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Cricket: Entertainment or life and death

Rahul Dravid admitted that he thought cricket was all about net practice, team meetings, et al....


MIND GAME

FOURTH UMPIRE

April 1, 2006: Once again, the news agencies, and as a result the newspapers, have got it wrong. Their headline ran, 'Dravid bowled over by Bhimani's book'. Bhimani who? Well, the stalk-like guy with a wicked expression who provides comic relief during commentary when the Gavaskars and Shastris go for a cuppa. 

He, who goes visiting the cricket museums, pubs, and sometimes under water or on copters during major cricket tours. The male version of Mandira Bedi and Sandhya Mridul in Star. I think his first name is Gautam and he is the son of Kishore Bhimani, who used to be a commentator himself.

Rahul, who usually knows what he is talking about and therefore a pain to listen to most of the time, was expressing his studied surprise at the way the book, or rather the video presentation, made it look as if cricket was a lot of fun. He said that he thought cricket was all about net practice, team meetings, et al. 

Actually, he was hinting at the rather colourless lives led by international cricketers, however glamorous it might seem to the outside eyes. Of course, this writer is not forgetting the dazzling colour of money without which most would never have taken the trouble of playing the game or even following it with so much zeal. Much of the passion on display is a put-on.

Cricket correspondents would not agree but they may do so in private. Some of them have enviously toured the world but have seen little of it except for some cricket grounds and team hotels. Perhaps except a few who don't have to go to the grounds to report on cricket. 

Whoever reported the book release function thought Rahul was all Admiration for the latest tome. The skip in fact had his tongue firmly in his cheek. What he meant was, with so much at stake, one can't afford to take the game as a form of entertainment. When teams keenly compete, spectators are naturally entertained but it is not entertainment in the same way as a movie or drama is. 

The Indian captain has, to use one of the innumerable cliches associated with the game, a 'keen cricketing brain'. He was one of the few who took time off in Pakistan to visit some of the historic sites like Harappa. At that time he also mentioned that it helps to take time off the game rather than be always remain keyed up. But then, the fact is, even such breaks have to be well-planned to the last minute.

The one who made the cardinal mistake of treating cricket like Bollywood, and paid the price, is none other than Mohammed Azharuddin. The former captain definitely enjoyed his moments of privacy, shopping and so on and believed that cricket is a world of glamour and tried not to treat it as a ‘life and death’ situation.

Players were booed and ridiculed by the crowds quite regularly during the days when he led the team and he was heard to say that while the players were entertaining millions, it was unfair that they were rewarded thus. What he failed to realise that there was not much enjoyment in seeing the team lose and that too miserably. Once in a while, supporters are prepared to put up with it when the favourite team loses after a fight but only once in a while. It may be his conviction that the purpose of the game was mainly entertainment that led him to indulge in whatever he indulged in. And pay the price. But has he really? The way he is still sought out for autographs, whenever he surfaces in society, one is not sure of it either. But more about it later.

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