A mere four runs separated India from victory in the opening one-day international against Australia at Vadodara. However, those who have watched the game must know that it wasn’t such an equally fought battle after all. Australia looked to be in absolute control for around 90 overs until the astonishing heroics of Harbhajan Singh and Praveen Kumar brought the home team tantalisingly close to the target.
Even if we had managed to scrape through, a victory at Vadodara would have been possible just because of the efforts of the two lone warriors. In a team game like cricket, however, a victory tastes sweeter only if it is achieved through a collective effort as it augurs well for the future. Though I do not intend to demean the fabulous efforts of Harbhajan and Praveen in any way, it is just that Team India aren’t looking a well-knit unit anymore and the players seem to be taking defeat in their stride more casually than ever before.
The question of money taking precedence over national commitment has once again come back to haunt us. Since the advent of the Indian Premier League and subsequently certain other such lucrative T20 tournaments, there has been a raging debate on their impact and whether they would wean-away players away from national duty. Though it is really hard at times to believe how a sportsperson can put money ahead of the country, but the present state of Indian cricket certainly hints at that.
It hasn’t been long though that cricket lovers across the country felt a sense of unity and passion in the members of Team India when they went out on the field to represent their country. The famous huddle that you saw regularly after claiming every wicket of the opposition or accomplishing a big victory was a clear sign of that. The eleven members in blue clothes standing hand in hand not only inspired them to give it their all, but also instilled a sense of nationalism in the millions of people glued to their television sets at home.
The youth brigade, who is expected to take you forward, is sadly more inclined to making money than wanting to play for the country and act as its ambassador.
But the gloomy picture does not just end with all this. Cricket has, these days, become kind of uninteresting and monotonous. Gone are the days when people would skip schools and offices and stay hooked to their television sets on a match day, and one could spot the few people present on the relatively empty streets with radio sets placed firmly against their ears.
Those were the days of cheering for your country and the men who represented it on the international platform. One would never be able to associate the same kind of zeal and enthusiasm when cheering for a state team that may constitute players from any part of the world. Such type of cricket is merely for pure entertainment, just like a Hollywood flick that you can watch and forget almost instantly.
It doesn’t mean that entertainment is not good but what becomes a cause of concern is that too much of this entertainment may take the fun entirely out of the game. The ever-slumping television ratings of cricket matches in recent times are a testimony to the fact.
This latest threat to the very origin of the game has put ODI and Test cricket’s existence in jeopardy and calls for drastic measures to revive the sagging public interest in the game. The International Cricket Council needs to intervene and put a lid on the free flow of these leagues and do it fast if we want to see cricket once against become the uniting force for millions of people like it once used to be.