January 14, 2011 1 Comment
Sharda Ugra, one of most respected sports journalists in India has lashed out at the auction process in her hard hitting article in Cricinfo. (http://www.espncricinfo.com/magazine/content/current/story/496295.html)
When some of the owners chose to laugh at Mohd Kaif who was in the “auction ring” for the 3rd time, Sharada suggests that the joke was actually on cricket.
Evidently she belongs to an “old school” of thought which still believes that Cricket is a game of skill (if not gentlemanly but still skill oriented) and cricketers are fine examples of hard work and excellence.
The Cricket Coaching manual of the MCC may not have changed significantly but Cricket itself has changed mainly due to it’s largest benefactor, the BCCI.
Thanks to BCCI and the men who “control cricket”, the game has been successfully “commoditized” and those who play the game are mere purveyors of this commodity. Hence the lament of the journalist would obviously fall into deaf ears.
While I agree with the general sentiment of Sharda, I am of the view that the culpability for the fast declining “respect” for a cricketer has to shared by the cricketers themselves.
It is not as if the cricketers didn’t have a choice. Even if all of them didn’t have the financial comfort to say “no” some of them, especially those whose voices can be “heard” by the top echelons running the game, could have stood up for “self-respect”.
I vividly remember Adam Gilchrist commenting on how he felt somewhat like “cattle” when he was “bought” in the first auction, still chose to participate in the second !
Let us not kid ourselves that the IPL isn’t about money. It may not be about cricket, but for chrissake, it cannot be anything but about money that drives IPL.
When big money is at stake, it is obvious that the investors need “bang for their buck” . I am not in the least surprised that “cold, emotionless, business logic” determined the “buys” rather than any cricketing strategy. Despite the supposed presence of the “strategists” like Fleming, Lawson and Lehmann, they knew more than anyone else, that they were mere “show pieces” for that little bit of “authenticity” that they could provide with their presence.
Though promoted as India’s Global brand, in reality, IPL is tailor made for Indian audience. Always grown on an overdose of cricket, what is the void that the IPL was filling ?
It will be foolhardy to think that IPL has ushered in a culture of “city-league loyalty”. Far from it.
The need gap that was perceived which IPL truly tries to fulfill is “Cricketainment” the heady mix of cricket and entertainment.
The concept of entertainment in India has undergone a significant change. When the era of satellite television dawned, about 80% of the programming was film based. Soaps and sitcoms then made their way into the living rooms of the household captivating the Indian audience with over-the-top-emotions.
Then it happened !
Even as the West accuses India of exporting a super bug, it hasn’t realized the bug that it advertently exported to India – Reality Television. Reality TV got India hooked up to a totally new genre of “entertainment” (!) which had the much appreciated “oomph” factor. Indians have always been voyeuristic even if loathe to admit it.
With reality TV, India got the taste of drama. We now “enjoy” seeing strangers live together, getting ‘justice’ from a soft-porn actress, seeing a serial wife beater get married, exchanging mothers, contestants cooking off and what not.
IPL perfectly fits into the scheme of things combing cricket with drama. Indians don’t have the patience nor the inclination to appreciate the “beauty” of the game whose essence was “simplicity” ; Nor are we interested in Neville cardus describing Ranjitsinghji as someone who never played a “Christian stroke” in his life.
We want swashbuckling, buccaneering, ill-tempered, expletive spewing cricketers willing to live, die and emote on the field, not for their nation, but for a club that pay them millions. They have no permanent loyalty, only temporary loyalty to their highest bidder. They pay him to deliver drama and the cricketer obliges dutifully.
The live telecast of the IPL auction is a logical extension to the drama. It was a kind of a “drama before drama”, precursor to a larger plot that is about to unveil shortly.
I disagree with Sharda that cricketers should feel aggrieved, cricket may be aggrieved but not the players.
The day some cricketers chose Kerry Packer over their countries, the seeds of commercialization were firmly sown. BCCI is just reaping the harvest of the crop sown long before and with it’s financial muscle can keep the land fertile for a very long time.
So if cricketers are still complaining about how they were “bought and sold”, they should perhaps take a look at their bank accounts. As long as their cash registers are ringing, where is the need to complain ?
A contemporary topic in Financial Accounting (under IFRS) is the one which mandates companies to value their “assets” at a fair value – neither more nor less. In the circumstances, I would like to believe that the cricketers only asset, their self-respect, has been “fairly valued” in the IPL.