May 17, 2010

Cricket - sports, fun, obsession or national disgrace?

There is a saying in Tamil (my mother tongue)...if you exceed limits even nectar becomes poison...I am sure similar sayings can be found in other cultures and languages.

Indian media's obsession with cricket has reached ridiculous heights.

I am not referring the disgraceful IPL saga that has been unfolding in the recent weeks and occupying bulk of real estate in our newspapers and TV...IPL itself is a classic example of how quantity can triumph over quality and how a nation of poor can bestow super-rich status on a few selected individuals who are already super-rich anyway, just because there are so many of us...

As we all know, England won the recent T20 world cup and India could not make it beyond last eight. Let us look at news coverage (website, not print editions):

Note: The finals were played yesterday between England and Australia. India DID NOT play, even in the semi-finals..

  • Guardian, a leading daily in UK which won the cup, did not feature it on front page. The only sports coverage that made it was Webber winning Monaco Grand Prix..
  • I could not find it on the front pages of Timeonline, another leading UK newspaper.
  • It was not the main Sports news item either on the website of Sydney Morning Herald, the leading daily from the runner-up nation Australia.
  • Nor did it feature on the main page of the Melbourne based Age, which had several other sports related items featured on front page.
  • Times of India, Indian Express, even The Hindu - ALL of them had it on their Top Stories Section, front page or otherwise prominently featured. Hindustan Times had nothing but T20 coverage on its sports section of the front page!

Now, let us stop for a moment and think - has this gone too far? Don't we or our newspapers have anything better to do or talk about?

Have we ended up in a situation where the sports has come to be dominated by shady businessmen, politicians, movie-stars (all of whom have tons of money and want even more of that)? Are we feeding this insatiable monster through our own irrational obsession with this game?

Have we turned a gentleman's game into a money-bag's game?

It is yet another matter altogether that a game that requires cool weather, lots of space and lots of time, all of which are in scarce supply (except of course to our Bollywood stars) in a place like India ends up occupying so much mind-share and ad budgets and dollar flows...

Isn't it funny that this game which sucks out so much productivity has come to be dominated by politics and Bollywood?

Is this what the great Tamil poet Bharathi referred to as 'when will our fetish for slavery end?' way back in the 1920s?

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