Saturday, April 28, 2007

International cricket has lost its soul

Malcolm Speed, chief executive of the International Cricket Council(ICC) commenting on the mysterious death of Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer, said: "We must demonstrate that cricket cannot be put off by a criminal cowardly act."

Woolmer an outstanding former player and a devoted coach was found dead in his room, under suspicious circumstances the night after his team was unexpectedly knocked out in the first of the World cup at Caribbean.

This was a sordid crisis for international cricket against the background of past incidents of match-fixing which is a huge illegal industry in the sub-continent.

Speed's comment quickly was echoed by other pundits who claimed, "the games must go on." These words seem rather hollow when you consider that Woolmer was one of their own and ICC does share a collective responsibility.

Cricket used to be the gentleman's game which is reflected in the white attire that players wear for the longer version of 5-day test matches.

The game has now been corporatised to attract big money between competing nations in the limited overs series of the one-day games. For these limited-over games players don the colours of their national flags and the game is played evoking national pride.

Free market capitalism now drives a vast machinery over the simple pleasure and joy of playing the game. The genteel nature of the game's tradition has been replaced by the greed for making huge profits from sponsorship and merchandising.

The International Cricket Council (ICC), the sports governing body has announced that the sale of sponsorship rights for the eight-year period starting after the completion of the current World Cup in Caribbean is expected to bring in $500 million on top of the $1.1 billion for the sale of broadcast rights to ESPN-STAR Sports.

With more one billion fanatical cricket fans, The Board of Control for Cricket in India, or BCCI, is richest sporting body and one of the richest sports team or body in the whole world.

The over-reaction to the Indian cricket team's early elimination from the World Cup after its defeat by Sri Lanka has been so gross that one must worry about the future of that sport in India, with all its identifications with national self-esteem, honour, and its numerous connections with media exposure, advertising, corporate sponsorship, and not least, gambling.

The Indian players, once elevated to the status of demi-gods, have suddenly become demons, devils, villains, and worse, traitors.

This cricket obsession isn't natural or spontaneous. It has been systematically cultivated or manufactured through multi-billion dollar marketing, sales promotion and advertising.

In India, cricket is more than a national pastime, it is a fanatical obsession of millions, a few die-hard fans would rather die than see the humiliation of their team being knocked out .

Indian top star players make millions of Rupees a year for endorsing products ranging from shoes and cosmetics to foods and drinks.

Big Corporations invest in everything, from cricket-related ground events, trophy tours, consumer promotion and glamour shows. The all-pervasive, predatory and manipulative influence of corporations in cricket wouldn't have become possible without ICC turning this beautiful game into a profit seeking giant.

Even in the world cup at the Caribbean this time, most of the games had half filled stadiums as the price of tickets was set too high. ICC didn't quite figure out how to set ticket prices to attract more supporters in a contest that maintains a four-year cycle. For the fans this world cup is a huge disappointment, but it appears ICC is pleased that it has made money nevertheless.

1 comment:

shafraz said...

you're right.And to add to it,what happened at the end of todays game woudn serve ne good to intl cricket. it just reflected the poor organization of crickets governing body. I think cricket needs some dramatic changes, especially to reduce the extent to which d results r dependant on luck than the skills of d players itself,(such as d toss) i think d big problem is that an innings is just too long and conditions change thru out d day dramaticaly resulting in one of the teams ending up at d bad side of things. perhaps,in ODI's, 2 innings of 10 or 20 overs would help to even things out.