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Is It the Death Knell of Cricket?

By Santo
A Pakistan cricketer running for his life to seek asylum at London was the hot cricketing news that took the cricketing world by storm, as the broadsheets were filled to the gunwales with this sensational news a few weeks before. Whether or not the piece did the trick to increase the circulation of broadsheets is not the point I would like to ponder on, as there’s more at stake, and the game of cricket has been left in the lurch. Nothing short of a miracle can save cricket from the clutches of demoniac influences that has left the game in shambles. The game of cricket is touching new heights, for all the wrong reasons, and in the name of resurrection, the game wears a begrimed face, looking sullen, trying to get out of the gloomy future that looms large over the horizon, as the game has already lost its sheen and respectability. A pathetic end waits round the corner, and the wailing has begun.
Close on the heels of the Pakistan cricketer who took to his heels after receiving death threats was an Indian off-spinner’s praiseworthy performance, though not with ball, as he came up with stubborn back-to-back hundreds to reinforce his batting potentials. Though a laudatory message is in the offing, the critical side of the performance has also got to be viewed and weighed with concern. Has the bowling attacks all over the world lost the sting? Are they mere league-cricket bowling attacks that stand up and watch a bowling compatriot score runs at his desire?
At best, Harbhajan, who vies for the top spot for the best belter of the cricket ball, can be considered a pinch-hitting darling of the crowd. Now, Harbhajan seems to be inching his way to join the batting elites with this performance, for it is only the performance that matters, these days. The art of cricket is no more a concern, and there’s no nurturing of art, as results at all costs and at any cost seems to be the norm that rules this game. Ironically, bowlers no longer play the second fiddle to the lead; we are witnessing the reversal of fortunes that might not warm the cockles of many hearts in the bargain.
Though not a look-alike to be called as one of the two peas in a pod, Harbhajan’s predecessor in the spin department, Bishen Singh Bedi, hit the headlines quite often, as the Indian Express, a popular broadsheet of the bygone era had an off-the-rack headline to bring Bedi’s performance to light, which ran something as ‘Bedi Bags Five Wickets’, which was a common phenomenon for bowlers of the erstwhile era, who did their trick with the ball most of the times. Bedi was not too good, if not good with the bat, but the artistic fervor of this craftsman was too good to be sidelined, as was the case with the off-spinning greats, Erapalli Prasanna and Srinivasaraghavan Venkatragahvan.
These master craftsmen were habituated to unleash their magic with the ball. Erapalli Prasanna, with his loop and arc, with the pivotal turn of the foot at the crease, with the flight that beguiled many an accomplished bat, was blessed with immense talent, as his chief trait remained to be the off-spinning exactitude, and Venkat, who bowled his off-breaks with varying pace and length, and who relied more on the bite off the wicket had more aces up his sleeve, and both were top notch exponents of this art. Sadly, Harbhajan, one of the very few off-spinners in the country who deserves a mention, hasn’t blossomed as a craftsman, and rather has been hitting the headlines for the wrong reasons.
Long gone are the days, when I had watched the silky-smooth cover drives of Zaheer Abbas with mute acceptance, and there had been times when I was stunned to watch the charismatic Gower execute his short-arm pulls with such panache, that still refuses to leave the remotest recesses of my brains. There is no Viv anymore, and the Viv of his days was known to cut even the strongest of bowling attacks that comprised of Lillee, Thompson, Pascoe, Alderman and co to ribbons, and there is no Botham of course to turn the tides even when stark results were staring at the English team.
The cream of the crop encompassed more greats, who certainly had the flair and elegance to get bracketed among the top luminaries that this game cherished. There was the on-driving legend Greg Chappell, the fire-power quartet who formed the pace battery of the West Indian side, Roberts, Garner, Holding and Crofts, not to mention Marshall, who joined the fray at a later date, as there was also the man known as Barry, who unfortunately was left out of this arena owing to his country’s slipshod political practices, but had a name carved for himself in the annals of the game, and who is now enjoying his stint at the commentary box. Such talent eludes the cricketing scene, with the very rare breed of Sachin Tendulkar holding the forte for the nonce.
What has become of cricket? The star-fangled nights with near about strip dancing performances at the backdrop of the cricket field, that certainly sows seeds of doubt in the minds of spectators as to their preferences, cricket teams bought and managed by the tinsel town heroes as well as heroines, who, to the best of my knowledge cannot be blamed for their lack of cricketing prowess, but still stand at the helm of cricketing affairs, and twenty-twenty versions with stadiums packed liked sardines to witness pinch hitting, right from the umpire’s call of ‘play’ done to get the game initiated, bowlers who overtly throw their hats into the batsmen’s rings, and all other astonishing events that have converted this game to resemble a comic opera. A traditionalist will certainly be not averse to the thought of paying a visit to Baker’s street, in an effort to disturb the deep and eternal slumbers of Sherlock Holmes, who might have thought twice to investigate the reasons behind the avalanche of cricketing blunders that have already wormed its way to besmirch the game.
What do we fathom? Well, it will not be a long run when one can witness the Sharuhks and the Amitabhs wielding their willows to bring Kolkatta Knight Riders and Mumbai Indians out from a spot of bother in a twenty-twenty game. If it isn’t tainted as a cruel thought, there will come a time when ‘Pretty’ Zinta is forced to share the new ball with Irfan Pathan to clip the wings of the Chennai batsmen. Thoughts abound as one tries to get to grips with the present situation. This marks the nadir of cricket, as the game is wallowing in its own self-pity, to get released from the fetters of the commercially-maniacal organizers who have again used this game for wrong reasons. Cricket in no more the game as it was then known for, and the death rattle and the roar is neither too far away.

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