I will stop watching cricket the day Sachin Retires

Sreeram Hariharan January 24, 2012

Image Credits: Brett Jordan


I guess it is a visceral reaction. I will stop watching cricket the day Sachin retires. Watching Sachin taking the signature stance after a crotch yank and then driving one straight through was cricketing equivalent of heaven. I don't get same kick watching Dhoni heaving one physics defying helicopter shot or Uthapa slamming a tennis forehand shot over the bowler. On the surface, my aversion to this form of power-cricket seems purely based only on lack of quality in cricket. But there seems to be more to it.

P.Sainaths article on Hindu BCCI: Billionaires Control Cricket in India is right on mark in correlating the degradation of quality to cash rich IPLT20.

There's been too much playing to advertising-driven, media-orchestrated euphoria with the IPL. You belt sixes over shortened boundaries, swank in and out in perhaps 30 balls — get lionised for it, and swagger all the way to the bank.

However IPL-T20 will triumph no matter how hard the purists tries to romantically reminiscence over good-ol Test cricket. Why? Because Test cricket was T20 to original version of bat-until-all-out form of cricket. Because 60 overs cricket was T20 to 5 day version. Because 50 over one day version was T20 to 60 overs. T20 would have put one-day matches to bed if it wasn't for India winning the last edition of world cup. We are talking about a spectator sport which was always driven by advertisement revenue and media attention. The initial transformation of the sport looked almost inevitable. However the latest drift towards T20 seems to be manufactured with impunity and sheer arrogance.

Why are you thanking god, its not Friday yet?

Current workforce is increasingly alienated socially due to systemic nature of capitalism. We have to sell our labor 5/6 days a week to earn a living. We are increasingly alienated from the work and the product. So we value "leisure time", time away from work. There is an increasing tendency to maximize enjoyment during the time away from work. Increasingly so when you have more disposable income. So that you can maximize your productivity during the actual work week. In addition to that, we are also alienated from the fellow workers. In such urbane middle class settings we are also increasingly lacking a social identity.

Manufacturing tradition

These workers are not just labor for the corporates but they are also the "consumers" or "buyers" of their products. IPL seems like a corporate manufactured tradition where

  1. they commoditize my leisure time
  2. sell it back to me
  3. also market their products so I buy more
  4. create identities like Chennai Super Kings fan etc so that I stay put

And it is manufactured with impunity and I-know-how-to-deal-with-you arrogance.

P.Sainath again "How to feed your billionaires".

With the IPL comes the convergence of the most important media trends: the ABC of Media — Advertising, Bollywood and Corporate Power. Corporate barons and Bollywood stars own cricket teams. One IPL team is owned by a newspaper. Other dailies have become ‘media partners' of IPL teams. Some Bollywood stars have ‘promotional agreements' for their films with TV channels who disguise their paid-for gushing over those films as “news.” Once national heroes, cricket's top icons are now ‘capital assets' of the franchise owners. Once proud of their disavowal of tobacco and liquor advertising, the icons now plug for the latter in surrogate form. And are linked to the former in other ways. And a once great game moves from heartfelt public ownership to a pocket-driven private one; from a national passion to a hyper-commercial nightmare.

But when the floodlights turns on its just cricket. Isn’t it?

A cartoon on IPL Image credit: The Hindu

Exactly. Sports is my escape mechanism. From the daily work routine, from all the ills of the world and from all the politics. Or so I would like to believe. But you just have to look around to realize that it is not the case.

Sports, read IPL, is highly incorporated into market and politics. So if there are opaque dealings and misuse of public resources even to turn on the flood lights, then I wonder whether it is just cricket.

SportsCenter effect

Number of dunks in basketball increased exponentially after ESPN SportsCenter started Top-10 plays section. A normal viewer have no time to watch 80+ regular game season. The only source of his sports news is"SportsCenter". Easy way for a player to get noticed was to dunk and get into Top-10. IPL plays 72 matches in over a month. The entertainment and thrill of a T20 match is short lived. As a player in order to get noticed you have to do something “Sportscenter” worthy. So I am skeptical of the hoicks and cross batted sweeps especially when the player trademark it to a cola company.

I am feeling force-fed this local hooch in a party of the privileged. Glad that I am not RSVPing.

IPL, Sports, T20, Globalisation, India, Neo-liberalism, Note Share this Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported

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Nice article Sreeram. I agree

Nice article Sreeram.

