential to mount a successful defence of the World Cup in two years’ time, we should not lower our guard and allow ourselves to be distracted from our vigil. If we do that, we will have to live with its discomfiting consequences.

When you look at the big picture, sometimes, nothing fails like success. For, success tends to edit reality and render our perception askew.