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June 3, 2000


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The thrill is gone

Avinash Subramanium

For those of you who listen to the blues, the title of this article might ring a bell. If not, well, it happens to be the name of a truly evocative song by B B King, the grand old man of the blues. It also happens to be the way I'm feeling right now.

Sigh, it's not much fun being an Indian cricket fan anymore. Or, as BB King would say, the thrill is gone.

I love watching India play. (I used to love India play.) I thought I couldn't get enough of the game. (I think I've had enough.) The game, the players, the winners, the anguish, the elation, the total cricket package; it was such a joy believing in one's team. But now, I wonder.

I wonder, is there a point to it all? Why invest all that emotional energy and time when the people you're rooting for just don't seem to care? Why try and offer constructive suggestions and continue to suffer seeing the same mistakes being repeated time and again? Why are the same players being picked despite whatever they have been accused of? Why are the people in charge, in charge? (Despite proving time and again that they have no business being in charge?)

Whatever anyone might say, when it comes to cricket, the country, it has to be guilty until proven innocent. There's so much the game offers these heroes, we just cannot, must not tolerate the kind of things happening. Does anybody read some of the cogent and very good ideas put forward by cricket writers on the things that can be done to improve the state of the game in this country? (And have no fear, this writer is not making the mistake of including himself in this highly talented circle.)

Does anybody care to do anything about domestic cricket? What happened to the pitches committee? Why was the board allowed to mess around with them? What is going to happen to the much touted cricket academy? Who cares about the nurseries of Indian cricket? What is happening to the PIL filed by Rahul Mehra and his friend? Why is nobody scared about that? Why are there reports of the CBI operating with its hands tied behind its back? Is nothing ethical? Where are the heroes our young cricketers need? Who do we look up to for inspiration? Azhar? Jadeja? Kapil? (I don't think so.) Am I sounding like a stuck record? Where do we go from here?

Well, certainly not to the Asia Cup in Dhaka - thank you dear reader for reminding me that Dacca was Dhaka some twenty years ago. After all, 'tis the season for apologies. And I take this opportunity to offer mine. - Dacca is now Dhaka. And I say it in the spirit of a true marketing professional. One, this team sorely needs. What is also needs is a solid boost in morale and pride in playing for the country. And tainted, allegedly tainted heroes may, sadly, have to be sacrificed on the altar of an urgent need to act. It's as simple as act or else. There is so much wrong with Indian cricket. The people in charge are being allowed to get away with blue murder. And history has a way of repeating itself.

India's baseball is cricket. India's 'Eight men out,' the movie by maverick director, John Sayles, based on the 20's baseball, match-fixing scandal in USA is waiting to be made. (A scandal, Prem has covered here.) And history has also shown that man never learns from history. Man is condemned to repeat the same mistakes over and over and over again.

Thus we shall see another eyewash from all fresh inquiries into the scandal. We will refuse to learn anything from the Pakistani approach. We will continue to say one thing in public and another behind closed doors. The cricket fan will be messed around with. It will reach a point where we will not know what to believe. Or who to believe? Reason why?

Because public memory is short. And we allow ourselves to be fooled.

One good match, and we think all is fine with our cricket. We forgive and forget. Not surprisingly, we are rudely, and repeatedly, jolted out of our reverie. Then we squirm uncomfortably in front of hidden cameras. Bluster in front of the media. Change mobile numbers every month. Hand sinister, unsigned statements from behind dark glasses. And make us wish we never had any heroes.

Which only re-enforces what Harsha said. (Yes I'm a hardcore fan of Harsha's. And I'm proud to say it. Now, let's just hope he doesn't let me down.) This is not a good time to play cricket. Yesterday, I wondered, was Azhar paid off to get run out? Why did Jadeja get out, once again, trying to run the ball down to third man? Why do they do it over and over and over again? How must Sachin feel? This is not the first time he's had to fight a lone battle. In Test matches. In one-dayers. In Australia. v/s South Africa. All the time. Okay, most of the time. Heart-breaking stuff. Especially for me. He's one of my heroes. And like me, many millions idolize him. But what if he too, turns out to have clay feet? (Some say even he may be part of the 'accused.') These are bad times for Indian cricket. And, neither are these good times to be a young cricketer.

I feel for Agarkar. Will he turn out to be yet another young cricketer we'll allow to fall by the wayside? We never bothered to take care of Harbhajan. We didn't learn a thing from the way the Lankans supported Murali. We are making the same mistakes with Agarkar. Everyone agrees he is an immense talent. But the people in charge don't have a clue on what to do with it. The people who do, won't be allowed to get involved. Why? Because they don't happen to have played cricket at the highest levels. You see, in India, only ex-cricketers are allowed to contribute. (It doesn't matter if some of them end up doing more damage than good.) The rest must be kept out.

Are these pointless cribs? Destined to go in from one ear and out of the other. And through the vacuum that lies between the ears of some of the powers-that-be. I hope not. Because there is much to be unhappy about in Indian cricket. Cricket used to be a way of giving vent to the pure joy of being an Indian. Now, they have taken that away from us. Maybe I'll turn to hockey.

Avinash Subramanium

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