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Cricket and Me

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I have never been a sportsperson. The only time I played cricket was when a team had absolutely no choice but to make me the eleventh man, and I batted last in a match we miraculously won. But my associated with cricket was quite strong due to my eldest cousin who was a role model to me.

A left arm spinner, handsome, charming and brilliant in his studies, captained our school team and started playing for the Ranji Trophy team when he was barely 17. I would follow him to the grounds and watch mesmerized when the likes of Pataudi, Jaisimha and Abid Ali spoke endearingly and encouragingly to him. He was the “chhotu” of the team, but to me he was ten feet tall.

Along with him I watched in admiration the players who excelled, played to their full capacity, and made us proud of them. We applauded our school team, our Club team, our state team, the South Zone team, and of course the Indian team – which played the rare test matches which were occasions looked forward to months in advance. The newspapers were out only source of information, and during the matches, the commentators, and the “experts” commentators kept us glued to our radio sets. We celebrated when our state or national team won, we felt sad when they lost, but we never equated match victory to the capability of the players – they continued to remain our heroes.

Our cricketers did not get any national awards or cash prizes. They mostly commuted on two-wheelers, sometimes borrowed ones. Between matches they worked in banks or government departments. They were thrilled giving autographs, and celebrations meant go9int to the nearby darshini for dosa or indulge in a biryani in an ordinary restaurant.

Days went by, and cricket changed. Today players are ‘bought’, they are ‘auctioned’ and they play for whichever ‘owner’ pays them most. They earn in crores in the normal course, and more than that if they are into match-fixing, huge amounts are gambled in every match. Many people watch cricket on TV more to ogle at the attractive cheer-leaders than to admire the players. Politicians get deeply involved in cricket bodies, courts are made to spend valuable judicial time adjudicating scandals. Top cricketers get more honors and adulation than the most courageous military men or the ceaselessly toiling social workers.

Though cricket has a unique charm which is so different from other sports, and there are such thrilling and unpredictable moments in the game, what is happening outside the field has saddened me. It was called a ‘gentlemen’s game’, which sounds like a joke when I see the behavior of today’s players. However much I cherish and am nostalgic about the game, I somehow cannot bring myself to overlook its degeneration, so I change the channel and watch comedy serials.


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