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This, that and the other. Mostly the other
Come on, cricket! You can do worse!
Man. It has been a really long time since there has been any cricket worth watch watching on TV or following online. But now that India is back to touring, there is a fresh new breeze blowing through the world of cricket. "Finally," millions of fans are saying to themselves, "we have something to do in the office."
However, the lull in the sport after the IPL has not been without value. In fact, the break in serious, meaningful cricket has helped the sport to take a deep breath, pull itself together, sit down, reach for a cool, long beverage and introspect.
You can see the fruits of this self-appraisal and reflection: the interwebs are full of well-crafted and meticulously thought-out blog posts, articles, columns, tweets, tumblrs, animated gifs, pinterests and instagrams. And below these articles, with titles such "Who after Zaheer?" and "Drugs the new menace?" are dozens upon dozens of comments and additional inputs by articulate, passionate fans.
*Bursts out laughing and takes a five-minute break to get breath back.*
I've been reading all these columns for the past few weeks. And I am overcome by one singular emotion:
Why is cricket so overwhelmingly positive about itself? If all the commentators, experts and analysts only say such bombastically optimistic things about the sport, who will point out the rare negatives?
And if this ability to critically appraise itself is missing from cricket, how will the sport constantly improve and evolve? Or even have a balanced sense of itself?
This is like when you are in school and your mother tells you that you are amazing at everything: arts and dramatics and crafts and sports. But, buoyed by this shallow view, when you participate in the 1000m race for sub-junior boys, you collapse from exhaustion after just 200 metres. Then as you lie there you are reminded of Chariots of Fire and you get up again heroically, but then instantly lose all control over your bowels.
This happened to a friend's friend.
Let me prove my point by quickly showing you the opinion section of this website.
Harsha Bhogle's five* columns before the most recent one are as follows:
1. India is mismanaging player resources, 2. India is being blamed for everything that is wrong in cricket, 3. Test cricket is in serious trouble, 4. The Duleep Trophy is useless, 5. Cricket needs to learn how to innovate from other people
Now I know exactly what you're thinking: What is the Duleep Trophy? A three-star hotel?
Secondly you are thinking: why are all his articles so positive and cheerful and optimistic?
It is not just a problem with Mr Bhogle or with external commentators alone. In fact, it would be okay if this was the case. As long as the players have a more balanced view, you could say that the sport is safe.
Nothing highlights this cult of positivity quite like the transcripts of the annual Spirit of Cricket Cowdrey lectures. Each year this lecture is delivered by an accomplished cricketer of international renown, or Tony Greig. And each year cricketers have only used the opportunity to lavish praise on the sport and highlight the positives.
Clive Lloyd in 2004: "I feel strongly that as more countries become involved in cricket, and young countries - in cricketing terms - come to the international Test arena, there has to be greater fairness not just on the field but in the administrative and financial arrangements too."
Sunil Gavaskar in 2003: "In the modern world of commercialisation of the game and the advent of satellite television and the motto of winning at all costs, sportsmanship has gone for a six."
Imran Khan in 2010: "I think that if Test cricket suffers, cricket is doomed: the standards and quality of cricket will go down."
More countries, young countries, winning, gone for six, standards, quality…
Sure, these are all positive things. But who will point out the negatives? Who will delve deep into the mouth that is cricket, look between the shiny molars that are cricket's successes and triumphs and pick out the little areas of coronal cavities and root caries that could be eating away at the sport?
It may be attractive for the establishment to bask in the glory of cricket. Cricket needs to look within urgently. Or it will be held captive by this cult of positivity.
09:11:04 GMT, July 30, 2012: Was "six" originally
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