(On the Cricket World Cup)
Cricket fever is once more gripping India, this time on the occasion of the World Cup. It is said that nothing unites India more than cricket: youngsters can be seen practicing on a makeshift pitch from the gullies of Srinagar to the fields of Tamil Nadu and during an India-Pakistan match, passions run high. It is even said that “cricket diplomacy” could help thaw the frost between Delhi and Islamabad, as table tennis contributed in the sixties to break the ice between China and the US – yesterday’s enemies, today’s friends.
Yet, both India and Pakistan should consider this: cricket is a colonial game, a leftover of the British empire. Cricket was taken up in the 19th century by rich, idle maharajas and upper class Indians, who wanted to look more British than the British and aped the English in whatever they did, whether it was hunting tigers, owning a Rolls Royce, or playing the “gentleman’s game”. It was never a sports of the masses. It is a pity that at Independence, both the Governments of India and Pakistan encouraged the playing of cricket. For this obsession of South Asians with Cricket has had catastrophic consequences on their national psyche.
Cricket is a game meant to be played in British conditions, in a cool weather on a green English meadow, with a few spectators shouting “jolly good” from time to time, while sipping lemonade. It is not a sports designed for a tropical country, where you have to stand for hours under a blistering sun, waiting for an elusive hard red ball to wheeze past you, while frenzied fans scream their approval or displeasure, or throw bottles on you when they are angry, which is often the case.
There is unfortunately a conspiracy between the Government of India and the big business corporations to inflate the importance of cricket, because they make so much money out of it. The amount spent by multinationals and national companies, for instance, on the pre-publicity for the present Cricket World Cup, is nothing short of shameful, in a country where basic necessities such as drinking water are badly lacking. It should also be said that Doordarshan, a television which even today has not been able to put its act together and emerge from its bungling amateurishness, has to bear a greater part of the responsibility for this sad state of affairs, because they are the ones who set-up the whole trend, cashed the dollars, while not caring to use these to upgrade their performance.
It is equally disgraceful that a player such as Sachin Tendulkar, however talented he is, endorses any product, from Coca Cola to cars, from electronics to foreign credit cards. As a sportsman of international standing, he should show some ethics, some sense of balance, in the choice of the products he associates his image with. Crores of rupees are spent on the artificial, tasteless adds for Coca Cola and Pepsi, who not only incarnate more than anything else American imperialism, but are also harmful drinks, which lead to obesity and chemical imbalance in the body. If only the profits of such multinationals such as Coke or Visa card would benefit poor Indians, but they mostly go in the pockets of American multinationals and a few rich Indians. Indeed, Sachin and Amithab Bacchan could be called the “prostitutes” of endorsements.
Cricket stifles all other sports. Because of the sponsorship and advertisement solely focused on cricket, much more deserving and physically harder sports, such as track and field, which require a lot more training and effort than cricket, are neglected and more deserving athletes get very little sponsorship and media attention. As a direct result, India’s world position on sports, considering that there are a billion Indians, is abysmal and nothing short of disgraceful. Instead of concentrating on cricket and hiring foreign coaches, the Indian Government could do well to use India’s greatest gifts to the world: hata-yoga, pranayama and meditation for the development, stamina and concentration of its sportsmen. With a little rigor, discipline and training techniques borrowed from the West, India would quickly produce outstanding athletes of world caliber in all disciplines. It is also high time that sports be taken off the hands of politicians and bureaucrats, who since 50 years have shamelessly exploited sports for their own selfish purposes and left in the mire it is now.
But as usual, we see that even the present Government, supposedly “Hindu”, is more interested in aping everything the West does, including cricket, at the expense of traditional Indian sports such a Kalaripayat, which gave birth to King-fu and Karate and is still widely practiced in Kerala villages. At a time where millions of Westerners practice meditation, when multinationals have included pranayama and hata-yoga for the relaxation seminars of their over-stressed executives, when many western sportsmen do use pranayama and meditation for better performance, it is ironic and tragic that these disciplines are not even taught in Indian schools, except in the Art of Living-run schools and institutes.
If they were, India would quickly produce children who will be not only rooted in their own culture, but who would naturally excel in sports, because they would possess a harmonious body and a poised mind. But of course, if such a move was initiated in India’s education system, there would be an outcry from India’s secular Hindu intelligentsia (whose only sports is bashing their own culture and civilization, a pipe in one hand and a glass of Scotch in the other) and from the Christian and Muslim minority that sports and education were saffronized. Saffronized ? Does breath have a religion ? Is not meditating on one‘s thoughts or watching one’s respiration, something that can be practiced by anybody – Hindu-Muslim, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi, or Christian ? And would it not help in sports performances, whether a Muslim cricketer, a Hindu high jumper, a Buddhist swimmer, or a Christian tennis woman ?
Panayama and meditation will also balance one’s mind, so that one’s behaves better on the field, becomes a more positive athlete, in the true spirit of Baron de Coubertin. It would certainly do South Asian cricketers (a few Indian cricketers have done the Art of Living Basic Course) a lot of good, because many of them are often spoilt brat, flying first class, staying in palaces and getting millions of rupees from endorsements. If only Indian cricketers would win! But nowadays they lose most of the time. It is high time that the Indian Government enforces a limitation on the number of international cricket matches played abroad and starts focusing a little more on other sports. India is lagging 30 years behind China and 50 years behind the West in most sports. Shame on you cricket, the destroyer.