Is Politics a part of Indian Cricket or is Cricket a part of Indian Politics?

Is Politics a part of Indian Cricket or is Cricket a part of Indian Politics?

5 minutes read

Irony. Irony is hysterical, especially for those who understand it.

Circa 2006. Talks for a global Twenty20 event were still in the budding stage and BCCI, particularly Niranjan Shah, very promptly ridiculed it by saying “Twenty20? Why not ten-ten, five-five or one-one? India will never play Twenty20” In retrospect, it seems very ironical and we all know why. Niranjan Shah is now credited to bringing an IPL franchisee for Rajkot, Saurashtra (Gujarat Lions) – his hometown.

BCCI, driven by dissent, decided to not send a team for the 2007 World T20. The decision was ephemeral, as BCCI, for their salient motives, decided to field a team for the event. A fortnight later, India lifted the World Cup, only its 2nd ever ICC World Cup – a Cup they didn’t even care about participating in a month earlier.

The biggest irony is that the reason for which India was sceptical about T20 in the first place is the very reason for which India Cricket agreed to be metamorphosed into this ugly form we see today. Politicians, who were kept on a sideline for so long by the masculinity of the game, now sniffed an opportunity.

While everyone basked in the victory, fans and players alike, there was a chain of spontaneous events happening – events that would change cricket forever. A man named Lalit Modi saw this as a perfect opportunity to make his dream of making BCCI a $1 billion organisation into a reality. Amidst all the drama surrounding ICL and BCCI opposing it, Lalit Modi gave birth to IPL. Lalit being a business executive and whatnot, decided to bring in the corporate world into this whole
shebang.

Is Politics a part of Indian Cricket or is Cricket a part of Indian Politics

I believe this turned out to be the turning point in World Cricket. Corporate started pouring in money into this league called IPL and monetised each and every aspect of cricket. In fact, each and every new component introduced via IPL could be brought down to moneymaking. Talk about ‘strategic’ time-outs, apparently not so much cricketing strategies as much as advertisement strategies.

Corporate always does this. They manipulate people and what they like by providing them with something they never knew they needed. Mass population got hooked onto this cash-rich extravaganza, which fuelled the desires of the corporate world and BCCI alike. Frankly speaking, I fail to see the difference between BCCI and the corporate world now.

Suddenly, politicians found a stronghold in the daily affairs of cricket management and introduced policies derived from a political ground. The innate nature of cricket was imploding, defragmenting at the best. Cricket fanatics realised this. Unfortunately, these fanatics were handful, powerless and consumed. These fanatics were filled with fear – fear that their beloved game is going to be consumed in currency, politics and this struggle of power.

BCCI found a strong foothold in ICC too; their foothold was backed by the money they possessed – money that ICC found lucrative and worth succumbing to. BCCI started opposing the use of DRS in cricket matches and continued to oppose it till late 2016. Powered by money and shrewd executives, BCCI started to dominate and continues to dominate ICC and cricket at large.

The emergence of the Big Three was probably the last nail on the coffin for the tradition of cricket. The Frankenstein monster had emerged, a monster we created. But the power bearers could care less. BCCI could care less. And more disturbingly, the ‘fans’ could care less. As the focus shifted onto money making, issues like increasing thickness of bats, shorter boundaries and fielding restrictions went unnoticed. This is the ugly face of this monster.

In the decade-long history of IPL, never has an auction been postponed. But, in 2017, where the role of politics in cricket is very ripe, we saw the IPL auction being postponed as a reason of the ongoing struggle of power between BCCI and the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India. This might sound trivial and not noteworthy but believe me, it has long-term impacts. The fact that the timing of emergence of corruption, malpractices and vices in cricket coincided with these hormonal changes in the structure of cricket is no mere fluke. The seeds for this were probably sown in “someone’s” mind long ago.

Another irony that took place was as recently as 4th February 2017. This time though, BCCI was at the receiving end. ICC isolated BCCI, which is consumed in its own domestic turmoil. Don’t hurry to breathe a sigh of relief as this Game of Thrones (excuse me for the reference) has not come to an end. It probably never will. By this time, most in the cricketing fraternity realised that BCCI can and will oppose anything that is for the betterment of cricket and bad for them (yes, these 2 events are mutually exclusive). BCCI will even oppose the rising of the sun if that would mean more benefits for them.

Who suffers? At what cost? And why? There is no rational explanation to these questions. The harsh reality is that there never will be. Politics has so significantly cemented in Cricket that to banish it would require something of an apocalyptic nature. There was no need of politics or political beliefs to enter cricket in the first place, yet it did.

Yes, change is good. Yes, growth is good. Yes, progress is good. Yes, T20 is good too. But, is it really worth all this? I recall a quote, which perfectly fits here – “Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell.” Growth should be meaningful, harmless and not self-destructive; everything the above growth is not. These are the times that make me wish that there were a rollback. There is hope – hope that one day Cricket will return to all its might and glory, even stronger. A time when Cricket will be resistant to all these vices. And let us believe that it will, for Cricket is a game we all love; and deep down, a game we all respect.

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