Falling out of love with cricket

Author : Siddharth Upasani

Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar apparently played their last 20-20 match yesterday. I say apparently because I did not care to watch them slug it out.

There comes a time in everyone’s life when one has to weigh the pros and cons of exam preparation against those associated with watching a sporting contest.

While yours truly is a veteran of such mental excursions-with the latter emerging triumphant on each and every occasion-one particular instance led to the attachment of disillusionment to a sport once held in such high esteem and regard that getting into a physical confrontation with lifelong friends over who would read the newspaper first to discover the result of a match played the previous day was business as usual.

Cricket, the game for gentlemen, was all that life was about for a good 15 years. While memories of a flying Jonty Rhodes from the 1992 World Cup are rather hazy, the thrill from Kalu and Jaya redefining what opening partnerships stood for while feverishly memorising a poem for the first grade English teacher is as clear as Walter White’s blue methamphetamine.

As one rose from the lows of first grade towards the benchmark that is 10th grade, the memories of great escapes forged by hardened gentlemen accumulated. Scraps of the final few overs were secretly and breathlessly observed from the dhobi’s window. Residential schools may have their advantages, but there weren’t too many if you were a cricket nut. Perseverance with the teachers got you nowhere. Stealth, rubber slippers and being on good terms with the dhobi got you some time in front of the Indian cricket deity that is the television.

From Desert Storm to Donald and Klusener, from Tendulkar’s effortless cover drives to Dravid’s painstaking-but breathtakingly effective-marathon innings, those were the memories of the daily bread and butter for cricket fanatics. The joy of Eden Gardens, the pain of Johannesburg, the disbelief of Multan, and the dread of Wellington, all synthesised into one drug that kept its users asking for more. Even poetry had never been so pure and ruthless, never so unadulterated in its psychological high. Hundreds of paper cuts were endured in the off season as book-cricket became the vent to the build-up of impending action.

And suddenly, it was all gone. The fervent anticipation, the edge-of-the-seat humdingers even with Maninder Singh tattling away at the “behtereen mujaayra” of the batsman, had evaporated. The game had changed in a single day.

Caesar had been warned of the ides of March, but it was the middle of April that dug cricket’s grave as Brendon McCullum terrified Bangalore’s bowlers into submission. The Indian Premier League had arrived, and created a sense of excitement that can only be associated with watching schoolchildren have their own version of Fight Club: seniors fighting juniors, men against boys, the strong against the weak.

The balance that existed between the ball and bat vanished that day in April. Boundary ropes drew further in, pitches flattened, no-balls became borderline criminal and spectators wanted seats closer to the ropes to watch the cheerleaders, and not to catch a glimpse of their favourite players.

The love for a sport goes beyond spending countless hours watching it. It is cultivated, passionately, when one has to fight to experience it. It has to be craved, and when encountered, cherished.

As if the 45-plus days of the non-stop, trumpeting of the IPL were not bad enough, the arrival of the Champions League T20 has darkened the mood further. How does one reconcile with the fact that a player can choose between two teams-maybe even three-when it comes to playing in cricket’s version of the footballing extravaganza held in Europe? What loyalty can be expected from the fans when no one is loyal to the game itself?

Cricket has always been about a battle, right from the 1930s when Sir Don faced Larwood and co. It was a matter of skill and tenacity, not of technicality and theatrics which have come to rule the game today. A famous saying in economics talks about how there is no free lunch for anyone; one has to pay for it. Cricket, unfortunately, has served up free-hits rather ludicrously.

Cricket died in me six years back. A few flashes now and then attempt to reignite the flame that once shone brightly, but it’s merely an exercise in futility.

Being cynical isn’t all that bad when there is very little to believe in.

