July 16, 2014

What cricket can learn from the football World Cup

Or how to make cricket fans cry like they used to

"And if they still don't cry, I can slap the bejesus out of them" © PTI

Did you see that? Did you notice how football fans seem to break down in tears at the drop of a hat, or loss of a crucial World Cup tie? Must be nice to be able to care that much. When's the last time you saw cricket fans bawling their eyes out in the stands when a result didn't go their way?

Have we really become so jaded, so inured to the thrill of winning and the agony of defeat, for no other reason than the sheer number of wins and defeats we are exposed to these days? So what if we win or lose this final, we'll win or lose the next final day after tomorrow. Is that it? How did things come to such a dry-eyed pass? It is increasingly apparent that what the game needs now, more than anything else, is an urgent re-infusion of some of that raw emotion we used to feel. The following are a few modest proposals towards achieving the same.

Fewer World Cups. Simply put, we have more World Cups than the number of times Dhoni starts sentences with "Well, of course" in a post-match interview. Just to be clear here, that is a ****-ton of World Cups.

More political tension between India and Pakistan, please. Are these governments even listening? Don't they realise that things have been quiet for far too long, and that the longer this continues, the less of a supercharged event it becomes whenever India does face off against Pakistan? These days you would count yourself lucky to see someone sighing meaningfully at one of these so-called marquee match-ups, let alone cry. At this rate, even ostentatious public praying, that old standard of Indo-Pak games, will become a thing of the past, like fast bowlers with headbands.

Lionel Messi. Every sport needs an increasingly glassy-eyed, doomed genius squirming under the proverbial Burden of Expectation. You know, some super-talented, filthy-rich stranger for whom we somehow manage to find ourselves aching with sympathy. We used to have one of our own with Tendulkar, but now that he's out of the picture, that leaves just Messi as the next closest thing. Seriously, he should give cricket a go; it might even prove to be a welcome distraction for him. He's bound to have great footwork already, and being an Argentinian striker, is probably great with his hands as well. Sing it with me now: Lee-oooo, Lee-o.

Octopus psychic predictors Are we as serious sports fans making the best use of our cephalopod friends? If nothing else, they serve the important function of confusing the gullible and adding to the hysteria of a pre-match build-up. All of which are important factors in the production of tears. Look, it doesn't even have to be an octopus; what's Andrew Symonds doing these days?

A serial biter. Because tears of frustration count too. With the unceremonious dumping by the wayside of Kevin Pietersen, it would appear that cricket does not currently have an enfant terrible, someone to hate in spite of himself. Shahid Afridi might have served the purpose admirably in his day, but let's be honest, he lost his bite years ago. Does cricket really need its own Suarez? The answer would appear to be yes: without being stood in comparison next to him, the likes of Messi and Ronaldo would struggle to maintain the halos over their heads. Similarly, without the likes of Afridi and KP, good-boy gentlemen such as Alastair Cook are not as flatteringly set off by contrast. The sooner Cook realises this, the better for the game. England's game, especially.

More intensity while singing the national anthem. What better way to set the tone for a game than by singing the national anthem? But by "singing the national anthem" I don't mean standing there with a constipated look on your face while mumbling something under your breath; I'm talking about screaming it out as though your very life depended on it, like Brazil showed us recently. While at it, it helps to have crazy wild hair if possible, and bulging, disturbed-looking eyes don't hurt either. Bonus points if you have been blessed with an Adam's apple that is virtually a head in itself. I'm looking at you, Ishant Sharma. That said, I think we can draw the line at gimmicks such as singing the second half of the anthem a cappella due to the music being suddenly cut off. If you've heard Ishant talk, I think you'll agree that hearing him sing shouldn't be super high on your list of priorities right now.

Penalties. Yes, penalties. And why not? Nothing quite breaks the spirit and/or heart quite so effectively as stupidly losing in penalties. Why shouldn't we co-opt some of that good stuff for ourselves? Instead of having to sit through the frustration of record-breaking last-wicket partnerships, how much simpler to be able to call a swift end to proceedings that have gone on long enough through the merciful and appropriately upsetting intervention of penalties. I'm not talking about the all-too-tragically short-lived "bowl-out" that was a feature of the inaugural World T20 either, but actually having the likes of MS Dhoni and Matt Prior decked out in neon monkey suits and stood up between the posts, ready to guess which way to dive as bowlers run up to the spot and kick the cricket ball with all their might before howling in pain and shedding a few tears themselves.

Diving. File this one also under tears of frustration. Imagine if batsmen feigned being struck a mortal blow every time a harmless bouncer sailed safely over their heads. Or bowlers crumpling to the floor into a fetal position after being accidentally brushed by a batsman while attempting a run. Imagine the drama of someone actually being struck a blow but being ignored as he bleeds out on the pitch due to his having cried wolf one too many times. A real tragedy in the making here, folks. Bring tissues!

Finally, if all else fails, just teargas the entire stadium already.

R Rajkumar tweets here.
All quotes and "facts" in this piece are made up, but you knew that already, didn't you?