If an alien were to land from Mars and spend a few months watching the goings-on in the world of cricket, he might reasonably — provided he happens to share our species’ neurobiology — conclude that the most powerful lot in the game are the people who patronise it, especially in one little corner of the globe called India.
The Martian might even ponder the irony of the real creators of power ‘choosing’ not to wield it. What kind of a cosmic piece of rock is this where people can love something to a point where they don’t seem to care about how a privileged few use and abuse their loyalty as they please?
From time to time, Rahul Dravid, as perfect a gentleman as Indian cricket has seen, as fine a human being as I have come across in three and a half decades in sports journalism, speaks up for Indian cricket fans and what is owed to this huge community of believers.
But that is just the odd ripple. Even if it doesn’t go unnoticed, it makes no difference to the status quo.
This apart, there is a court case here, a petition under the Right to Information Act (RTI) there. Of course, there is some nuisance value to these, but nothing more alarming. And these things come in handy because the lawyers who work for the game’s administrators can be kept busy and in good cheer.
The point is, power is only useful when it is harnessed. An auto driver in Chennai, a cricket-crazy IT whiz in a Bangalore suburb, an office clerk in the Kolkata secretariat working in Kafkaesque bureaucratic drudgery, or a dabbahwallah at the end of a long, tiring day’s work, might all feel equally short-changed and cynical as disenfranchised bit-part players in the great big game of Indian cricket.
But, on their own, none of these individuals can do anything about it. Of course, Facebook, Twitter and the Letters to the Editor columns in newspapers quite often reflect their disenchantment.
Then again, the men who run the game in the country can afford to laugh all this off because they know that the moment the next match begins and the remote is thumbed to the right channel, all will be forgotten and forgiven. What is more, not only do they have Indian cricket’s masses under their sway by giving them their regular dosage of opiate entertainment, but they also rule over the best of the entertainers themselves by offering them the kind of compensation — per series — that an average Indian middle-class person is unlikely to take home as retirement benefit after 35 years of working life!
This tragi-farce has gone on for so long that I often end up, like E.M. Cioran, the Romanian philosopher and essayist, with 'an acute sense of absurdity [that] makes the merest action unlikely, indeed impossible.'
Then why bother writing this column, you might ask. But as absurd as things seem, and as Sisyphean as the endeavour might appear, we have to believe that things can, and will, get better.
For, if we didn’t, a game which brings enjoyment to so many in this country for all the right reasons — let us, for the moment, forget the few to whom it offers pleasure for all the wrong reasons — and unifies us as Indians in exalted moments of shared experiences, might mutate into a horror show that we might be forced to endure because of its faint resemblance to the one that we actually fell in love with.
We can never forgive ourselves if we let that happen. The Board of Control for Cricket in India might see the events of the past few weeks and months as mere irritants that would disappear in time. But, to the game’s die-hard fans, these are rare opportunities to hold men in power to account without allowing the scandals to die out with a feeble fizzle, as they often do.
So, what can be done to clear the stink? For one thing, visionary senior/retired players can get together and form a federation which can provide nuanced solutions to problems facing the game in the country.
Certainly their voice will be better heard than those of the average fan. But fans themselves, including the Indian diaspora, can use social media tools to form a forum — Indian Cricket Fans’ Association.
Cooperation of this kind has never been easier than it is now in our all-seeing, all-knowing digital age. And we don’t always need to speak in one voice to clean up Indian cricket and democratise its administration.
Change entails dissent, and without dissent there can be no real progress. Surely, we will disagree on a few things. But so long as we are agreed on one thing — that cricket administration in India must emerge from the dark ages to the new millennium in its style of functioning — then we are already off the mark.