A bonfire of cricket’s inanities

Back then, most cricket lovers judged players by the shots they played and the balls they bowled. Their on-field tactics. These days, they are judged more by what they tweet and what they wear and what they ate for dinner


Sushmita Bose

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Published: Tue 21 Dec 2021, 10:07 PM

Cricket is a silly, silly game with all its putting-bat-to-ball hyperbole and stadiums-full of spectators going mental whenever a ball is smacked across the boundary. QED. I don’t care that the rest of the world — or at least the six or eight (or is it 10?) cricket-playing nations — don’t agree with me. But it is giving me a great I-told-you-so satisfaction these days each time I’m sent yet another forward on a pitched battle being fought on the sidelines between Sourav Ganguly and Virat Kohli. I don’t have — rather, don’t want to have — the details; I think I have a vague idea of what the fuss is all about, but don’t want to elaborate in case I get caught out (on my ignorance). Suffice it to say it appears to be a Game of Thrones-type one-upmanship effort to be emerge victorious — but over a protracted war of words at various press conferences and posts on social media.

As the ego clashes fire up and consume cricket lovers (I’m not sure how many from all the six or eight or 10 countries that wield the willow are too interested in what ails Indian cricket, but even if it’s just Indian fans that would be a substantial number), my question is: instead of shooting the breeze, why not get back into the skin of the game? In other words: why don’t you get a life?

As a kid, there was a snatch of time when I used to be interested in cricket — the ‘running commentary’ of which would be relayed on radio, and, occasionally, I’d be allowed to watch recorded highlights on a black-and-white Weston television set. Back then, most cricket lovers (the ones I knew, like the men in my family: my grandfather, my father, my uncle, their friends etc.) judged players by the shots they played and the balls they bowled. Their on-field tactics. Still silly (with the benefit of hindsight that I acquired subsequently), but understandable I suppose. These days, they are judged more by what they tweet and what they wear and what they ate for dinner. And stuff like: did Sourav really get a hair transplant done? Or was he just using Rogaine? Virat was seen posing with (Indian Prime Minister) Narendra Modi: OMG, is he a bhakt and an anti anti-national therefore?

I long for the linear narrative where the focus is unwavering. So, like I was saying, in my gauche childhood days, I used to keenly follow India-Pakistan matches. I supported Pakistan because they had Imran Khan, and he was the best-looking man on Planet Earth (surely that was a good enough reason to follow the game).

Also, my brother used to claim he supported India, so I had to obviously “support” the other side. Then one day, he showed me a picture of Imran Khan on the cover of a magazine called Sportsworld, and announced solemnly: “From now on, I will be supporting Pakistan. Imran Khan is so good-looking.” (Disclaimer: as a child, my brother used to be a misogynist, who never cared two hoots about pretty women.)

My heart sank. I snatched the magazine from his hand, turned the pages and zeroed in on another photo with as much gusto as Brian Lara would do to a full toss. “Look at this guy, Roger Binny, he’s also good-looking, he plays for India, why would you want to switch loyalties when you have him on your side?”

He rolled his eyes. “Not a patch on Imran.”

“Fine,” I barked back. “I’ll be supporting India from now on. And now that I think about it, Imran Khan isn’t that hot.”

My brother snorted.

A few weeks later, my brother trotted up to me with another copy of Sportsworld. This time, there was Prakash Padukone on the cover. “See how handsome he is! He plays for India — so I’m going back to supporting the Indian cricket team.”

“But Prakash Padukone, isn’t he a badminton player?”

“Who cares? He plays for India.”

I went back to Imran’s side. Jubilantly.


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