By Siddharth Srivastava
NEW DELHI: Indian cricket stars make a lot of money, recently reinforced by the IPL auctions. Yuvraj Singh will be paid Rs 14 crore, Dinesh Karthik will pocket a cool Rs 12.5 crore for a few weeks of effort on the field. The two are not even regulars in the Indian cricket team anymore.
Each minute on the field, runs scored will translate into lakhs of rupees spent by promoters, who obviously hope to make even more profits riding on India’s craze for cricket. Vijay Mallya, who bought Yuvraj, believes he will be able to fly high again riding on cricket. Priety Zinta believes IPL will provide some succor away from her dwindling Bollywood career.
No cricketer with even a remote possibility of being selected for the IPL wants to rest on his laurels or retire in a hurry. Kevin Pietersen (Rs 9 crore) is laughing all the way to the bank despite being sacked from the England cricket team on grounds not connected to merit. Whoever said intrigue is monopoly of BCCI, otherwise one of the world’s richest sports bodies.
Virendra Sehwag, however, wants to run a school, which is noble. But, then Viru has always been a little different from the rest. Indians interest in cricket cuts across class, caste, age, gender. It’s the kind of following any politician or political party could kill for.
Narendra Modi had to work hard for 10-years in Gujarat. Still, he is unsure about the middle class votes. Rahul Gandhi constantly speaks about the sacrifices of his family for generations. Still, the Congress is staring at defeat.
The IPL auctions offer a governance lesson too – just like cricketers it is only the open market that can determine the right price for India’s natural resources such as telecom spectrum or coal blocks. Not undercover allotments to crony capitalists that Arvind Kejriwal recently spelled out are the real destroyers of India. The former Delhi chief minister never ceases to surprise.
Just as one was beginning to believe he is a maverick who will drive any government to bankruptcy by extending unsustainable freebies, the Aam Aadmi leader recently revealed a new pro-business side. Kejriwal needs to learn from Sunny Leone and bare all, rather than confusing and frustrating his followers no end.
Will the Indian cricket bubble burst?
Not in a hurry. As long as the Indian cricket team continues to be a subcontinent bully, the followers will stick. The tag of minnows abroad will be forgotten after a successful domestic series. No point in blaming “obnoxious’’ MS Dhoni for holding the worst overseas record following recent failures in South Africa and New Zealand on the back of abject surrenders in England and Australia.
Any captain will be helpless so long as Indian dust-bowl pitches produce assembly line cricketers such as Suresh Raina, proficient in hitting sixes off balls that only remain below the knee pad. Such consistent bounce can only breed cricketers woefully inconsistent abroad on bouncy wickets.
Despite the match fixing controversies Indian fans believe games are mostly fair and competitive. Indian cricket has been lucky to produce personalities such as Sachin Tedulkar, Rahul Dravid, Saurav Ganguly and Sunil Gavaskar who played the game in the truest spirit.
This is unlike the general disillusionment with politics, where the corrupt and criminal often call the shots. Decisions are made for narrow political gains, for example the Tamil Nadu Jayalalithaa government recently deciding to release Rajiv Gandhi’s assassins or earlier the Congress at the Centre hanging Afzal Guru out of turn.
Further, no other team sport in India, that really draws the eyeballs, can challenge the supremacy of cricket in the foreseeable future. Indian hockey standards are poor due to lack of facilities and inept management. The team even failed to qualify for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Any under-19 school or college soccer side from Europe can whip our national team, under any conditions. Flashes of brilliance such as Saina Nehwal can only be minor diversions from the main fix. Cricket, Bollywood and Arnab Goswami will continue be India’s main entertainment options for some time to come.
(A former staffer with the Times of India in Delhi, Siddarth Srivastava is the author of An Offbeat Story, described by a prominent book critic as one of the most humorous and entertaining reality fiction novel by an Indian writer)