Let it be known that if Twenty20 cricket, the Indian Premier league, and all its derivatives miraculously vanished I will shed no tears. As a lover of test cricket, I share the sentiments of the late William Rees Mogg, former editor of the Times, who once opined that “…Twenty-20 is a decadent, dumbed-down, third-rate formula for sub-prime cricket”. Mogg claimed that he found the format less exciting than baseball. The comparison of cricket to baseball is never done for the benefit of baseball.
I find this shortest version of the game unaesthetic, the instant gratification from the big hits unedifying, the unequal contest between bat and ball unrepresentative, the robotic cheerleaders imported from the Yankees stadium pretentious and the allegiance to the franchises unreal and superficial. Singularly devoid of nuance, the game destroys everything test cricket stands for: sophistication, intelligence, patience, discipline and strategy.
If the format itself was not derisible, the IPL has been thoroughly devalued (though not financially) by the involvement of Bollywood that, unlike Midas, cheapens everything it touches. Watching the ugly spectacle of Shah Rukh Khan taking on an ordinary security guard, a modern day version of Goliath versus David, was depressing not just because it occurred (one has ceased to be surprised by the petulance of India’s elite), but because it was associated with cricket. It is unlikely that Khan’s rage would have been similarly stirred after VVS Laxman’s heroic 281 at Eden Gardens. Watching an underdog overcome true adversity, as is often the case in test cricket, leads to admiration not jingoism.
Perhaps Twenty-20 cricket is a sign of our times; where Facebook has replaced genuine social encounters, where Wikipedia has obviated the need for in depth scholarship, where all needs will be provided by one giant Walmart. As someone who fundamentally believes in the power of free market it causes me consternation, more often than I might care to admit, when the mob, the market, delivers a result I do not like.
If Twenty-20 cricket is a microcosm of our times then it is hardly surprising that it harbors corruption. If the allegations of spot fixing against Sreesanth turn out to be correct, then I must say there is no better poster child of the depravity of instant cricket.
This fast bowler is a concentrated cocktail of parody: a pantomime villain, a dozen of the likes of whom could not take on Amitabh Bachchan in Zanzeer. The faux aggression, false because it does not have the spine of Steve Waugh or the grit of Anil Kumble; the on field theatrics that lack the spontaneity of Shoaib Akhtar or flamboyance of Shahid Afridi; a fighter who is prone to burst into tears after being slapped by a team mate; Sreesanth represents a thankfully uncommon but increasingly toxic face of modern India: one that is belligerent, aggressive and ostentatious beyond what the situation requires.
The scandal is a reminder that capitalism, and Twenty-20 cricket is the very citadel of capitalism, will not cure corruption. However, it provides society with a certain level of wealth so that it can treat corruption with zero tolerance. For that reason I am willing to tolerate its prime side effect; the 'Walmartization' of cricket.
Dr. Saurabh Jha, MD MRCS, a British/Indian NRI, is an Assistant Professor of Radiology at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, USA. With his natural flair for writing, Dr. Jha will be expressing his views on Bihar, Bihar-related issues, and other topics that are sure to grab the attention of the visitors of PatnaDaily.Com.