Wednesday, October 28, 2009

When Lewd was Loud

The second edition of DLF I P L ended not with as much fanfare, hype and success as the first played in India did. The reasons are not too far to seek. Played in South Africa the 2nd IPL couldn’t muster enough public support as in India . Though an ordinary South African citizen is as cricket crazy as is his or her Indian counterpart . Further, cricket there, does have a jingoistic appeal. During the apartheid, cricket in South Africa was hegemonised by the white after which the Govt. made it mandatory to at least include one or two black players in the national team though there has always been more black talent than the stipulated to play in the team at any given point of time. Even then cricket among the black has initiated nationalistic spirit. For they still accord cricket a positive role in nation building. More over the South African cricket board still continues to maintain a sort of colonial legacy against which the black players continue to fight by their sheer performance. As for the IPL T20 cricket played in South Africa , a nation still nascent would not approve of the global format of the game sans its national moorings as the black constitute the majority of those loving cricket who still believe, there is a need to imbibe the game in their socio-political and cultural repartee. And the IPL would not fit in. Because, the concept of nationality for them continues to haunt their personal and political space. So much so, cricket as a global sport does not arouse nationalistic spirits sans which cricket as a game fails to inculcate a feeling of oneness. Cricket has always been both a colonial metaphor and a decolonising tool. South Africans still hold the game in this regard. And use it to deconstruct the colonial space. India has outgrown this space, but South Africa , well, is still trying to come to terms with cricket in its newest avatar. Unless the nation is completely decolonised otherwise, it can’t accommodate a sport which has assumed a global oeuvre which South Africa may well be on its way to acquire. Among the people who watched the matches on different grounds, the white were in a majority and the black were very few and far between. Only the media created all the frenzy. In the Indian context, it would have been completely a disparate ball game altogether. For, India has grown as a nation and beyond. But, in South Africa T20 as an IPL dossier transformed as an ex-gratia to be handed over to the Indian board as demurrage, failed to arouse sympathy on expected lines.

Once cricket had lost the unifying appeal in the sub-continent and elsewhere the T20 format changed the game’s cultural and political paradigm into a money spinning apparatus. The franchise owners, sponsors, administrators, players, and all associated with the game in whatever way possible have scripted themselves an envious role which the public at large have very blithely endorsed at least in India . Though South Africa is still hybernating in the romantic notions of the game, another IPL there would make it accept its present structure. But one doesn’t need to dredge the seas to find if T20 and the cultural apotheosis of IPL have done cricket any note of worthiness.

Yes, cricket is no more a gentleman’s game and altruistically at least in this newest gloss as it involves only those so called refined and eclectic and hegemonical conduits taking it away from the rustic and the robust whose passion built cricket and cricket now is without their passion. Never was cricket only a middle class game before. Never was it an epitome of the cultured who thought, it was a game that exacerbated their ego. Cricket had imbibed very perceptively the cultural (not the cultured), social and political aspects of liberation from all sorts of colonialism. As English language did, it decolonised us. And again like English, it helped a diverse people remain united. When needed, cricket had invoked pure nationalistic spirit, for instance, while playing against England , a country which believed, cricket was born there and it was only their birth right to hegemonise it. Ironically England has not won a world cup so far and can’t even dream that it would, in near future! As a lad of 12, I had jumped with joy when India was able to script a memorable win against England in the 1972 test series.

A lot of water has flown in the Ganges since then. Thousands might have swam across the English channel . A similar moment when I thought, I was on cloud nine was when India won its only world cup in 1983 under Kapil whose 175 n.o against Zimbabwe after India were 6 down for 30 and odd runs on board had virtually won India her first cup there and then. It was as majestic as to be on Mt.Everest. Later on, in 1985 when India won an away one day series in Australia , Indian cricket was said to have come of age. As recently as two years ago, when Dhoni won for India her first ever T20 world cup and the first ever to be played, India realised in Dhoni a phenomenon that has continued till date.

