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The MBRB SoapBox: Why Are You Still Watching Cricket?

Why a clean break up from the sport you've loved all your life may be best

Something’s rotten in the state of BCCI- and the Indian fan remains unaffected.

At the outset we have to inform you that this is not a ‘girl thing’. We love cricket and have watched the sport through our lives with something close to a fervour. We are  also not ‘purists’. We may be partial to the crisp whites and the long form of the game, but also enjoy the color and chutzpah of IPL.

But  today we have to ask you- “Why are you still watching cricket?”.

Last week, the Supreme Court finally stepped in and forced N Srinivasan to temporarily step down as the chair of the BCCI for more than one count of conflict of interest.

Our  Facebook feed erupted in collective joy, with people lauding the judgment and calling Srini all kinds of names – from Kim Jong-Un to Pol Pot. Many of those posting are ardent fans of the game – those who’d share regular updates on the game and often proudly declare their presence at an ongoing match. Sadly for Indian cricket, none of these fans appear to see the irony of the situation – that by continuing to turn up or tune in for India’s matches, they are guilty of abetting Srinivasan in his ugly game of thrones.

Like most Indians, we’ve grown up watching cricket. We come from a generation where we were used to losing more matches than winning and where our team remained the perpetual Ms. Congeniality of the world cricket pageantry. And that is why the sight of Sourav Ganguly unfurling his shirt like a flag at Lord’s seemed so liberating. After all, Ganguly, Dravid, Tendulkar, Laxman and Kumble were playing out the great middle class dream on the world stage, transcending the traditional role of sporting heroes to serve as models of ambition, achievement , ethics and humility.

Along the years, the passion waned, but the excitement remained – even though it was evident that the game wasn’t the same. We remained in two minds about the IPL – while we enjoyed the spectacle and couldn’t help admiring its resilience despite so much opposition from across the world, we also longed for the solidity and dedication of the Fab Five era. We were also filled with mild shame and disgust at the flaunting of the BCCI’s money and power – it reeked of the nouveau riche and a colonist mentality to measure up to You-Know-Who.

But of late, a string of events have led us to believe that the time is ripe for a clean break from the sport. The Fake IPL Player provided a peek into the backstage filth in 2009, followed by IPL brainchild Lalit Modi’s unceremonious ouster in 2010 and the first proof of spot fixing in 2012. Meanwhile, industrialist Vijay Mallya, who also owns an IPL team (Royal Challengers Bangalore), continued to spend crores on buying players and throwing lavish post-match parties, while refusing to pay the few thousands that he owed in salaries to the middle class employees of his bankrupt airline. There wasn’t a whimper of protest from the middle class fans who continued to fill up the stadium for his team’s matches.

Then there was the growing sense of unease that some of our most loved players are guilty of lying by omission, if not more.  It’s also becoming increasingly difficult to ignore how cricket continues to cannibalise the development of any other sport in the country (especially during the Olympics). And we are getting increasingly uncomfortable with the way the fans are killing any dissent or discussion – whether on the Internet or on the stands – in the same way as the BCCI does on the world stage.

But what gets us most is the absolute lack of transparency and accountability. We no longer trust anyone in the system, and that’s scary.

The argumentative Indian loves discoursing about the problems of India, but hates to do anything to fix it. Nowhere is this phenomenon more evident than in cricket. For years, the corruption and nepotism in the game has been public knowledge, but the Indian fan has turned a blind eye to it. At some level, we can understand why faceless profit driven corporates continue to pad up the BCCI with sponsorship money, but what is the justification for the individual fan?

All it needs is a concerted boycott of the game – both on the field and on telly – to prompt the cricketing lords into some sort of spring cleaning. Low attendance and viewership will also drive the corporates away, dealing a double blow to the greedy masters. Yes it would mean staying away from cricket for months, maybe a couple of years – but isn’t this a small sacrifice to make if it helps restore honor and transparency  to the game? Yes, there are chances that your efforts will still come to nought, but at the very least you may end up supporting another local sport as an audience and benefactor?

If the Indian cricket fan is not merely a voyeur but a true lover of the game, it’s time to acknowledge that fan-dom comes with responsibilities. And if he continues to bear silent testimony to the sordid doings of the administrators, he deserves the current mess that the game is in – including our own version of Tywin Lannister.

Photo Credit: lensbug.chandru via Compfight cc

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