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Obsession With Cricket

March 30, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 140

When the British Empire ruled India for almost 200 years, it imported many things to the sub-continent. Of these, the English language and the game of cricket have survived the test of time and been enriched by their Indian experience. Writers in English from the sub-continent, notably Salman Rushdie, Vikram Seth, Arundhati Roy and many others, have added a quirky local flavor to the language.

But it is cricket that has captured the imagination of Indians in a huge way, relegating the national game of hockey to the side-lines. Initially, cricket was for the elite, being a costly game that required a lot of equipment, a huge ground for three or five days and knowledge of complex rules. The Indian team itself was the favorite whipping boy of international cricket. Individual cricketers shone, but the team as a whole failed to make an impact.

All this changed in a matter of months in 1971, when an Indian team won two back to back series overseas - one in West Indies and the other in England. Back home, they again beat England. Winning drove fans to the game, and the grounds were full. With fans locked in, it was a matter of time before sponsors and advertisers came. They came in droves and linked their product marketing strategies with the game and with individual stars.

Money began to pour in exponentially after television made its debut in India in 1975. Since then, only the greed of the governing body of the game, BCCI, has sometimes kept away sponsors. Otherwise, cricket is the game that is never short of money - either to pay the stars or to run the game. The critics accuse the BCCI of hoarding or siphoning off money and not developing the infrastructure at the grassroots level.

Still, the game was played over three days in local fixtures and five days between international teams, and often, there was no result at the end of the exertion. This was one drawback - and this has meant that cricket has not caught on in a majority of countries worldwide - as keeping spectator attention for such a long time in this 'instant' age was impossible. Then came the shorter version, first of 60 overs each side and then 50 overs. This game was conducted in 7 to 8 hours and it yielded a result. It was an instant hit, spawning new idioms and stars.

In the ever evolving formats, the latest is the 20-20 version, where each side gets to play twenty overs. This match finishes in 3 to 4 hours and is the latest rage with the fans, and obviously a huge money spinner. It has spawned cricketing leagues in every cricket playing nation, with India taking the lead with the awesome Indian Premier League or IPL. IPL as a brand has been valued at mind-boggling numbers and is growing every year.

Films, film stars and cricket are an obsession in India. By marrying the two, the IPL has thrown up a heady cocktail of sporting pleasure and entertainment. Glamour is added by film stars and starlets, some among whom own the IPL teams. The after parties and their presence at the stadium and team dug-outs have the fans in frenzy. To cash in on the craze, the film stars have now started the CCL or the Celebrity Cricket League, where they play against each other in teams drawn up from different regions of India.

But among all the euphoria of success of the latest format, critics have warned that excessive obsession with the shortest format will mean that the five-day format, or Tests as they are called, would die. For the purists, the game is better played in all its nuances in the longer format. They aver that Tests are the real test of the skill and temperament of the players. But the fans are not listening. For them, the slam-bang variety is the best.

Source: EzineArticles
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