I agree that the marketing of cricket has already got to an extend that many have started finding it gross. I was really taken back when I started seeing two full height one-third width ads popping up on both sides of a batsman when the bowler is in his run up!

I also agree that the realm of sports business is not just in marketing, but it is changing the rules of the game itself, sometimes going to the extend of creating new versions all together.

But then what is the problem with that, one may ask. What if people want local hooch and not premium scotch? Hadn't television and radio marketing changed cricket from an elitist sport (premium scotch) to a street sport (local hooch)? In the age of decreasing attention spans, why is the final re-incarnation (T20) not looking inevitable to you? (I agree many find the cheer-girl dance gross and out of place in cricket. But then that may be just a matter of taste.)

No doubt, the tax evasions, waiver of policing fees, fixings and such are surely to be stopped. But should we drain the baby with the water in the bath?

Re:Local hooch

Thanks for the comments buddy. I think you have some nice points.

Cricket was once a privilege of the elite class. Its transformation into a more middle class game started from late eighties. I have to say that we are talking about viewership not the professional players. During same time the control of the game moved from artistoractic class to the new ruling class. The ruling class thrived on the sports growth based on national identity.

Terry Eagleton's article is very relevant here. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/jun/15/football-socialism-c...

However still it was followed by closed set of hardcore fans. I don't have the numbers, but I guess the teams started playing more one day than test matches by then. T20 is definetely more street creed cricket. The latest drift to T20 is also accompanied by passing the contol of game from ruling class to business class(corporates). And they definetely need a bigger set of audience. However I am not sure which is the cause and which one is the effect. India winning the first edition of T20 WC was trigger for IPL. But I wonder only that would have lowered the appetite of the spectators to longer version or made them an addict of local hooch. I beleive the business/corporate class saw an oppurtunity, started meddling and are manufacturing the drift of the game towards T20. They have bought(contracted) all the opinion makers and media. The "experts" who are in the ICC comittee to offer recommendations on changing/developing the game are earning crores from IPL(god know for doing what).

Now its for sure that its not coming within the game or players playing the sport. Show me a single international cricketer who says T20 is better than Test/One day and I will show you a mediocre cricketer.

Add to that filthy show offs, tax evasions etc. And bollywood, seriosuly, I don't give a rat's ass to see Preity Zinta's reaction after every boundary.

I am an old timer. I would sit all day and watch Sachin. Sachins 241 at Sydney was preceded with 3 mediocre innnings; getting out playing loose shots outside off stumps. In that innings @ Sydney he decided to not play shots outside off stump. 200+runs came only on the on side. it was concentration and grit personified. and these days, it pains to watch him try Dilshan scoop man! it really does.

History just repeats, may be as farce this time

Hey buddy.

I too understand the feelings of old-timers. (For record - I haven't either watched a test match or a T20 in full, while I have watched end-to-end so many one-dayers. So in Guha's words I'm more of an Indian Made Foreign Liquor guy - which indeed I'm in the literal sense too).

As you rightly pointed out in the article, Cricket in India was and is controlled by the then ruling class - the aristocracy and the British in pre-50's the bureaucratic class in the next half a decade or so and the big corporate houses in the neo-liberal era. I would call each of these classes the ruling class in the corresponding era. That is why I believe all the changes (test to one-day, one-day to T20 etc) were all inevitable.

I think you are spot on when you say that the viewership created for T20 is not just about the change in rules or about India winning first T20 WC. It is a result of conscious big-business maneuvering. But I consider this change much less damaging than what television did to Hockey and other such games by unfairly promoting one-day cricket. Here the Sachins at least have a chance to learn a Dilshan scoop. But could Dhanraj Pillai ever have learned to wait for the ball which will be religiously thrown to him by the other team? And that choice was also influenced by the business interest of having more space for ads.

BTW - In the recent speech by Rahul Bradman Oration Speech, he was more in favour of Test and T20's and kind of saying the days of one-dayers are numbered. I'm thinking hard to find a good Test player who said that one-dayers (my favourite IMFL) was better than test.

Re:Local hooch

Buddy,
"Indian Made Foreign Liquor guy" ...... That cracked me up. If this was a bar conversation, I would have raised my glass and told you ..."lets drink for the health of the game" ... Salud ..Cheers ....

-- Sreeram.H

Cheers

Cheers!

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