Sunday, April 1, 2012

God of Big Things

SreeNair | 3:24 AM |
          Cricket,the mega sports of the time, lives in its plethora of records.Every turf where the event is staged ,by its unique gentility brings forth an action, which finds a birth in the stat-book.The protagonists and the spectators alike nurse the sublime romance with the record.
March 16 was such a day on which the subtle debates of all cricket lovers converged to one point- the great fete of mankind-the 100th ton of 'Ton'dulkar, the Indian maestro.The immortal tour- de- force shall repose on the petals of history unperturbed and unsurpassed.

Sachin was greatly relieved- having surpassed a moment that was treacherously tantalising .He did not cover up his sigh and minced no words to declare"I have to admit that I was relieved.This is now out of the way,and I can start a new chapter." Sachin is a free man now.
Suchin raised to the vertiginous heights was not playing.In fact he was outstretching himself against the scrutiny and the auditing exercise of his country men on his runs.He could not be enjoying but star-crossed as he was going extra miles to propitiate the intimidating expectations of the nation.He was laboring strenuously under great duress.Although he would be quick to respond in the negative.So what lies ahead? He quips with a blatent rejection of any thought of retirement."It is about enjoyment, about feeling motivated, about the desire to deliver and how passionate I feel about the game. I am madly in love with cricket. At this stage, I enjoy every moment.”
Indian psyche is like that.The 99 hundreds that danced in their heart seemed no more tobe a thing of joy but insignificant and nugatory.The struggle and stretch in the making were a nickel and dime job for the millions.This is the paradigm of the subcontinental psyche wherein we ignore the obvious.After a vociferous celebration of the century made in the last evening by a class batsman in the middle ,they rise up in the next morning with a scoreboard zero ,rapacious and clamouring for another ton from him,visibly unsatiated like an account keeper who straightens his accounts in the grocery shop.
Cricket is the glorious game of individual statistics.None cares whether India won the game or not.Every eye is fixed in the individual score.Whether India is thrown out of Asia cup after getting slighted and drubbed at the hands of a poor shot like Bangladesh ,is not a thing of great concern.But when Sachin tendulkar made it 100,Indians breathed the sigh of relief.
For the cricket bigots cricket is not a game but is the narcissistic indulgence in the ecstasy of statistics of their demi-Gods. Kanhai's falling speed shots,Viswanadh's enchanting squire drives,Kalicharan's half-cocked defense,VVS Laxmans unorthodox yet heart boggling obduracy to stay on the middle are not a thing of beauty.This sport is perhaps the only discipline in which a lay spectator's view sounds reliable far better than a skewed expert opinion.
Why do that happen?
“As modern sport has become global in scope it has largely lost its playful character and its professional practice has become both a global media spectacle and a serious and financially significant global business,” concludes sociologist Barry Stuart.
Sport’s tenets are no longer confined to the contours of entertainment, but vastly encompass trade, business and politics. Talent, speed and innovation are trans nationally accepted in sports as in business too. The cultural heritages whether books, food or sports – are stealthily appropriated from the real owners and effectively trans-marketed over television or the Internet. Barry Stuart writes “low common denominators, a cheap entrance ticket and immediate gratification are factors facilitating global dissemination.
The globalization of cricket though admittedly remains a chimera ,yet to consummately conquer the developed countries, has followed a non - familiar pattern of dispersion in its global coarse.The non-Western countries especially the former British colonies have begun to dominate and have taken control of the economics and politics of the game by the concentrations of the trinity -wealth, media, and marketing.Cricket has been so blatantly “Indianized”.The 20-Twenty TV friendly format of the game carved out by IPL has accentuated the popularity and added to it a sobriquet "the mass TV sport" ,completely renovating the way how it is organized, played, and watched all over the world.
The growth of The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), has been phenomenal.In 1983 when Kapils Devils snatched the World Cup , BCCI could not afford to host a good feast for the victorious warriors because it was really stifled with cash and had only Rs 2,00,000 in its coffers.BCCI is a club,originally registered under the Tamil Nadu Societies Registration Act,is now patronaged and run by industrialists and politicians. India's agriculture minister, Sharad Pawar, is the present president. BCCI, flush and froth with money,dominates the world cricket and calls the shots in international cricket. As per Forbes magazine the BCCI was worth $1.5 billion, Wales Cricket Board $270 million and Cricket Australia $225 million. The ICC was pegged much lower at $200 million. The others were Pakistan ($100 million), South Africa ($65 million), Sri Lanka ($14 million) and Bangladesh ($5 million). "
There are 10 full members of ICC, but in terms of revenue India contributes more than 70% to the game.The magazine wrote: "Most sponsorships and broadcast rights come from India, and Indian tours make foreign boards rich."