Matches

MORE TOP STORIES TODAY

On Now: Delhi vs Kolkata

On Now: Delhi vs Kolkata

Pandey, Uthappa help Kolkata set Delhi a 167-run target. More »

AB, Parthiv seal Bangalore's second win

AB, Parthiv seal Bangalore's second win

Royal Challengers overcame a stutter to cruise to the small target they were set by Mumbai Indians. More »

Glenn Maxwell carves his parallel universe

Glenn Maxwell carves his parallel universe

Glenn Maxwell seems to project an icy disdain when at the crease. Match situations rarely faze him and the bubble in which he plays excludes everyone … More »

No way back for Pietersen: ECB

No way back for Pietersen: ECB

Kevin Pietersen's hopes of reviving his international career appeared to end Saturday when ECB managing director Paul Downton said there was 'no way back'… More »

[REWIND] The world record that nearly wasn't

[REWIND] The world record that nearly wasn't

Twenty years ago this week, Brian Lara became Test cricket's highest scorer, but he almost didn't make it. More »

Moores gets second stint as England coach

Moores gets second stint as England coach

In a two-year spell from 2007 to 2009, the 51-year-old Moores led England in seven Test series. More »

Bangladesh senior players to see shrink

Bangladesh senior players to see shrink

Bangladesh's senior players will have three sessions with a psychological skill development coach later this month More »

BCCI is not anybody’s property — Dalmiya

BCCI is not anybody’s property — Dalmiya

Dalmiya feels that Srinivasan’s ‘power hungry’ attitude isn’t helping matters. More »

Tough for bowlers: Saeed Ajmal

Tough for bowlers: Saeed Ajmal

The 36-year-old believes the T20 format and rule changes in 50-over matches have made a real difference. More »

Rajasthan edge low-scoring thriller

Rajasthan edge low-scoring thriller

The bowlers restricted Hyderabad to 133 for 6 before Rahane and Binny took Rajasthan over the line. More »

BCCI members want independent probe

BCCI members want independent probe

The board members are realising after the Supreme Court's observations that something has to be done — IS Bindra More »

KP ridicules idea of day-night Tests

KP ridicules idea of day-night Tests

Kevin Pietersen has ridiculed the idea of day-night Test cricket, saying the game would be so different to proper Test cricket that we will need a whole… More »

Maxwell blitz takes Punjab home

Maxwell blitz takes Punjab home

The Kings XI batsman blasted a 43-ball 95 to help his team pull off a massive chase against Chennai Super Kings. More »

'BCCI lacks leaders to take on Srini'

'BCCI lacks leaders to take on Srini'

Two former BCCI presidents, Shashank Manohar and Jagmohan Dalmiya, have reacted strongly to the news of the BCCI calling an emergent meeting on Sunday… More »

Delhi look for first points against confident Kolkata

Delhi look for first points against confident Kolkata

Preview — The threat of Sunil Narine looms large again. More »

Bangalore vs Mumbai: A battle of the big-hitters

Bangalore vs Mumbai: A battle of the big-hitters

Preview — Given the firepower in both line-ups, Dubai crowd may see another high-scorer More »

Yuvraj tees off to Sharjah's delight

Yuvraj tees off to Sharjah's delight

Yuvraj Singh was hardly convincing to begin with against Delhi, but a big dose of crowd support and a helping of poor bowling meant he had the opportunity… More »

Stressed Trott stands down again

Stressed Trott stands down again

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) on Friday confirmed that batsman Jonathan Trott is to take another break from all cricket with immediate eff… More »

PCB starts another coach hunt

PCB starts another coach hunt

The PCB has decided to not extend the contracts of head coach Moin Khan, fielding coach Shoaib Mohammad and batting consultant Zaheer Abbas, and has invited… More »

Fiery star Stokes bids to curb his temper

Fiery star Stokes bids to curb his temper

England all-rounder Ben Stokes admits he must keep his anger under control if he is to end his international exile. More »

Bangalore's arsenal blazes to victory

Bangalore's arsenal blazes to victory

Yuvraj Singh was back to his best in his first match for Royal Challengers Bangalore. More »

Pakistan cricketers face probe

Pakistan cricketers face probe

Pakistani cricket authorities have launched an investigation after a number of current international stars played in exhibition matches in the United States… More »

BCCI to meet before next court hearing

BCCI to meet before next court hearing

The BCCI will hold an emergent working committee meeting on April 20 to discuss the future course of action with regard to the Supreme Court hearing concerning… More »

Gavaskar wants a clean IPL

Gavaskar wants a clean IPL

"Integrity is non-negotiable..." says the BCCI's interim chief ahead of Season 7 of the tainted league. More »