Good sportsmanship is missing in cricket

With the ultra-nationalist hype around last weekend's match I couldn't bring myself to watch it

By Aditya Sinha

  • Follow us on
  • google-news
  • whatsapp
  • telegram

Published: Wed 21 Jun 2017, 10:26 PM

Last updated: Thu 22 Jun 2017, 12:27 AM

India's defeat to Pakistan in the Champion's Trophy reminded me of when I used to hate cricket. As a 10-year-old migrant to the US, I began watching baseball. "This is just a copy of cricket," my father derisively scoffed whenever I watched a televised game.

My father had been a cricket fan since the 1950s when as a student he snuck into the Kanpur (Uttar Pradesh) stadium to watch a West Indies Test match. I, however, reached America in 1974 not having watched or listened to cricket, and only occasionally absently watched matches in schoolgrounds. We lived in Flushing, New York, near Shea Stadium, home to the New York Mets, who had begun a long slide into mediocrity. There was intense cross-town rivalry with the Bronx-based New York Yankees. As an 11-year-old, I visited Shea often - our milk cartons had on one side photos of missing children, and on the opposite side coupons to Mets' games that you could collect and trade for a ticket, which I did repeatedly. The seats were high in the bleachers, and fans sparse because the Mets were at the bottom of the league for years, but it was liberating to sit alone and watch a game unfold in all its 3D complexity before you.

A year after I left the US, the Mets won the 1986 "World Series". Living with cousins under our granduncle's roof in south Delhi, I was subjected to a telecast of a Test against Australia. I had no idea what was going on. Did "silly point" have a deeper meaning? Yet all around me people were crazy for the game. When I began working, I was baffled to see my usually phlegmatic deputy chief reporter smoke through a whole carton during an India-Pakistan one-day international (ODI). I paid attention, and became a cricket fan.

Simultaneously, the baseball players I admired were falling by the wayside, beset by doping scandals or drug busts or just hubris. I tried to revive interest once by reading conservative political commentator George F. Will's 1990 book Men At Work, which was not only a fascinating look into the craft of individual top-tier players but also about baseball's (and thus, America's) work ethic. (The only other baseball book I read was 1979 's The Bronx Zoo by Yankees' relief pitcher Sparky Lyle.) But even a good book cannot stop time's tsunami: as baseball rosters changed, my interest waned - this was the pre-internet era when information from America (if it didn't directly relate to India) travelled slower than Marco Polo. I settled in India, married and had children. We visited the US often. When my son was old enough my father took us to a baseball game at Yankee Stadium, where we sat in a special box sponsored by a pharmaceutical company (it was just above field level, and there was unlimited gourmet food and fine drink). I sat there having had a number of Belgian beers and suddenly felt bored. What a dumb game, I said aloud, much to my father's chagrin. He told me to behave myself, and my son grinned. The tables had turned - I was snorting at baseball, and my ex-cricket-loving father was being defensive about it.

I don't read cricket-related books despite the number of good writers (not counting the jaded and pompous sport journalists). The closest I've gotten is Kate Summerscale's The Wicked Boy, which tells the tale of the two boys in 1895 London who kill their mother and then calmly spend two days at Lord's watching the bearded 46-year-old WG Grace whack the ball around in a "Gentlemen vs Players" fixture. I don't read cricket because watching a Test match, even for a few sessions, is like reading a good book: there's an overarching narrative, several sub-plots, and unexpected twists as you travel deeper into the novel. ODIs, on the other hand, now feel like reading a magazine article. Twenty20, however, is like twitter for Neanderthals: too baseball-like.

With the ultra-nationalist hype around last weekend's match I couldn't bring myself to watch it, and a good thing, too, since a shellacking is never fun to watch. But the talk of Father's Day and the how the match would show who was whose father is evidence of a game no longer being just a game. It's at moments like this that I am reminded of the pure teenage love I once had for baseball.

Aditya Sinha is a senior journalist based in India.

More news from