Damn that 100th,let’s enjoy Tendulkar while we can

This obsession with landmark hundredth hundred isn’t only affecting him,it is affecting us even more — We’ve lost objectivity

Written by Harsha Bhogle | Published:March 16, 2012 12:44 am

This obsession with landmark hundredth hundred isn’t only affecting him,it is affecting us even more — We’ve lost objectivity

I don’t know how you feel but increasingly,I find my love for cricket assaulted from all directions. I feel it’s been kidnapped,bundled into the boot of a car and dropped off in an area with no phone signals. We fret,we are obsessed with landmarks,we build conspiracy theories,we get angry and I wonder: What happened to the simple joy of watching cricket? What happened to the reason we were drawn to this great game?

I’ve come to the stage where I have told myself,“damn that 100th”. It is a great milestone and no one else is going to get there,but we don’t watch a game merely for a milestone. We watch sport for the joy of seeing great performances from elite sportsmen,sometimes rivetting ones from those less skilled; we watch it as the greatest display of emotion and skill on a public platform. We want to marvel,rub our eyes in disbelief,occasionally grieve but be aware that tomorrow is still ours; we want to feel blessed for being allowed to sit in on such contests.

Not just a number game

And then numbers happen. They are good tools for comparison (and that too,not always) but they are the by-products of performance. If we watch sport for numbers,we watch it for the wrong reason. You can count numbers anywhere,generate statistics anywhere; the largest set of people to collectively leave Mumbai’s CST station on a Thursday for example; or the percentage of unemployed every January since 1901. Don’t get me wrong,collecting numbers is not bad,as I said you often get good insights from them,but obsessing over them is a poor reason to watch sport.

This obsession with Tendulkar’s 100th isn’t only affecting him,it is affecting us even more. Suddenly we have lost all objectivity,become unaware of the presence of other players (thankfully the Dravid retirement got the place it deserved!),forgotten that cricket is a contest between twenty-two. And now I’m bored by it all and fed up with the angst over it. If Kohli and Gambhir make fine hundreds,I don’t want to see or read of Tendulkar’s innings first and their’s as a filler.

Sadly Tendulkar is also a financial instrument. Yes,he makes very serious money out of the game but people make just as much out of him. Ad revenues go up,so do attendances when he plays,but just as important,supplements and special programmes sell,praising him sells and criticising him does and so whether he wants it or no,whether he needs to be or no,Tendulkar must feature in the news,on specials,in features. If there is no Tendulkar story,we must create one. So I say,damn that 100th. Let us enjoy watching a supreme exponent of the game while we can; let us revel in being part of the journey,let us gasp at the cover drive one more time for Tendulkar,at 39,is playing his end-game. Let’s bring back the little joys for as long as possible. If the 100th happens,we’ll celebrate a great achievement,but if it doesn’t,he won’t become a lesser player.

Factories of anger

Then there are these debates; endless spewing of venom,factories of anger. If an Australian player mutters something as he passes,or makes a gesture,a half hour devoted to Indians being wronged. If Greg Chappell says something,we don’t like another orgy of temper,trembling voices lamenting an attack on India’s pride; we scream of racism — one person called him a “pathological case” (and I hope he knew what that means for I don’t). Anger,anger everywhere. Sport was meant to be uplifting but I wonder if that doesn’t sell enough on a daily half hour slot.

I recently did four Test matches in Australia for ABC Radio,and it was like being transported to my childhood. There was laughter and joy,good words to describe good shots,cricket was the theme of happy conversation and every morning I got up excited about trying to be a friend to all those who couldn’t be at the ground. I was back,living with the simple joy of watching cricket. And,tell me honestly,isn’t that what you really want?

So I say,damn that 100th,turn off the anger,put the conspiracy theories where they belong and ask yourself why you really watch cricket.

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