The BCCI has made dazzling money in the process. It collected $612 million from Nimbus Communications for the global media rights to all international and domestic cricket owned or controlled by BCCI to be played in India from 1 March 2006 to 31 March 2010. Later it sold its global media rights for one-day internationals (ODIs) at neutral venues (places like Abu Dhabi, Holland, the U.S. and Malaysia, where cricket is not very popular) to Zee Telefilms for $220 million. This contract runs up to March 31, 2010. The BCCI has also sold the kit sponsorship to Nike for $45 million for five years through December 31, 2010. The team sponsorship has gone to Air Sahara for $72 million. The board's income has crossed $1 billion. New Delhi-headquartered financial daily Business Standard estimates that it will get another $450 million from the sale of other rights, including hotel, travel and ground sponsorship.
          Yet one more hype to the Indian neo-liberal policies started in the 90's.According to reports, New South Wales and Victoria in Australia have already sold shares to Indian corporations for around 60 million dollars.
How did this dramatic transformation come about?
Cricket is largely an obsession of the sanctimonious middle-class and for the corporates,the middle-class is the thriving market. It is only a logical extension that cricketers should eventually transform in to the brand ambassadors of their products.The Indians are television addicts and the Indian corporates revel in spending a lot of money on advertising and are shrued enough to understand that Cricket is the best PR option for them.The visual Media has always been self assured about its prowess to opiate the Indian masses. Now separate TV channels are being dedicated to Cricket. It is said that 85% of the sponsorship dollars for the 2003 World Cup came from Indian businesses. quotes cricket journalist Robert Craddock "India is the home not just of the sacred cow, but the cash cow as well.The secret for other nations is to learn how to milk the cow, not to run scared into the next paddock when they hear a stray 'moo',"
Private money was ushered in to cricket through IPL and there had been a flood of money into the coffers of BCCI while other countries simply forwarded their players.
"It's a moment as big, if not bigger, than the Kerry Packer moment when his role resulted in one-day international cricket taking off and basically funding the development of Australian and world cricket for 25 or so years," Fox Sports quoted Peter Young, CA spokesman, as saying.
Money flowed into Indian cricketin a big way. For instance, ESPN Star Sports has won the audiovisual rights for ICC events from late 2007 to 2015 for $1.1 billion. This includes two World Cups -- Asia (2011) and Australasia (2015). There is more money coming ICC's way. Sale of sponsorship rights could fetch another $500 million. Companies like LG Electronics, Pepsi and Hero Honda, which have been sponsors for the past few years, may, however, take a second look after India's poor performance at this year's World Cup.
The Indian parliament’s Standing Committee on Finance has asked the Indian tax department and the Reserve Bank of India to investigate the finances of the Board for Cricket Control in India, the game’s governing body, and the IPL.A report by the committee submitted to parliament laments,the game is “embroiled in transgressions off the field”.
The Mumbai-based Board of Control for Cricket in India as alleged has been running the team highly paid like a "Bollywood production house."The pay checkIndia" calculation says that Sachin Tendulkar, India's veteran cricket player, earns some $30 a minute. India's highest-paid CEO, Mukesh Ambani of Reliance Industries, gets $10, and  superstar Amitabh Bachchan, $8. Ordinary people like Indian President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh get 3 cents and 1 cent respectively. These figures claimed to base on an Internet-based labor market research tool.Even if it sounds hypothetical, it goes without saying that India's cricket stars are dearly paid which makes one safely assume that Cricket in India is a booming business.
Neither cricket nor the players are the mischiefs.It is all in the dramatic shift that happened in the last two decades to the game.Cricket is a product driven by the dynamics of the rules and tantrums of the market.Globalisation has its spectre on this game too. Market forces dictate the rules and the game meekly submit to its pressure.
When the sport is shifted to the level of modern merchandise and the people in the game becoming the commodities ,more and more professionalism should rule the roost.When a star is branded for Rupees 100 crores for 10 years,he is not playing but exerting himself day and night to remain as a stake holder.The exuberance and the playful charrector,the central theme of the art, in the sport is denuded from the legatee and he remains a bunch of crap of the machinations of the outer world,however manfully he strives to defend.He distances from the finer things in that art.The players destiny is tuned in to the whims of the spectators.
Of course the nationalistic tint to the game is the prelude to this foray of finance in to the game which deserves to be examined sepearately and exclusively.The result the basic tenant of the sports-tobe playful- is driven out to the dark corridors of oblivion.
There is no room in a house for kisses with slammed doors and deplummed dreams.

....saw him playing on television and was struck by his technique, so I asked my wife to come look at him. I know I never saw myself play, but I feel that this player is playing much the same as I used to play, and she looked at him on Television and said yes, there is a similarity between the two...his compactness, technique, stroke production... it all seemed to gel! .......Sir Bradman on Thendulkar.


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