Thursday, December 25, 2014

Whose game is it anyway?

Well, Cricket is such a glorious game indeed but whose game is it at the end? 

Who is the ultimate owner? The organizers? The players? The fans? 

Whose game is it anyway?

Let's take a closer look at the 'stakeholders' in this game.

1. Batsmen
A lot of people say that it is a batsman's game. After all, in the subcontinent where it is the most popular game, people pay (sometimes through their noses) to see batsmen hit the ball out of the boundary. Almost 75% of children want to become batsmen in the sub-continent (my unsubstantiated gut-feel). A batsman, more often than not, is the most glorified player in cricket. (case in point Mr. Sachin Tendulkar) Everybody in India remembers the 6 sixes hit by Yuvraj in an over more than Chetan Sharma's hat trick (first by an Indian) in ODIs. In fact, a new format of T20 was invented purely for viewers and fans to see the fireworks from batsman's bat. 
It surely seems like it is a batsman's game, isn't it? 
Surely batsmen practice and practice and practice to get it right. Also, batsmen always get a split second to react or respond to a ball thrown at 140-150 kmph at them by the bowlers. So, without a doubt, what they achieve in their capacity to act in that split second deserves phenomenal applause and respect. Especially for those goddamn perfectly awesome drives, cuts and pulls that are just a pleasure to watch.

But let's remember, batsmen have NO room for error. One mistake and *poof*, you are gone, out. No second chances, none at all in that innings. You can bat and bat for hours with concentration but one small lapse and it is the end of the road. 
So while batsmen hog a lot of glory and work hard for it, this is an unfair game for them compared to what it is for the bowlers, would you think?  Is it really a batsmen's game then? 

2. Bowlers
Bowling is hard work isn't it? You run in, you try and hide the way you are holding the ball while throwing it, you have to ensure you don't overstep and hey, every ball must be perfect (as if you are Glenn McGrath!). If you bowl at pace or spin, you got to try and get the best way to bowl at your opponent batsman. And then, you are only as good as the batsman opposite you allows you to be! 
You fire in a delivery to the best of your ability and the batsman whose eye is set in simply drives you out of the boundary. All the hard work, the sweat, the dust, the heat and you are shown the boundary. Time and again. Also, if you have to take a wicket and unless you get the batsman bowled, you need help from others to get him out otherwise - fielders and umpires. Not a pure win over your opponent always, unlike the batsman who purely wins against you, right?
It surely doesn't seem like it is a bowler's game, right? 

But hey, you as a bowler have two fundamental benefits in this game. 
1. You can make mistakes and come again to correct the mistakes. Even if a batsman hits you for 5 sixes in a row, you can still get your revenge in the 6th ball by getting the batsman out. You get multiple chances, the batsman doesn't.
2. You don't need to react unlike the batsman. You don't need to react in a split second. You can take your time, seize your moment and run in to give your best, you take action, not reaction. This is a huge huge benefit. 
So, is it really a bowler's game then?

3. Fielders (including wicket keeper)
Fielders - people who stand in the field, waiting for the ball to come to their side, either on the ground or from the sky. 
For them, this is a waiting game. Yawn?
Very easy to get casual and lose seriousness, especially if you are not standing closer to the action and / or the pitch. But one good save or a catch can save or win the match and you are the hero! Kapil Dev caught Viv Richards running backwards that changed the complete match in 1983 and helped win the first ever world cup for India! 
So being a fielder has it's own moments and can make you a hero or a villain (Remember 'Mate, you just dropped the World Cup!'?)

And then Jonty Rhodes and Siddhu turned the whole sentiment around for fielding with their acrobatic fielding and jumps pleasing to the eye that make your go 'Wow!'
So, it isn't really a fielder's game no? Or is it?

4. The organizers/ The Bosses: 
Cricket, at domestic and international levels, is a game completely owned by private clubs. They are supposed to help grow the game, take care of the players, organize matches and series, sell rights and make loads of money. The game is vital to them, but it is as much as pulses are to a grocer or cloth is to the tailor. The game, to the organizers, is only a means to an end. It is not the end. But without this means, the end will not be there, unless the organizers decide another business. Yes, the game is the business for organizers. 
So clearly, the game isn't their game, is it?
While socialist in you may scoff at this, but business isn't all bad. Business means growth, more money to all (almost all) involved, revenue and profits that can be re-invested in game. To nurture new players, better facilities for players, better pay and better motivation.

5. Fans/Viewers:
That's us! Is it our game at all? We just sit outside clap, appreciate, curse, despair, applaud and sometimes cry. We are nowhere in the main action but we think we are. We think we are an integral part of the game. We think we know better than the players actually playing the game. "Idiot, why is he bowling so short?" or "He should have stayed in the crease and waited for the ball". 

Experts, huh? Or Armchair critics who no one gives a damn about?
So, it seems if I say it isn't a viewer or fan's game, you will say "No Shit, Sherlock!", right?
But then what is a game that is played in front of nobody? It is like a beautiful song sung when no one's around to hear it and appreciate it. Most of the sports require viewers and popular sports get natural attraction from the viewers. Players also play to the gallery a lot (most?) of the times.
So is it game a played for viewers? 

Coming back to the main question again, really, whose game is it anyway? 

As I provided details about the game in my earlier post, I think the game really belongs to those who are a part of it at a given point in time. 

A batsman facing a ball or waiting with wide eyes as he watches the ball or hitting it, a bowler running in and trying a magic with his wrists or forearm, a fielder running after a ball, a keeper collecting it, an umpire paying attention, viewers forgetting they are in the stand, yes, the game is everyone's game as long as they are being some part of it while it is played. Simple as that. We cannot generalize it over long time, as the game isn't played over long time. It belongs to those who are playing some part in it 'while' it is played.

The game belongs to one and all at a point in time for those who feel one with it at that time

Well, there; I hope that that answers that. 

(All photos courtesy: Google Images)

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