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Gladiators with bats?

Serish Nanisetti
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Issue As the four-month long cricketing season is set to unfold, is the game turning into a driver of economy or the opiate of masses? Serish Nanisetti tries to get the pulse

Ready for it The craze for cricket will sweep the nation for four months Photo: V. Sreenivasa Murthy
Ready for it The craze for cricket will sweep the nation for four months Photo: V. Sreenivasa Murthy

I think he knows what Rome is. Rome is the mob.

Conjure magic for them and they'll be distracted. Take away their freedom and still they'll roar.

The beating heart of Rome is not the marble of the Senate, it's the sand of the coliseum.

(Gracchus, Gladiator)

(Ancient Roman statutes)

I s India turning into a modern-day Rome where cricket replaces the spectacle of gladiatorial contests, where TV channel discussions about cricketers looks like the street talk about Roman gladiators and where the dark reality of inflation and corruption is swept aside by the roar in the stadium? Is cricket dulling the pulse and throb of reality in India?

We are not even over the one-day matches in South Africa, that there is this all-pervasive buzz about the Cricket World Cup beginning on February 19. And the cricket season will not taper down in a month but continue till May 22 with the Indian Premier League fixtures.

Massive obsession

Can India afford this massive obsession that wastes time and energy?

“Yes. Cricket is an outlet. It is a relaxant. What can we do about the corruption and inflation. Nothing, so at least let's watch this game and have fun. My father who gets angry watching news appears interested in things other than news for the schedule of games. He's already stuck a paper cutting on the door to keep track of the games,” says Ramshaw, who works in an engineering college.

“Do you think someone in India has the idea to plan this cricket schedule to distract people? No. But I see the game as a long-running movie. As long as you are watching a movie your mind is off things like the price of milk and water. People appear happier after a game of cricket,” says Ramulu, a paper vendor, as waits in queue to watch a Telugu movie.

“Why don't you see it the other way. Cricket and its many avatars have become drivers of growth and economy. If cricketers are making tonnes of money, it is coming from somewhere. All the advertisements that show the cricketers will make people reach for a soft drink or their wallet to buy and that will mean business for everyone,” says Y. Ramesh, who owns a software startup.

At the end of the gladiatorial conflict, the rowdy audience would either show a thumbs up or thumbs down.

Depending on which, the winning contestant would either let the loser go or drive the sword into the loser.

In cricket, the umpire just raises his finger to wild cheers and jeers. Then we are ready for the next match, the next ad and the next day.

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