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Cricket : a game by the leisurely, for the leisurely lowest exertion, highest remuneration

Cricket : a game by the leisurely, for the leisurely lowest exertion, highest remuneration –

Stan Swamy

Cricket game has become a contagious fever. This fever comes especially to the youth of middle and lower-middle classes. Now that TV channels are bringing it ‘live’, which ever be the country where it is played and whatever be the odd hours when it is played, the youth are ready to keep awake just to be able to watch it. Often it looks as though these young people have nothing else to do in life. Cricket as a leisurely and long drawn out game stands in such contrast to other games such as Hockey, Football, Basket Ball, which are played with tremendous intensity and exertion so that it is all over within a maximum of two hours.
If the Indian team is doing well and is winning, there is tremendous cheer and fire-crackers are liberally exploded; if, on the other hand, our team is doing badly and is losing, there is grim silence. When the Indian team returns home as winners, the players are cheered as ‘heroes’; if they return as losers, they are booed as ‘villains’. The State and Central Governments vie with each other in rewarding the players in cash and kind.
Unfortunately these young people do not realize that cricket is used by the capitalist ruling class as a safety-valve to diffuse the socio-economic tensions the youth face and divert their attention from the serious problems such as unemployment.
Let us probe a little on the history of this game and discover the contradictions thereof.

Colonial origin: The origin of cricket as a game is.to be traced to the British colonial period. The first rules were written in 1744 and exported to all the British colonies. It is not a surprise, therefore, cricket has become popular in the erstwhile British colonies such as India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, West Indies, South Africa. The illegal British occupation of Australia where the native Aborigines were massacred and marginalised, made it possible to export cricket there also.
This was a game of the British upper class and was meant for their relaxation. It was played mostly during Sundays which was a day of rest and relaxation. The elitist character of this game is that the lower class were not supposed to play this game. It was a preserve of the white ruling class. It is significant to note that although colonialism as a political factor has come to an end, the local native population is hardly represented in the teams of Australia and South Africa. Verily smacking of racial discrimination.

Destructive of local traditional games: Traditional games like hockey which used to be considered as India’s game and in which we were so good that India just could not be defeated at international level has been pushed to lower levels of esteem and attention. Now many other countries have overtaken India to the extent that the Indian team could not even qualify to compete in the next Olympics.
Another heartening feature of hockey is that the tribal boys and girls have been excelling in it at local, national and international forums. It used to be a pleasant sight to see small tribal boys and girls in villages playing hockey with self-made hockey sticks made out of small tree branches in open spaces and even in the fields. But sadly, even this home-game is fast losing out to cricket.
Another destructive aspect of cricket is that it takes such a long time to be played. It normally takes two, three, four consecutive days to conclude. Even the one-dayer takes one full day. That means the viewers have to take the day off from all other occupations inclusive of earning one’s livelihood. This way, cricket encourages laziness in the young viewers and distracts them from gainfully employing themselves in life.
More damaging is the fact these young people are slowly drawn into outright unethical practices such as gambling and betting on which team will win. Thus there is every possibility of these young people will grow up to becoming irresponsible adults.

Cricketers have become purchasable commodities in the market : One writer observes that today’s cricketers are “being evaluated like prize-bulls bought up by the super-rich” ! Thus we have a handful of new crorepathis and the only gain the nation can have is a few crores of rupees realized as income tax.
One often wonders what motivation these cricket-heroes have in playing the game.
Is it their name and fame? Is it our country’s prestige? Or, is it the Dollars?
From the way the game is organised and the players are rewarded, it looks that Dollars is the most important and coveted factor. This is very unfair towards the rest of the country men majority of whom are struggling to make both ends meet. It is very unjust towards the Indian government which foots their extravagant air & surface travel, stay in luxury hotels and all other arrangements for the players comfort and enjoyment.

Show-pieces for cheap advertisements of consumerist goods:
Just like cinema-stars who allow themselves to be used for cheap money in ads for consumer items like soap / talcum powder / TVs / computers / motor-bikes / cars etc
cricketers also have become show pieces in cheap ads. Very few of them really stand up in defence of human values and concerns such us human rights / stand against displacement / steps to reduce unemployment of the youth / dignity & respect for women, child-workers etc. In other words, cricketers by and large are not desirable models for the rest of society to follow. They are playing for their own name & fame and are keen on earning as much wealth as they can when the wind is still
blowing in their favour.

A capitalist game at home in the capitalist society:
Capitalism by its very nature is promotive of leisure, comfort, luxury, inequality.. Cricket also by its very nature is a leisurely game and promotive of the values of capitalism. Mass media, both print & electronic, in capitalist society make the cricket stars objects of purchase & sale. So, as long as capitalism will prevail, cricket also will flourish.

10 October 08