Nirmal Shekar

Cricket and credibility

The whole point about sport is, we don't know what is going to happen next. Whether we are in the stands at a stadium or sitting on the couch in our drawing rooms, we wait with bated breath for the final denouement, chewing our fingernails off or sitting on seat edge.

We also believe that nobody knows what the outcome is going to be: neither the protagonists on the field, nor the team owners and officials who run/control the sport. That is the beauty of sport, the reason why we spend so much time, money and passion on what is essentially a trivial pursuit, something which has little or no intellectual appeal or relevance.

From a strictly evolutionary perspective in the eyes of someone who is an ultra-Darwinian, sport belongs in the Pleistosene age and not in the age in which we live. But its significance in the post-modern era in which we live is essentially derived from the fact that it makes for bonding and promotes higher values.

You sit on the centre court at Wimbledon watching Roger Federer play Rafael Nadal and with the Swiss genius serving matchpoint down. You aren't sure if the next serve is going to be an ace down the middle or a double fault or whether Nadal is going to come up with an incredible forehand crosscourt return winner to take the title.

You are at a cricket stadium watching an Indian Premier (or is it Paid now?) League match with three balls to go and a team needing 14 to win with a little known batsman at the crease. Your heart is beating a lot faster than your doctor would want it to. But you think it is all worth it because of the thrills that you expect to experience over the next few seconds.

It is the last few minutes of the English Premier League season. And you are watching Manchester City playing an opponent it is widely expected to beat. But City is down a goal and the match goes into extra time. If you know what is going to happen next, you would not have bothered getting to the stadium or spending your valuable time watching the game.

New twist

But cricket, and particularly the Indian Premier League, seems to have given a new twist to sport and its meaning — or lack of it.

While I have never been an IPL fan, or even someone who has followed it with some passion as a professional sports columnist, what has gone on in the last few days has forced me to wonder if it is even worth bothering about writing on a sport that has lost as much credibility as the Indian currency has lost value against the U.S. dollar in recent weeks.

It is very easy to conduct a sting operation to expose fringe players who are always vulnerable in a system such as the IPL. But the big fish who may have indulged in corrupt practices are highly unlikely to be exposed, however resourceful or courageous a reporter might be.

This is precisely the reason that I have an interesting suggestion. The line between sport and entertainment has blurred anyway in the most popular league in cricket. So, why not make it a form of entertainment, pure and simple.

Instead of playing matches where we do not know the outcome, let us have movie-like games where a creative script-writer comes up with a narrative known only to the teams and the actors/players? Of course, as viewers/spectators, we will still not know who is going to do what and which team will win. But the thrills on offer will be so much more and you don't have to make underhand deals with players to fix outcome.

Anyway, Bollywood is so much a part of IPL and a lot of people seem to love it for that reason. In the event, why not turn it into pure Bollywood instead of pretending that it is a sport? I am sure, with proper planning, a good director and an innovative scriptwriter — apart from actors who are willing to perform their roles to perfection — the league would turn out to be as big a hit, if not bigger.

Imagine a team needing 36 to win off the last over and a big hitting batsman clearing the fence six times in a row to bring up a dream finish? Perfect Bollywood stuff.

It is time the people who control the most prosperous league in the sport gave this a thought, instead of still pretending — and have us believe, too — that it is a clean and genuine sport worth every missed heartbeat.

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Printable version | Apr 20, 2021 4:09:45 AM |

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