In Search of Consequence

World Cup

Deep into the woods, in the faraway lands of Cricketing Memory, where the trees still proVivvide shade to the humble explorer, a merry band of men flits around the fire, trading parables of a time that was. The oldest of the lot, an awkward sloth named Relevance looks into the mid-distance of obscurity as he recalls the glorious sunshine that graced that exquisite day. The day when trundlers with odds stacked 66 to 1 against them, claimed the world and made a nation devoid of fairytales, believe in magic again.

“There isn’t much that I remember from that day, he labours to say, Apart from that man with the irrepressible swagger, the wise wizards used to say that he was sent by the Gods themselves. He could actually pull off the front foot, drive on the up and hit you over you over your head with a horizontal bat and he did it all while it seemed that he’d rather be somewhere else; an actual battlefield, maybe. The gathering nodded in fervent agreement. Lord knows what curse befell upon him on that day, they all said. He seemed as imperious as ever but the hostility of destiny proved beyond his majestic prowess.

In the farthest corner of the gathering, a young boy who had as yet been uninterested in the stoic nostalgia of the elders sniggered into the post-conversational silence. The talk of heroes had finally caught his attention becaJontyuse they always fascinated him, he always remarked at their ability to transcend from fact to fiction to folklore. The snigger had the desired effect, all the heads turned towards him in unison. They used to say that 75% of earth is covered by water, the rest is covered by Jonty Rhodes, he said.[1]  Such was the power of the comment that it even drew chuckles from the trees and leaves who had thus far listened in dignified silence. Thus began an evening of revelry, of stories of a tournament that had shown the world that a tie could hurt more than a defeat and that a six is as much of a scoring shot as it is a defiant cry of war against the fastest bowler in the world.

As the affair drew to a close, each one ran out of stories to tell and with great sadness the gathering finally acknowledged the elephant in the room, no one had found anything eventful in the last 4 years. They remembered the last world cup as a fulfilled prophecy but beyond that there wasn’t much to write about. Life had changed drastically in the world of cricket, new rules meant that equality of skill had now been declared illegal, sacrificed at the altar of a flawed understanding of sporting commerce. Turning bowlers from actors to props at the biggest stage had been Sachin-2003deemed fair by the big guys, the kind who ran conglomerates, denied corruption and fought legal battles over conflicts of interest. With all due respect to skill, the gathering still acknowledged that it found two double centuries in an arguably short ODI career hard to digest. The wisest of them all remarked that the double centuries should not be the number that should astound; the numbers that actually baffled were examples of bowling statistics. A bowler, who had taken 130 wickets at an average 25 before the new rules kicked in, had proceeded to collect 43 wickets at an average of 35 after. The two new ball rules had ensured that the same bowler who had averaged 20.9 in overs 36-50, now averaged 32 in the final fifteen.[2]Something is rotten in the state of Denmark”.

The optimistic among the band had taken to seeking fervour in the success of the underdog; they had found an island of euphoric moments in the barren lands of commercialism that ensured that cricketing neighbours played each other more often than actual neighbours met. Cricket had always had capitalistic ethos but its newfound cronyism was stuff that “99% protests” are made of. Of course, this was the state of the art before the announcement that the world cup was being converted into a strictly black tie event where only the top ten teams of the world shall be welcome, was made. The change seems entirely justified, who gives two hoots about heart-warming tales of sporting success of a war struck nation that is caught in the crossfire of political appropriation of religion and first world protectionist ethos? Who does? What? Did you say everyone? What have you been smoking?

Far away from the woods of Cricketing Memory, on the high rises of Mockery, the overlords of the game popped the champagne open for another edition, the one that would be remembered as the most successful world cup, its name would be written across currencies as the most profitable world cup ever. The love of the game would be exploited as though it were an allocated natural resource. There was hardly a doubt that loyalists will follow the game at all stages of work, they will talk about it on the crowded Churchgate bound train, try to stream it at work when they are sure that bosses weren’t looking over their shoulders (of course, they won’t be looking because they would be streaming the games on their own screens that are turned in the direction of privacy). The game shall be watched, eaten and breathed. All was well in the world of cricket.       

[1] Quote Courtesy: Siddharth Vaidyanathan, The World Cup, The One That Matters,

[2] Stuart Broad’s Statistics, Source: Andy Zaltzman, The World Cup Achilles Heel Report,

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