The game of cricket is confined to Britain and its erstwhile colonies. The one legacy the colonies bear cheerfully but have also excelled in. For many decades it was Australia. Australians were virtually unbeatable in playing cricket and in the art of sledging. Sledging is a term referred to acts designed to irritate and do things to get the batsman of the opposing side to lose concentration and throw away his wicket. This is a specialty of close in fielders especially the wicket keeper. Sledging identified, as some wit put it, the hallmark of progeny of erstwhile prisoners who colonized Australia! Words like,’ you want to sleep, there are better places’, when the batsmen went run less, or ‘now you can think’ when the ball thrown at the batsman hits the head [though covered with helmet]can disturb any batsman and sensitive Indians were particularly prone to this some decades back. Now I believe they too have become experts and have taken to saying so in Hindi which the hapless Australians don’t understand and worse likely to misunderstand as it happened between two volatile players, the Australian Symmonds and Harbhajan Singh the Indian. What Harbhajan said to Symmonds in Hindi was ‘Theri Maaki……’ [Your mother’s]. Symmonds heard it as you are a monkey! The two came to blows and the umpires had to intervene. The Sardar [Harbhajan is a Sikh] is not by any means a handsome fellow but Symmonds has some simian features which added color to the misunderstood ‘theri maaki!’ Good it was misunderstood as the Hindi curse has worse connotations. In the enquiry that followed, the venerable and much respected Tendulkar who heard the altercation was hard put to explain the meaning! I believe our own skipper M.S.Dhoni is a sort of expert sledger behind the wickets.
Every three years a cricket extravaganza is held and it goes by the name World cup. Over the years India has taken over as the prime promoter and Indian companies spend mind boggling amount of money on promotion. The centre of cricket and the power is slowly and steadily moving Indiawards. Going by the record crowds that attended the first match yesterday, which was a practice match and therefore does not really count, we are in for a crazy period of six weeks. Incidentally India won! 30.000 cricket fans paid through their nose for the privilege of seeing the two sides fling a ball 600 times at each other! [It is not as simple as that]
When the Britishers left India it was a complete severance. Unlike in other countries where many stayed back, In India and Pakistan none stayed. This is indeed a surprise, so alienated were they from the locals, that they had no options but to leave. The first Englishman who opted for Indian citizen was a defrocked priest called father Vernier [read the famous and well written and researched biography on father Vernier by Ramachandra Guha]. But many of their habits and institutions survived. The game of Cricket is one such. The other is our clubs. In most of urban India there are these bodies where in friends [members] gather mostly to drink in private [not really wholly true]. These clubs have their own archaic rules. Till recently one of these in Bangalore, did not allow women to become members! Even now you cannot enter some clubs in comfortable Kurta and Pajama’s. If you go in a Lungi, it is possible that an elderly member clad in suit will suffer a heart attack.
Cricket caught on like wild fire. It suited us very well. We are an over populated country with a large number of partially or fully unemployed. These found it great to spend time five days watching this game. Those days there were no limited overs cricket which ended in six hours. They could sit back relax, sleep and do nothing in keeping with our national character.
With money and new found affluence this pastime has become a monstrous obsession and addiction and the newly rich cash cows are hell bent on making all of us slaves to this game.
Sadly it includes your truly!