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Sunday, March 26, 2017

Paradise Lost

The soliloquy from the lips of one my dear and near one was a clear signal of a disturbed mind. So disturbed was he that the words 'That I am meek and gentle with these butchers' uttered in a Shakespearean drama seemed to resonate with his dilemma. There was palpable tension in the air; his calm demeanor had been ruffled and it looked as if he was going to let slip the dogs of war to avenge some atrocity committed in the name of a game – That he was sitting in front of the television gave me the cue. He personified the anger of Antony of the Julius Caesar fame.

If Antony's anger had found shape in one of my dear and near ones, his words had found shape through a novel - The Dogs of War. Forsyth's mercenaries had stolen the thunder in the eponymous film giving a peep into their occupational tradecraft. It was out and out a mercenary affair.

If we presume that all mercenaries are hired, recruited by contractors, we would only be clutching at the wrong end of the stick. In reality, not all those soldiers of fortune hurl bombs for a cause, fire away with their machine guns. There are some who are sold and bought in auctions. These are mercenaries who hurl balls at you at 140 kph. There are mercenaries who fire sixes with their bats. That's the new breed of mercenaries hitting the headlines now and again. This jolt to their iconic status is the result of the tectonic shift in the war-waging zone – Cricket field.

These mercenaries score big grosses in the twenty-twenty stomping ground called IPL. That’s the only bright spot in an otherwise painful and excessively extravagant drama. The grotty promoters of this cricket-is-only-entertainment episode let their incendiary idea loose for a start – Bring Knights of the Hammer to connect the Knights of Cricket and the franchisees.  Preposterous is the word that I am searching for as would the satire-king Wodehouse for the right word on many occasions.

The newscaster who was chirping about the auction episode had done his part to send the dear one on a rage-trip. The hammer had been brought down for 2017. The scribes and the reporters screamed in unison - Hammer prices soaring as high as the sky in the IPL auction 2017. What stuck in the craw was how the big-money deals were turning out to be the music to ears, as if the deals were doing the game a great favor. What filled the ear drums were terms like ‘bought for £1.7 million’, ‘bought for 3 crores’ and ‘Expensive buy’. For a moment, the dear one was left aghast thinking he had tuned into a Sotheby’s auction.

This certainly was not a momentous occasion for me to join the IPL choir and sing from their hymn street -- A dastardly deed from the house of IPL demeaning and degrading the stars of the cricketing world had left me cringing in despair. The livewire to mere livestock-like treatment was disheartening. Livestock auction markets would have exhibited better empathy, but our toffee-nosed administrators and BCCI rulers remained glued to bovine stupidity.

The captivating account, if at all it was one, was about men being treated like caged cattle. It was a case of how pandering could besmirch the game; how monstrous miscarriage of justice could be delivered without batting an eyelid - The stars who were lionized were ionized to mere inanimate things - diabolical treachery in my opinion. No amount of apologies can appease the ruffled souls.

These are parlous times when pointing fingers at such cranky behavior will make you look like a member of the lunatic fringe. That in any way doesn’t stop the volcanic emotions erupting at the thought of doormat treatment being meted out to cricketers, the step motherly treatment to the sons of cricket. If utopian cricket is what you see in cricket as utopian, the very snobbish act in the name of cricket is one that is far from being utopian, in my eyes.

This disquieting trend calls for immediate remedy. Bucketful of cash for the filthy treatment heaped on players can never be the anodyne that you think it is. We just can't resort to a band-aid on bullet-hole measures. That wouldn't do any good to repair the tarnished images of the poster boys of cricket.

Let’s wind the cricket clock back to the times of Neville Cardus. Let’s fill our ears with his cricketing wisdom to resuscitate the sagging spirits. For all that, what still remains relevant even at this hour of disgrace is the love for the game epitomized by Cardus from the lines he etched out - “The laws of cricket tell of the English love of compromise between a particular freedom and a general orderliness, or legality.” Had Cardus still lived to let his pen to do the talking, had he come to know of the compromise made today, his thesarus' worth of expletives would have scorched our souls.

English love of compromise, my foot cried the IPL predators that made the English compromise look like a teeny-weeny in front of a monster parading as a father-figure. The temperature in the cricketing fraternity, as I can see it, isn’t rising, it does within people who repulse the thought of players being reduced to inanimate objects. The muted indifference of cricket stars doesn’t augur well for the game, or for the image they have been carrying for so long. Has the cricket community thrown the word ‘dignity’ out of the window?

Saner actions and not auctions can bring a semblance of dignity. This hour demands a system that treats cricketers as human beings, if not restoring them on the pedestal they deserve.  When helmets stormed the cricketing arena to protect batsmen, can’t there be a way to protect the players’ dignity?

There could be. What pops out of my mind are words like ‘Package’ ‘Offer’ and ‘Team Selection’ that can restore the human touch. What doesn’t strike me is the alternate to this satanic auction. So what?

When devious minds thought of colored clothing for the white flannels, floodlights for sunlight, circles within circles in the cricket ground, the rise of a saner thought is not far away. 

Sport in one form can inspire sport in another. This can’t be farther from the truth when this dicey situation begs a remedial measure. European soccer clubs seem to hold the answers for this IPL cul-de-sac. Soccer clubs contract individual players like how organizations hire employees. When the contract ends, the player is free to be hired by other clubs. Only when there is will, will there be a way.

The English poet Milton scripted the Fall of Man in his epic poem. IPL has glorified the Fall of the Cricketer. There was just the forbidden fruit to orchestrate the downfall of Adam and Eve. There are so many bad apples tarnishing the many Eden Gardens of cricket. It was the Satan entering the Garden of Eden to spew the evil influence; it is the satanic auction that has poisoned the very nature of the game and the men associated with the game.

Cricket’s paradise is lost.