Home > Cricket > Long Live Cricket, Cricket is Dead

Long Live Cricket, Cricket is Dead

The IPL leaves me cold. This has been the case long before l’affaire bookie hit the headlines. In fact, I hold a relatively more positive view on the whole betting thing than all the cynicism I hear all around me. I actually do think that most of the players are actually trying to do their best, it’s only a few idiots who succumb to the lure and end up risking their future.

No, the reason I’ve largely been indifferent to the IPL is not so much to do with the cash and the corruption, but more about what it throws up as cricketing lore.

Cricket, for me, has always been about a rich tapestry of fondly recalled narratives. Among my earliest memories of following the sport is India’s tour of Australia in the winter of ’81. That basically meant waking up in the wee hours of morning to hold a largish rectangular box, called the radio in those days, close to my ear, and hear voices over a crackling SW frequency describe proceedings. I remember the peerless Greg Chappell’s (adjective refers to the world’s best batsman then, not India coach later) double century in the 1st test paving the way for a thumping Aussie innings victory. India then fought back with a draw at Adelaide in the 2nd, with Sandeep Patil (the Sehwag of those days) and his magnificent 174, a glorious knock made even more special because of what had happened in the previous match – Patil was hit on the head courtesy a vicious lifter from Lenny Pascoe, and had to retire hurt.. no helmets those days, you see.

MCG was the decider, a match which we almost forfeited when Sunny Gavaskar staged his famous walk-out after being adjudged LBW to Lillee. Better sense prevailed and the match resumed, but by late afternoon on the 4th day, all seemed lost when Australia was set a paltry 143 to win in the 4th innings, for a 2-0 series win. And with 3 of the 4 Indian bowlers being injured, the outcome seemed a mere formality. But Dilip Doshi bowled valiantly, Ghavri snared Chappell for a duck, and the heroic Kapil Dev, practically limping on one leg, got 5 wickets on a crumbling pitch to bowl the Aussies out for 83 and tie the series.

slip fielders in a test match

More than three decades later, I can still remember the numbers – 174, 83, 143 – without looking up the score books. There are many, many more such similar themes over the years – marveling at the marauding Caribbean pace quatrets, but celebrating the bunch of no-hopers who stormed the world in ’83; the ’86 Madras tied test– a dehydrated Dean Jones puking on the pitch on the way to a 200+ score, India bravely taking up Border’s challenge of a last day chase of 348 ; 1990 in England – India 9 wickets down & 24 runs short of following-on when Kapil Dev deposits Eddie Hemmings into the stands for 4 consecutive sixes to avoid the follow-on; Perth ’92 – when an 18 year old boy with curly hair and a squeaky voice served notice to the world about his talent with a scintillating 114 on a fast & bouncy track, defiantly standing up to the Aussie bowlers as more accomplished men fell around him; the Desert Storm of ’98; the decade of the 2000s when Indian cricket found its voice again after the shame of match fixing – who can ever forget Kolkata 2001 and that epic series against Waugh’s invincibles, the gutsy Ganguly decision to bat first at Leeds ‘02, all those Dravid-inspired overseas wins; the many heartbreaks too – Graham Gooch sweeping us out in the semis at Wankhede in ’87, Barbados ’97, Sydney ‘08. I could keep going.

Then as I look at six years of IPL, what do I reminisce about? Probably the fairy tale of Rajasthan Royals in the 1st edition, but nothing else, really. A blur of images – some frenzied action on the field  (does anyone remember anything of Brendon McCullum’s  breathtaking 158 in the inaugural IPL game, an astounding innings on any metric of cricketing skill? ) ,  cheerleaders, cacophonic commentary, commercial excesses. What’s the bloody narrative for a cricket fan?

Ram Guha (or was it Mukul Kesavan?) once compared the 3 formats of cricket – he said (and I paraphrase), the pleasure of a Test Match was akin to drinking scotch, ODIs was like having IMFL and T20, like country arrack. Taking a cue from that one, here’s my version for the IPL. For me, great cricket – riveting test series, ODIs which have context – is like a leisurely afternoon of languorous love making – unhurried, ebbs and flows, laughter, charming conversation….an afternoon that you fondly remember for a long, long time. IPL is like a series of consecutive one-night stands, where after the first couple of ones, you could probably replace any one tryst with another, I guess.

The best afternoon of cricket that I have ever seen (unfortunately was not at the ground, but was lucky enough to have seen every moment on live television) was this one – Sachin vs Steyn, Newlands 2011 . A legend with his powers slightly on the wane, versus another legend-in the-making at the peak of his ability – two cricketing gods giving it their all.. a classic for the ages, was an utter privilege to watch. Against an afternoon like that, one-night stands don’t even come in the reckoning, do they?

Indeed, (with due apologies to CLR James)  What do they of cricket know, who only IPL know?

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  1. June 2, 2013 at 2:36 am

    ICC or Indian cricket board should take a strong step to check spot fixing and keep reputation of cricket.

    • June 4, 2013 at 10:54 am

      Rajib, Given the pathetic track record of both these entities, I can’t see anything like this happening.

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