Forty-five years ago Bob Dylan sang that “Money doesn't talk, it swears; obscenity who really cares?” Not for the first or last time the incomparable troubadour pinpointed an uncomfortable truth. Even cricket ought to take heed of his words.
Actually it's not so much money that causes the malaise as greed. As Ellen Johnson Sirleaf pointed out a few years ago: “Africa is not poor it's poorly managed. We get $132 billion in aid every year, yet our leaders have $156 billion stashed away in overseas accounts.” As it turned out her figures were extremely conservative. As President of Liberia she has done her utmost to turn back the tide of corruption.
Cricket, too, is rapidly embracing a get rich quick culture that judges men by the clothes they wear, the cars they drive, the advertisements they make, the women on their elbow, the parties they attend, the company they keep. Glitz and glamour have taken over a simple game. The best amongst them know it is shallow and give half their wealth and much of their time to the less fortunate but they cannot stop the slide. It's not destroying the game, it is destroying the players.
Letting down countries
Increasingly prominent players are letting down their countries and the game at large. Fit for their IPL clubs, or rather franchises (and there's the rub), they withdraw from international commitments pleading exhaustion or injury. Indians are not the only culprits. West Indies, England and Sri Lanka have been weakened by absentees and late arrivals.
No wonder a small crowd turned up to watch the first Test of the northern summer played in Cardiff.
It's been treated not as an eagerly awaited contest between two mighty powers but as an inconvenience. If the players don't think it matters then supporters will quickly get the message.
Much the same applies to India's forthcoming trip to the Caribbean. Although the West Indians remain weak and incapable of preparing proper pitches, these famed islands remain one of cricket's few strongholds, one in urgent need of upliftment. Instead India has snubbed it. Sending a reduced team indicates that international cricket is in a parlous state. Personal desire has replaced public service.
Making matters worse
To make matters worse the fourth edition of IPL has been beyond the pale. Those dismayed that rapture did not arrive last week can console themselves by watching the IPL on TV. Sooner or later slapstick loses its appeal.
Like rugby sevens and speed chess, it does not really matter, even in the sporting sense. It is an entertainment not an examination.
Although the large crowds attending matches seem to disagree, as far as your correspondent is concerned the novelty has worn off. The sight of Sachin Tendulkar playing ugly shots and lesser men earning fortunes for the front foot bashing of dire bowling has lost its appeal
But IPL is not responsible for all cricketing woes. Rather it is a good idea that has run amok. Anyhow it has its saving graces.
Like American Idol, the condensed version gives unknowns a chance to make their names. Players from poorer countries can save against a rainy day. Moreover cricket has been inclined towards pomposity. But, then, it's a great game precisely because it stretches the mind.
For all the froth and bubble, cricket is at a low point. The next World Cup has been compromised, conflict of interest is rampant, the corrupt remain unchecked, the bookies are back, UDRS remains on hold because Tendulkar does not like it and the international game has been weakened by the people supposed to protect it. Hard times lie ahead.
IPL is not responsible for