Eleven men ruined our Sunday. Maybe 22; but honestly, all that those Pakistani cricketers had to do was turn up on the field. The defeat hurt really bad. Our cricket team was proving to be such a terrific reflection of the aggressive fronts we have adopted in our political spheres – domestic and international.
Ideate a rhetoric and people nod their heads faster than you can snap your fingers. Name a topic and you have a million voices for and against; pick a demographic in any given medium and one silences the other. That’s the power of rhetoric. The wizened old men sound wiser while discussing our fine arts these days. Polity is the domain of the young, the brash and the arrogant.
Why just political, why not social, why not personal? Are you and I not more confident, louder, proactive today than before. A silent leader leads a silent crowd, and booming India is in no mood to keep her voice subdued.
And so we throng bars to watch cricket. Our stands lie empty during the most gruelling test matches. But name a bar on a smash-bang game day, and need I say more. And here indeed is what spoilt our Sunday, not because we lost a cricket match, but because we lost to our favourite rival. It’s okay to lose a game of cricket; it’s not okay to lose to Pakistan. We don’t watch cricket for the beauty of the sport, we watch it for the rush.
In India, cricket is a religion; it is also a game, but that’s before the emotional side kicks in. Hence, we play against the arrogant Aussies, entitlement-labled English, side kick Sri Lankans, boisterous Bangladeshis and petulant Pakistanis. Cricket is a passion worn on the sleeve; sports is a period you have in a class timetable.
We can twist the rhetoric: India mauls Pakistan in hockey. Field hockey is our national sport after all. Or so I thought and cried myself to sleep with the solace that we won 7-1 at hockey. But the haunting was yet to come. I dreamt of my school bully beating me up; he had a stance as ugly as Ijaz Ahmed and a gait like Inzamam. It was a Sharjah tri-series final all over again. He thrashed me like a Jadeja. I woke up sweating and screaming in bed and could only sleep again after a healthy dose of Virat Kohli memes.
There wasn’t really much cricket to watch that day; only one team played anyway. We watched the frenzy around the game. The blues and greens having a go at each other. It was the nationalist rhetoric of both nations manifested around a game of cricket, so much blood and strife encompassed in a few score six-ball overs.
TVs and the crowds around them waited for the realisation of our built up geopolitical frustrations, a pesky nuclear-powered neighbour that is a thorn in our side, much like an inexperienced Pakistani opener. And then our team failed to save face; save our face.
Some say there was money involved. I say the money pumped into the game, irrespective of whether from legitimate or illegitimate quarters, is exactly what draws us to the game. India is not a huge cricket market. India is a huge market. Pump in money and you get eyeballs. Why else is hockey the foster brother today? So we first squeeze all the entertainment we can from the game, however detrimental to our mental well-being that may be, and then discuss graft in the game; it, too, is just entertainment.
And the money is still there. So we remain cricket fans. Now there’s the Kumble fiasco to discuss. And that’s great for news; great potential for headlines. Good for cricket too; keeps the audience interested in sporting news during the offseason. Not to mention, it helps heal the bruises of our humiliation by our most hated opponent. But let’s not for a moment say we were ashamed of our brand of cricket, as poor as it was. What’s hurt is our pride, our arrogance. Pakistan on that fateful Sunday silenced us. And that’s really infuriating us.