India-England cricket encounters - An Opinion


by G. H. Peiris 

I am no cricket commentator. Cricket, however, has been one of my ardent interests since childhood. And what I write now is no more than a fan ‘Opinion’. May I add that, in the very early stages of my cricket career (i.e. prior to demobilization of my uncle who was working at the Ratmalana airbase brought to our home in Angulana, discarded sports goods hardly ever available to children like us during WWII; and I was allowed by the ayyas of the neighbourhood with whom we played to bat with a tennis racquet),  Indians were our favourites,  with those like Nawab of Pataudi, Vijaya Merchant and Vinoo Mankad et al figuring prominently in my treasured cricket-picture collections. It remained that way until recent times when I liked India to win against all others except our team.

That Cricket is not played in a level field everyone knows. But it has certainly become worse than that. This was driven home in unprecedented intensity yesterday as I watched the entire England-India ODI, and was delighted with the unexpected England win, except that the margin of victorywould have been much larger had Root batted further down the batting order. At one-down he was a misfit. Sticking faithfully to text-book prescriptions of stroke-making in test cricket, he often found constrained  by text-book field settings. So, at one time he was actually preventing his partner from accelerating the pace, by (inadvertently) crossing over to the bowler’s end in the last ball or two of the over, and resting there until Hardik Pandya has had his say in the end of the next over.

My liking for the Indian team changed mainly because the Indian sports channels, 'Star' and 'Sony', the only source of our cricket coverage,have become fanatic purveyors of Hindu bigotry, probably because that brings them a massive revenue. The Indian cricket establishment also goes that way, buying pro-Indian banalities of the 'greats’  of the past like Matthew Heyden, Dean Jones,Brian Lara and Bret Lee to root for them from the Dugout.

Did you notice the sudden change in the players’ kit colour - from ‘blue’ to a garish orange (colour of  the BJP, VHP, and RSS)  in yesterday’s match?  I believe that it was intended to convey a political message, especially in the context of the fact that, except for the occasionally brilliant Mohammed Shyami, we didn't see the usual quota of  Muslims, constituting as they do, 14 % of the total population, the largest Muslim population in the world within a national entity (!)from which highly skilled players were drawn into Indian teams of the past. Moreover, in the pre-game build-up that stretched over several days, there were the disgustingly frequent reference to India’s 2 world-cup victories, one 36 years ago, and the other in 2012 when India co-hosted the series defeating SL in the finals, but only because it was played in the Wankhede Stadium (the unofficial 'HQ' of Indian cricket) where MSD annihilated a panicked  Malinga at th tail-end,  and win the cup. The choice ofthat venue for the final disregarded the fact that it ought to have been played in a neutral venue like, say, Dhaka (a co-host of the series). According to Pakistani gossip, Cricket India’s  ‘God Father’Gavaskar pressured the ICC so much that it agreed with reluctance to the India demand. The Pakis, don't forget, danced in the streets of Lahore and Calcutta when SL won that final, and even composed and sang a catchy pop song about it. They have been our friends-in-need in other ways as well.

There were, in addition, detailed news broadcasts of India’s ‘past greats’ (‘God Tendulker’ leading the pantheon,and ‘King Kohli’  the monarch of all whom he stares at in the field (both of whom no doub tare likable, but mutually contrasting role models),  and the’ not so greats’; their wins in various World  Cup series (with no mention of their past failures to even proceed beyond the league stage), and not a murmur  about the two humiliating defeats  – one during the league stage in Delhi’s Feroz Shah Kotla, and the other in the semi-finals at Eden Gardens. Yet, funnily, Star Cricket isprobably unmindful of the fact that the foremost sponsor of its TV cricket coverage is a firm manufacturing men’s deodorant, with a focus on bad the stench reportedto emanating from otherwise presentable men’s body.  And then, there is the frenzied behaviour of the Indian fans, in contrast to the dignity and decorum of the England fans (the Old and the Middle-aged, who are not at all like their soccer hooligans) conveying the distorted impression of the persisting mindset of the ‘Lagaan’ encounter (Bollywood film Hit, portray ingrural cricket in Colonial times) – a servant class playing against their Britishmasters, at present with only a change of venue. Yes, I am jealous, and furious of the Sri Lanka team being treated as outcastes. So what?

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