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Cricket – Beyond the Boundary
Cricket is a game that originated in England. As the British Empire extended its sovereignty over territories around the world, cricket began to be played in England’s colonies as well. Today, cricket is an international game played in some 16 nations around the world. Cricket is commonly dubbed as a “gentleman’s game”, although initially, before cricket became popular, it was a game played predominantly by women and children in the country where it originated.
Game of gentlemen?
The term ‘gentleman’s game’ is felt by many to be a misnomer for cricket. With Aussies hosting racial and sled non-white players and players, generally hurling abuse at umpires, cricket is rapidly falling from its exalted pedestal of being a game only for educated and civilized gentlemen. But still, the ‘gentleman’s game’ tag better suits cricket than football, which many say is the world’s most beloved ‘ruffian’s game’. (Soccer, of course, has never been called a ‘gentleman’s game’.) Also, with more and more women choosing cricket as their career, it would be positively sexist to say that cricket is a ‘gentleman’s game’.
A game that unites
Cricket is more than a game. It is a great unifying force. When Indian and Pakistani players shake hands or slap each other on the back during or right after a cricket match, the gestures are capable of bringing the hardcore fundamentalists to tears. When different nations began to play cricket with South Africa after South Africa publicly proclaimed its repudiation of despicable apartheid, a legalized practice of racial discrimination and ostracism carried out by South Africa’s whites against the nation’s blacks, it was a red card. day in cricket history that left everyone speechless.
With the advent of the Indian Premier League (IPL), cricket has taken on a whole new dimension. A single IPL team is a melting pot of cultures and customs with Indian, Australian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan, English, South African and West Indian players playing in it along with players from other cricket nations. Players who always played against each other and were considered arch-rivals and opponents now play together on the same team, leaving behind their prejudices and dislikes. As language, race and cultural barriers fade with the camaraderie between new teammates, cricket gains an interesting new face with each passing day.
It’s not cricket. Or is that it?
It’s still the same old cricket, but it’s definitely gone beyond cricket. The game has undergone a major facelift in recent decades. Although five-day test matches are still revered, they’re out of style because they last five days and tend to be boring. Most of the cricket fans look forward to the One-Day Internationals (ODIs) to enjoy the ups and downs of the game in a single day. But ODIs have also lost their charm in the face of stiff Twenty20 (T20) competition. Cricket, it seems, is adapting with the times to meet the needs of impatient and frantic fans. Yes, you may be running out of tickets, but today’s cricket will certainly give you a run for your money, even if you watch the game on TV.
invest in cricket
Cricket is now seen as a new opportunity for entrepreneurs, a great investment field that can generate great returns. Many genuine sports fans feel that cricket has become too commercial to remain a plentiful game. But many others feel that the cricket ‘business’ is actually doing the game a lot of good. Putting real money into cricket is actually helping spread cricket, they say. True. Check out some of the other games like hockey, polo, badminton, track and field etc. of the Indian subcontinent. They are in a sorry state and are stagnant due to shortage of finances.
The Indian Premier League (IPL) has turned the cricket ground into a gold mine. Celebrities, actors, and business tycoons line up to buy and sell players as curios at auction, sponsor teams and matches, and earn big bucks. The moguls are desperately fighting for the biggest players, bidding surprisingly high, before the hammer falls. The stakes are high in cricket today. While winners are praised by their owners, losers are quickly disowned and sold. Just like it happens in the commodity market!
Can you call a brand ambassador a cricketer?
Almost every top rated cricketer has endorsed products at one point or another in their lives. Cricket is not a high paying game. At least, it is not very profitable for the best cricketers in the world, who have lavish lifestyles. Doing sponsorships is the only way they can maintain their opulent ways of life. Some of these ads can really leave you stumped. This is precisely why marketers use cricketers. When you see your favorite cricketer on a different pitch, displaying or sponsoring a Fast Moving Consumer Good (FMCG), you may be prompted to wear the same product yourself. Therefore, cricketers are a good medium for companies to convey their messages as they are excellent brand ambassadors.
The ads also have their other side. Several players have been accused of making too much money through ads alone…and too little through cricket. They have slipped on the pitch, while their sales pitch has been great. They have often sold out on the field while the commercials they have appeared in have given viewers and ad agencies a run for their money. As their bank balances grew higher and higher through brand endorsement, they have been called evil and greedy people who are only interested in money and not the game or its spirit.
Evil in cricket was at its height during the match-fixing years. Talking about it in the past tense indicates that the writer sincerely hopes that match-fixing really belongs in the past. During this tragic period, cricketers sold their game, themselves and their countries to bookies and others to make a quick buck. That was a shame! The sheer number of players who got caught up in this sordid affair proved that cricket was bitten by the devil himself. Wicked players would deliberately place their legs in front of the wicket in order to be out. Sides and teams lost matches and tournaments on purpose because a single loss was much more profitable for them than the prize money of a single win. Cricket, countries and allegiances were freely exchanged for cash. Cricket has never paid as poorly as one might think for match-fixing episodes. It was not lack of money that led cricketers to fix matches. It was greed that drove them. Greed to coin and accumulate money by hook or by crook. As they went out for ducks in the morning and broke the hearts of their devoted fans, they were probably congratulating themselves on how many roast ducks they would have at the best hotels with their friends that very night.
This really isn’t cricket
Gossip columns in newspapers and magazines have sizzled with salacious tidbits from the personal lives of cricketers. While some cricketers like the unwavering Sachin Tendulkar are dedicated to the game, other cricketers have other dedications besides cricket. It would take an entire book to document all of his interests, which are sometimes quite immoral and unpleasant to talk about. Still, do you understand the meaning…? Night parties in hotels, drinks, relationships with the opposite sex… So, who wins in the draw the next morning? Not cricket. Cricket throws himself in as the excesses of life supplant him. The player returns to the pavilion, not with his head down as it should be, but with his arrogant head held high. He heads straight for the bar and into the arms of the most despicable member of the opposite sex. But such players have never been able to make or break records. Only conscientious, serious and committed players like Sachin Tendulkar have created and broken records.
Cricket plays big innings and remains ‘not out’
However, cricket continues to dominate current and past cricketers as well as thousands of viewers with its inherent magic. A four and the stadium, be it Centurion, Lord’s or Eden, is filled with applause. A six and a terminally ill who watches the game from his house, smiles. A century and a whole nation cheers and shouts forgetting all distinctions of caste, creed, race, gender. He may not lift a finger to help play the game, but as soon as he raises his index finger in the air, the referee makes a country erupt with joy. Although thunder and lightning can stop play and force people to hit Duckworth Lewis, thunderous applause is sure to be heard once play resumes.
Cricket is a sport, a game that charms hearts. Cricket matches can become very exciting and put people on edge. One Day Internationals and Twenty20s can really give you a heart attack if your heart isn’t too strong to handle the scares and euphoria of the game. Cricket is often used to build ties between nations, to settle hostilities, to forge new bilateral and multilateral relationships. Cricket binds and unites; it brings solidarity, and breaks the ice. Cricket is capable of changing relations between countries and international equations. Cricket transcends all limits. How about a game that originated in a primary school in an obscure English town?
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