Saturday, Sep 20, 2014

Cricket’s identity crisis

To talk of cricket today is to be aware that the traditional fascination for cricket and cricketers has given way to an unsettling curiosity about where cricket is already headed. (Photo: PTI) To talk of cricket today is to be aware that the traditional fascination for cricket and cricketers has given way to an unsettling curiosity about where cricket is already headed. (Photo: PTI)
Written by Mini Kapoor | Posted: February 12, 2014 11:50 pm

It cannot keep rolling along parallel tracks. Its various formats will have to find a way to accommodate each other.

The IPL is under the spotlight this week, with the spectacle of player auctions once again upon us but also, just days after India’s takeover of the International Cricket Council, with the Justice Mukul Mudgal committee drawing attention back to allegations specifically of spot-fixing and generally of conflicts of interest in the league and, by extension, in the overall affairs of cricket. The report is with the Supreme Court, as is a potentially explosive sealed envelope containing names of persons believed to be up to little good (or “sporting fraud”, in the committee’s words). The fate of N. Srinivasan, currently the most powerful man in global cricket, and of his franchise, the Chennai Super Kings, may hang in the balance or it may not, who’s to say — such is the resilience of the entrenched order in Indian cricket and, equally, its brittleness. And who knows if the powerful men of Indian cricket will voluntarily take more than passing notice of the committee’s recommendations to cleanse the game’s ecosystem. But this is, perhaps, a better time than any other to dwell longer on the question, what ails cricket today?

The answer is, of course, a three-letter acronym, the IPL, and in so many ways. Its mismanagement, much of it possibly deliberate, as Justice Mudgal and his co-author have explained in detail. Its success in making every participant in the game a direct stakeholder in the BCCI-dictated order so that any possible check has been completely externalised. Its arrogance in determining the centrality of the league, so that Indian cricketers will not have any other conflicting engagement and foreign boards’ consent is purchased by the cash that comes their way if their players participate. And so on.

The point is that these concerns can be addressed — in fact, it would be to the IPL’s good, for cricket and franchise-holders. Not so easy, however, to address the incomprehension discernible in all independent commentary on cricket today, incomprehension about what it is that is being spoken of when a reference is made to the game of cricket. To talk of cricket today is to be aware that the traditional fascination for cricket and cricketers has given way to an unsettling curiosity about where cricket is already headed.

Sure, every sport has its various formats, domestic and international matches, national teams and domestic leagues, but the contest is comprehensible and comparable across formats. There is general agreement on the skills and standards by continued…

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