As this exhibition match comes to an end, I think it is time to reflect upon what is about this game which still pulls me to switch on the TV. What is it that I couldn’t stop of thinking of ways and means I could catch up on the action (if this were a Test match, as I thought initially)? How do not go to that family outing when the last day would be played out? Fortunately, that dilemma didn’t last long after I realized it was going to be one day match, played in whites. Please note I would still have preferred it to be a Test match.
To see the legends in action with/against their protégées was going to be an experience I wanted to treasure. There were some stars who weren’t finished with cricket. This was their chance to yell out to their selectors, “Hello, I still have a few knocks in me!” And two of them did yell out in emphatic fashion. Yuvi and Finch aren’t finished (though their former IPL franchise Pune Warriors is). At times, we wondered why Gilchrist had signed off. The next moment he was foxed by a spinner, not many have figured out. The little master taking up the ball reminded people of the time he successfully defended 6 runs in the Titan Cup final vs South Africa. Dravid taking a catch in the slips made people remember his work ethic. The ball that injured Warne made it amply clear that Lee was still as fierce. I was trying to skip mentioning the ball Lee delivered to dismiss Viru, but it was perfect; wasn’t it! Not quite as perfect as Sachin’s straight drive, I’d say. It wasn’t possible for Lara and Sachin to bat together as Finch took a liking to his first opportunity at Lords, prompting commentators to suggest a Warner-Finch opening combination for Australia’s Test squad. Team Sachin won, but the real winners were you and me (the spectators).
The love for some of our favorite players is never going to wane. I don’t know if it is a bad thing, because it makes me not want to watch a game not featuring any of them. But I somehow did catch the intriguing finish to the Lanka test match win over England. Anderson almost got the English out of the hole, but it was a victory that would emphasized that no one side is currently the favorite, much unlike the early 2000s.
I have never been good at playing cricket. I haven’t watched many cricket matches before I was 14. Have I been good at following it, once I started? Maybe.
So, what is the big deal; some might ask. There are many ardent followers of cricket. People follow other sports religiously too. Some say, cricket is a sport sullied by corruption among players, administrators. It hasn’t and probably never will grow into a global sport.
To be fair, not everything people say is untrue. But to put it into context, the game of cricket has undergone changes at a rapid pace in the last few years. The halfhearted attempts to spread the game to other parts of the world, the introduction of T20 cricket, players opting to play certain formats over the other and countless others. At one point during the match, Adam Gilchrist had to ask the umpires if the bowling powerplay still existed! Gilchrist, earlier in the day batted with a camera on his helmet and was one of the first ones to mike up during a T20 game.
Broadcasters have tried various means to attract eyeballs. Technology (not always accurate) has been called to assist decision making. The compromise between making a better informed decision (not necessarily accurate) and not slowing down the pace of the game has been tilted towards the former. The players have had little say in the game which is driven by the ICC (read a clique of BCCI, ECB and ACB) and the broadcasting revenues. The experience of watching a game at the stadium in India hasn’t been a pleasant one for the fans who shell out massive premiums to get their hands on the coveted ticket. No price can be too high to watch the Little Master sign out from the game that he worshipped in front of the people who have and still worship him.
Cricket has faced umpteen challenges. It has brought joy to lands which have been troubled (read Afghanistan, Sri Lanka). Can the game grow beyond these 10-15 nations? (only 5-6 of them can afford to take the longest format seriously) I doubt it. But if it wants to, the administrators have to realize that the game is about the players and the spectators. Mere gestures haven’t work and won’t work! Please take note and think more about the players and the people who watch the game.
Lastly, among the many fixtures and the cross country collaboration that T20 leagues have allowed; there is a market for more of such exhibition fixtures! Anyone, listening? Yeh Dil mange more…
This is a guest post by Prashant Sahni, an avid cricket fan who talks about the recent match on 5th July 2014 between Marylebone Cricket Club and Rest of the World on the occasion of 200th anniversary of the Lord’s cricket ground.