Friday, October 06, 2006


India is a nation of fanatics. We have religious fanatics, political fanatics, cinema fanatics and finally the most important and most common of all cricket fanatics. In my opinion the game of cricket is the greatest contribution that the British made to India. In a country of such diverse traditions and culture cricket is the one unifying spirit that transcends all boundaries and differences. A Tamilian and a Kannadiga may be at loggerheads over the Cauvery river water issue, but they are inseparable in their admiration for Dravid and Tendulkar.

Cricket has evolved a long way from the playing fields of Oxford and Cambridge to the multi-million dollar industry it is today. The ICC or International Cricket Council, is the governing body that supervises the growth and development of the sport globally. Cricket has undergone a sea of transformation from the traditional five-day test match to the one-day match and the current phenomenon 20:20 cricket.

Today a cricketer has a lot to look forward to, 20-25 years back there were no endorsements and advertising money and roles in slickly shot TV commercials. Look at the scene today we have cricketers endorsing everything from soft-drinks to motorbikes and video-games. They run restaurants and own shares in multi-national corporations. It is detrimental to the growth of the game. Money is needed, but like any other thing, money in excess is a vice.

Fame is naturally linked with sport and when it has such widespread coverage like cricket it is instantaneous. Take the current example of India’s swashbuckling wicket keeper Mahendra Singh Dhoni his exploits with the bat have made him the new poster-boy of Indian cricket. He was an ordinary ticket collector working in the railways and now he is the country’s youth-icon. We need to weigh his merits carefully and observe him two to three years down the line to see how fame has affected him.

Shane Warne is an example of how fame can go into your head and transform you from hero to villain. From being the new spin-phenomenon of Australian cricket to being the highest wicket-taker in test cricket, his personal life has become a total mess. Numerous sex-scandals alcohol abuse and indiscipline has led to a divorce from his wife of more than 5 years. Former Indian captain Azharuddin is another example, caught in the match-fixing controversy, he is yet to be cleared of the accusations and charges levelled on him.

Perhaps former South African captain Hansie Cronje’s tale is the most tragic of all. Hailed as an inventive captain, the world was shocked when he was proved to be the centre of the match-fixing scandal. He died in an air-crash disgraced forever.

Sachin is undoubtedly one of India’s greatest sportsmen and he says he plays for his beloved India. His patriotism was proved when he failed to pay excise duty for a Ferrari gifted by Michael Schummacher to him. This from a person who earns nearly 10 million dollars annually through his endorsements and restaurants.

Patriotism need not necessarily mean being an army soldier and killing enemies with your gun. It is present in each and everything that you do. Cricket is a fiercely patriotic game, and nothing is tenser than an India-Pakistan cricket match. Both fame and patriotism play important roles in the performance of a sportsperson.
An optimum balance should be struck between the two for superior sportsmanship.

We need to wake up and stop worshipping our cricketers as gods, they are just human beings representing our country. It is this blind hero-worship that propels the players greed for fame and money. The government should take steps to develop more talent and give equal opportunities to youngsters to represent their country.

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