But then, IPL, no, it still can’t create a space. The way it was played was astoundingly without a feeling at the gut level of understanding among even those who played it as to why they were playing at all. Cricket had enervated them so much that towards the end when the league stage was closing, our noble and humble cricketers alongside the franchise owners including those whose teams had qualified for the semis seemed further humbled and wore a pathetic look not as much because of the heat or the cold as of the monotony the game had created by being overplayed. Yes, the pecuniary aspects have disfigured the sheen of delight and decorum which once manifested the game’s cultural ethos so grudgingly that sports other than cricket had inveterately looked almost famished. Cricket has changed its vocabulary. Its once glory has ebbed, its grandeur defaced. The willow sounds like counting of dollar bills. The spectators only boom, no more applaud. Those glued to the t v sets only demur in their applause. Street children once playing cricket and thronging t v houses to have a glimpse of their icons have taken to other modes of joy. The ones who had made cricket the singular habitat are feeling like those on the Wall street losing out in millions along side the houses of which they were once the proud owners. Cricket as a habit and a habitat stands impoverished even as the cricketers make millions.

Come to think of the game itself in a context where there was a lot of conundrum creating pulses of varying degrees. You might have felt, the inner dome of heaven had fallen with the batsman cracking as if he had a whip in hand in lieu of the willow! Every run would count. A dot ball would spell your doom if you were in the middle! Sixes and fours, no matter how they were hit and who hit them as long as they were hit, carried the day for you. No aesthetic fervour would draw your hearts out, but a dash of bonhomie seen in unison with the game masquerading the sheer artlessness of it. Neither could you discover a rare heroic deed as you would in a war, but only the histrionics transforming the game beyond the etiquette you would normally associate cricket with.

Cricket was indeed a tamasha. Played in a languid ambience before an audience who more than the game seemed besmirched in an antic filled denouement complimented by commentating on the boundary with intermittent spells of half serious and half comic interludes on cricket and off it ! Camera would click wherever you were and as such televising the game meant showing what was happening off the green turf along side focussing on only the leftovers of cricket on the field. No, there were no subtleties in the game ; nor were there rare nuances the game of cricket had always embodied. They knewcricket per se wouldn’t sell unless joined by the chorus of hype generated by neo-techies who had up their sleeves a cornucopia of ideas to woo people wherever they are! Cricket was only a pretext. The text was no where near it. It comprised that cornucopia unleashed on the game of cricket. This was nothing but lewd. This writer lacks a better word to castigate a phenomenon that has taken over game’s culture.

Cricket has always been a masculine sport, more so now when, like any other game it has started its journey on the global routes. Globalisation itself, as a process, is a heavily loaded masculine form which, like octopus, has spread its tentacles very steep into our chemistry of blood. Our veins are hardened with it and our arteries clogged by its narrative. Otherwise, the sparsely clad cheer leaders who jumped to heavens like birds with wings clipped acknowledging a four or a six, would not have impacted hilarious stands which hooted and fluttered as if possessed! It was a veritable lewd variety embossed on the game of cricket which used women to sell the most unwittingly called the gentleman’s sport. An unfair and an un gentlemanly conduct! A smearing campaign to bring disrepute to not just cricket, but to women at large. Surrendering the nobleness of the game to masqueraders of culture and politics in connivance with the media is a new metaphor of a turgid saga the game of cricket has assumed of late. The IPL’s and ICL’s or any such variety ignobly set to fill corporate coffers is no more an enigma. As Yeats, an Irish nationalist and poet said, some revelation is at hand, surely the second coming is at hand - this he visualised in a rough beast slouching towards Bethelem to be born. The IPL was the rough beast already born in India moving with fast thighs unlike Yeats’ which moved with slow thighs, towards Johansberg to be brought up and fed! In the end who won and who lost was spurious. The corporate bosses had already triumphed even before the IPL landed on an exotic soil.

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