Assuming and accepting the difference between cricket and other sports in the country, the cause and effect in both are not too different from one another.
A dip in a country's sporting fortunes is expected. Perhaps, even taken for granted. What isn't though is a complete and comprehensive humiliation. For Indian sports, the last month has been a low that can even have the most marginalised or boycotted country sit up and feel all isn't all that bad.
Emotions generally run high here as does the comfort drawn from maintaining status-quos. In the realms of Indian sports - cricket or otherwise - it is generally believed that what prevails, should prevail regardless of the degree of ineffectiveness, embarrassment and/or controversies. What better way then than to explain why huge defeats and massive scams have both not been reasons big enough to dole out severe punishments, not yet anyway. The natural progression of what happens post-defeat here is: criticism, analysis, minor tweakings, small victories over to more defeats, criticism, analysis. Once in a blue moon, if a major win does come by, the progression differs, albeit slightly: blind praise, money, blind praise, money, blind praise...till defeat, criticism, analysis takes over.
Indian cricket is seen by most to be on a pedestal with all other sports being made to bow down in awe whenever it descends to the playing field - that, by the way, is roughly all through the year. The fact though is that Indian cricket mainly differentiates from Indian boxing, Indian shooting, Indian archery etc in terms of fan-following and therefore media focus, only. There are a number of similarities too which always skips the naked sense's attention. These are, broadly put:
1) Huge praise in victory. Scathing criticism in defeat: To elaborate, when Indian athletes won medals in London, they came back to be treated with cars, money, more medals and honourary degrees. Where was all of it before? Same with Indian cricketers after the successful World Cup. Where were the endorsement deals when the Ranji century was scored or the fans for Duleep trophy battles?
2) Masses forget, each time: When was Vijay Kumar last mentioned in a tweet or a facebook comment? He is the same shooter who won an Olympic silver a few months back. Similarly, when India beat England in the ODI series at home, who cautioned and reminded others of their over-seas defeats? Consistency probably is as inconsistent in cricket or hockey fans as it is on the cricket field or the astro turf.
3) Paranoid to change, stubborn enough to hold on: Federation chiefs here have held on to posts for decades. Regardless of their good or absolute lack of work, they refuse to leave when most their age elsewhere prefer their afternoon gardening sessions and smoking pipe. Quite similar to some of our cricketers here. While still not old enough to smoke a pipe, they also are not really at the prime of their age to dive or run the third when there are just two. They may have been superstars. They may still be. But what they certainly aren't are demi-gods above the game who are in the right in keeping the younger talents at bay - whether sportspersons or administrators. Resigning is not always the best solution but in the face of consistent turmoil, sometimes it is a viable option.
Legends do not come and go but the character that sports builds does not require them at all times in the first place. See, there is a fine line between prodigies and conservatives. When the former becomes adamant, he or she becomes the later - someone who refuses to adapt, change and move on.
Cricketer, boxer, athlete or politician, administrator, bureaucrat or fan, spectator and citizen - no individual is above the sport itself and no sport is above the country. The trend then in cricket is a trend in sports and a general trend slowly imbibing within the country - in us. Being intolerant and impatient for results is one extreme but being overly passive or forgetful is the other. Mature, responsible change cannot be that much of a bane now, can it?
Note: The views expressed above are solely of the author and not necessarily of NDTV
Story first published on: Tuesday, 11 December 2012 19:00