Players doing laps of the ground in a rickshaw. Boom Boom and Tuk Tuk smiling away together in the stands. Noisy crowds. Quirky terms like #CricketKiHalalala and my personal favourite, the Giggly Boom Boom award. Big hits. Yorkers. Nail biters. Celebrations.
The Independence Cup in Lahore was the biggest cricket party of this month. It’s hard to remember a series that was as competitive but played in as good spirits. Everyone around the globe who had cricket in their heart had a smile on their face watching the events unravel at Gaddafi Stadium over the course of this four-day-long abbreviated tour.
Gaddafi stadium has lit again
It’s often said that the cricket-playing nations of the world are like a family. Since very few nations play this game (or at least the test cricket version of it), the family watches out for each other. When cricket fans in Pakistan were deprived of an international game for 8 years, the whole cricketing family was eager to help out. The team that turned up to play in Lahore had representation from almost all test playing nations, barring one giant-sized exception.
Indian players aren’t allowed to attend any of the T20 parties that now happen frequently around the world. They are conspicuously absent from Big Bash, Natwest T20 Blast, CPL, PSL, Ram Slam, or anything else that the BCCI doesn’t directly make money from. As a result, while players from around the world rub shoulders with each other throughout the world, Indian players get to do it only during the IPL season at home.
World XI had representation from all major test playing nations, except for India
BCCI has a justification for its behaviour. The organization sees itself as the breadwinner of the cricket family and the IPL as the family cash cow. It has so much money invested in that cash cow that it ends up becoming paranoid about losing its value, hence this protectionist attitude over it. They don’t want to dilute the value of IPL by letting Indian players showcase their skills everywhere in the world. It’s questionable whether BCCI gains anything out of this, but Indian cricket certainly loses.
The independence cup wasn’t just a party though, it was a show of solidarity. To go back to the family analogy, this was a get-together to celebrate the house renovation of a temperamental uncle who has been struggling with illness lately and India ended up looking like a long-lost rich cousin who is too cool to be there. Instead, he is waiting for everyone to turn up at his own house party. Everyone but the same temperamental uncle, of course, because some folks in his rich new neighborhood don’t like him much.
Everyone in the cricket family loves BCCI for the money they bring to the game and they all want to be a part of their greatest (invitation-only) cricket party on earth. As the league grows from strength to strength, one must stop and wonder if, in all the noise and hype of the IPL, is Indian cricket maybe losing its common touch, and perhaps a few friends? Remember the Great Gatsby? They all loved him at his parties but deserted him at his funeral. BCCI doesn’t want the cricket community to consider India a rich outsider. At the end of the day, cricket is just a game and no matter how much you have riding on it, it’s not meant to be taken too seriously.
Everyone loves IPL for the money they bring to the game
"Indian players have a very tight international schedule to participate in so many games all over the world" is a lame excuse that is sometimes peddled as a justification for BCCI’s blanket ban on players exhibiting their skills freely across the world. Didn’t India just squeeze in a needless home test and ODI series against Sri Lanka as a gesture of goodwill for their support at ICC meetings? Surely even the Indian fans would have been happier seeing some of their players in the World XI team rather than watching another meaningless India vs Sri Lanka non-contest.
Given India’s cricketing riches, BCCI doesn’t even have to start with letting their contracted players or the first choice squad go and play freely anywhere they want, anytime they want. Someone who can’t get a place in the squad as of now like Yuvraj Singh, can still be a massive crowd puller anywhere in the world, including Pakistan.
Cricketers want nothing more than a chance to play as much as they can. They know they have a short career and want to get the most out of their bodies while they are young. It was curious to note how Indian selectors declared that Ravichandran Ashwin has been rested, and the very next day he was off to Worcestershire to play county cricket.
BCCI declared that Ravichandran Ashwin is rested and the very next day he was off to Worcestershire to play county cricket
Playing against Pakistan and playing in Pakistan is a special case for an Indian cricketer, of course. A sizeable section of the political establishment on both sides of the border doesn’t want our people in general, and our cricketers and actors in particular to mix. Add to that certain sections of the media that start shouting at the top of their voices about bans and boycotts as soon as they hear India, Pakistan and cricket in the same sentence. But is any of this new? Media is just more ubiquitous and louder these days than it was 20 years ago when India and Pakistan could play cricket against each other and in each other’s country.
“Certain sections of the media would start shouting at the top of their voices and talk about bans and boycotts as soon as they hear India, Pakistan and cricket in the same sentence.”
The media and political shenanigans are only a precursor to cricket in our part of the world. As soon as the cricket starts, even the detractors are glued to the TV, albeit in the secrecy of their living rooms. Cricket is a healer for the two nations, cricket alienation only accentuates our pains.