What Is It About Cricket
Chances are you think the title will conclude with the words “that turns me on?” But pray don’t be misled. I am not one of the million - err billion Indians for whom cricket is a religion. To me, cricket is a bane. Actually in a cricket-mad country like India, it would need a slightly unhinged person to write on this subject.
Just look around you. From narrow byelanes in the cities to open spaces in the high mountains, you can see cricket being played everywhere. Why then would I wish to tear this game apart? For a variety of reasons actually. Including my belief that it is one of the factors responsible for killing all other sport in India. Cricket drains resources from sponsors and the government, leaving other sports gasping for funds like fish out of water. And it is’nt just me that holds this belief. The President of the Indian Olympic Association has voiced similar views. .
So what else is it about cricket that I don’t like? I think it is one of the most wasteful sports ever designed. There are 22 players and two umpires. And only 5 or 6 at most are gainfully employed at any time. In terms of manpower utilization, the game is an absolute disaster. For the entire playing time, at least 9 of the 22 players (over 40%) are sitting twiddling their thumbs. Can you imagine any organization which harbours so many thumb-twiddlers? And in case we forget, cricket teams are organizations too.
Even during this playing time, the actual period of play may be as little as 10 to 20%. For the rest, either the bowler is walking back to the beginning of his runup (especially fast bowlers) or the field is being set or drinks are coming onto the field or the sidescreen is being adjusted or a streaker is being chased off the field or whatever.
Rather than the “glorious uncertainties of cricket”, let me refer to the glorious certainties – that at least nine men are sitting in the pavilion. That of the eleven men on the field, at any time seven or eight are walking around rather aimlessly I think, trying hard to portray a gladiator-like visage.
Then look at the loss in terms of spectator manhours. Compare it with say football or hockey and you will know what I mean. If you think of a five-day test match being played in a stadium with a capacity of 70,000 and 6 playing hours every day, it works out to a mind-boggling 2.1 million manhours. Perhaps close to 3 million manhours if you take into account the lunch and tea breaks and travel time to reach the stadium. I wonder what all one could do with that number of manhours at your disposal. As a comparison, a football match would take around 140,000 manhours – less than one percent.
As if that was’nt enough, how many manhours do you lose when one billion Indians think they are experts at the game? How many manhours are wasted in analyzing supposedly important decisions - whether the captain should have chosen to bat instead of field, whether this bowler or that should have been offered a chance to bowl and so on.
If you are familiar with the newer 20-20 version of the game and are watching the ongoing Indian Premier League in South Africa on TV, you will notice that when the camera is not observing happenings on the field, it is busy beaming footage of waving crowds. Just a few seconds on the cheerleaders, who I would much rather watch. They’ve got their priorities upside down. That’s another good reason.
Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins wrote a story titled “The Lazy Tour of Two Idle Apprentices” (italics mine) in which our hero is called, rather appropriately, I think, Thomas Idle. I quote below:
“ While Thomas was lazy, he was a model of health….Shortly after leaving school, he accompanied a party of friends to a cricket-field, in his natural and appropriate character of spectator only……At a certain appointed time, he was roused from peaceful slumber in a dry ditch, and placed before three wickets with a bat in his hand. Opposite to him, behind three more wickets, stood one of his bosom friends, filling the situation (as he was informed) of bowler. No words can describe Mr. Idle's horror and amazement, when he saw this young man - on ordinary occasions, the meekest and mildest of human beings - suddenly contract his eye-brows, compress his lips, assume the aspect of an infuriated savage, run back a few steps, then run forward, and, without the slightest previous provocation, hurl a detestably hard ball with all his might straight at Thomas's legs.”
When you look back to the origins of the game, it was played by the rich nabobs. It was never meant to be a game for Tommy or Dikshit or Hari to play. It should have been left to the likes of the maharajas, some of whom did actually excel at it. So instead of such unproductive waste, why don’t we just have a match between the two crickets below and call it a cricket match?
Now don’t me tell this article is’nt cricket. Vive le Football and Hockey !!! Slam bam thank you, Ma’am. Game over.