There was a time, long long ago, when I used to be a big cricket fan. I used to have Walter Mitty dreams of the Indian cricket selection committee coming home and pleading with my parents to let me play. "Madam, for the sake of our country, you must let young Narendra play" Umrigar would plead to my mother. "Sir, I can do nothing but appeal to you" Gundappa Vishwanath would say to my father, his eyes brimming with tears. "Sunil Gavaskar threatens fast unless Bombay Lad plays" the headlines would run. The visions would continue most agreeably- my parents acquiescing to a pause in my education. Me, pulverising the Pakistan bowling attack. Akram quitting in disgrace, having been hit for 20 boundaries continuously.
That history, sadly, was never written. For some reason, Umrigar and Vishwanath never made the pilgrimage to 8, Padmanagar. My biographers will grope in the dark to find satisfactory answers to this mystery. I'm not sure myself, though a certain reluctance on the part of the ball to have any significant contact with my bat might have been a factor.
All this actually is a round about way of illustrating my deep involvement with a game which I now consider to be a washout and a waste of time. I realize that this one statement has put me on the death list of many people and that the world is not big enough to hide me but hey, hear me out before you start oiling that assault rifle.
I was first put off when it dawned upon me that virtually all cricket matches are decided by one D. Ibrahim from somewhere in Karachi. His long range telepathic power is amazing. Whenever he so wishes, players find that they can't hold on to catches or make the crease in time or bowl to one's set field or whatever. Luckily for Ibby baby, there is a lot of money riding on these matches and thanks to his premonitions and telepathic powers, he always ends up winning tons of it. Just the other day, a West Indies player was taped having conversations with a bookie who was known to be a crony of the aforementioned Ibrahim. The investigating authorities soon declared that they did not have anything conclusive, that the concerned bookie had let for Dubai and thus was unavailable for questioning and that they were probably just talking about the weather. Ibby baby must have telepathically conveyed to the authorities news of impending accretion to their finances. Be that as it may, the fools are the public who insist on betting on something which is clearly stage managed.
Even more depressing is the thought that a mega-wimp team like the West Indies (population 3 to 4 million) has to be PAID to lose against India (population 1000 to 1200 million). Our players, in which all encompassing term I include part timers like Tendulkar and Sehwag who are patriotic enough to spare the country some time from their hectic ad-shoot schedules, are hyped to high heaven because everyone has a vested interest in doing so. All the companies who have invested multimillions in ad campaigns sponsor parties for journalists who compare them to Bradman and Richards - what a laugh!- and all the media guys are eager to do just whatever the advertisers tell them anyway because they are the meal ticket. Completely circular and self-serving and all the simpletons shuffling in and out of homes, offices, buses, trains and the selection commitee believe it to be gospel truth.
Still, there are a few redeeming features of modern cricket over the good ol' days. One, a lot of the cliches are gone. The don't seem to say "glorious uncertainties of cricket" anymore. I wish I knew who it was who had coined that phrase. He should be right up there with Shakespeare, Bob Dylan and Bill "I never had sex with that woman" Clinton amongst "the most quoted of our times". I have a strong feeling it is the immortal Narottam Puri who had managed to disengage the operation of his mind from the contents of his speech.
Another improvement is the presence of eye-candy such as Mandira Bedi who distract you from the fact that the game is a no-brainer, even though the 'expert commentators' are legally required to invest into every captaincy decision a deep strategic significance. Excuse me while I laugh, but cricket strategy is spending a sleepless night of deep thinking by the captain, coach and key team members and the next day, having seven men on the off side and bowling outside the off stump. Real deep! Tic Tac Toe has more strategic fine points than that!
All in all, I think cricket has become too pretentious. Too many are glorified for too little and it shows on the quality of the game. What used to be a gentlemanly pastime has degenerated into a soap opera. I cant pinpoint any one reason why it sucks but then I cant pinpoint any one reason why "Kabhi Saas Bi whatever" sucks. It sucks.