Home > Features >

Either you trust your cricketers or you don’t

Aditya Tare's first-ball six sealed the match for Mumbai Indians © PTI
Aditya Tare’s first-ball six sealed the match for Mumbai Indians © PTI

The Mumbai Indians (MI)-Rajasthan Royals (RR) thriller at the seventh edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) has evoked extreme reactions from the followers of the game. These reactions could have been dismissed as passing ones, but as the ensemble tournament comes to an end and cricket returns to the international format, Bejoy Balagopal questions the average Indian fan’s attitude towards the cricketers.

April 18, 1986. Most Indian cricket fans above a certain age carry memories of the era.  Our newly acquired Weston TV had been switched on early in the morning even before the folks in Doordarshan had commenced their telecast for the day. I stared at the multi-coloured screen saver that Doordarshan beamed, barely able to conceal my excitement and anxiety as the start of match was just hours away. An India-Pakistan title clash for the Austral-Asia cup at Sharjah! It did not get bigger than that, definitely not for a ten-year old whose love affair with cricket was well and truly on by then. Live telecasts of matches were rare in those days and this was a blockbuster of a match.

Fast-forward to the last over of that match, one that dented the psyche of a generation of Indian cricket fans. One ball to go, four runs to get and Chetan Sharma bowls a waist high full toss at the master craftsman Javed Miandad. It duly gets dispatched over midwicket for a six and an entire nation goes into mourning. I remember the debates and discussions that ensued in the following days, and continue to this day!

Several points were heatedly debated; Kapil Dev‘s miscalculated move of giving the last over to the youngster and not saving himself for it, the run out opportunity missed by Mohammad Azharuddin, the brilliance of Javed and the inability of Sharma to handle the pressure. Inability — yes, that was the keyword and poor Sharma was never forgiven for this perceived lack of ability despite some other notable feats in his career.

Nearly 30 years later, I was reminded of this match as I followed the discussions after the RR-MI match in the current edition of the IPL. MI launched an amazing assault, as they need to win with a good run rate to take them through to the qualifiers.

James Faulkner, an impressive young cricketer, bowls the crucial over; MI need a four or a six off the last ball; Up against Faulkner is a rookie, Aditya Tare. Faulkner sends down a waist high full toss (his second of the over) and MI get a new hero as Tare sends it sailing over the ropes. One team celebrates while the other is devastated.

Over the next few days comments and opinions flowed on the social media forums. This columnist could not help but notice a different tint to these discussions from the ones that I was part of in 1986. Now the talks veer towards finding a possible ulterior motive to the whole event, of a ‘manufactured’ result.  [The reasoning being that this would let the organizers squeeze the maximum out of the knock-out match as it would have Mumbai play at home]. So it is no longer about Faulkner’s ability (or lack of it) but his intent. Chetan Sharma was ridiculed while James Faulkner is (almost) being accused!

Watching a sport is mostly about the moments of pure thrill that it provides with close games and tight finishes being the icing on the cake of sporting unpredictability. Now we look at these occurrences with suspicion and try to see beyond the obvious, to arrive at theories that don’t merely subscribe to the unpredictable nature of sport. Does this reduce the whole experience of watching a sport to a mere appreciation of a spectacle unfolding in front of our eyes?

We have lived and re-lived Sachin Tendulkar‘s last over in the Hero Cup semifinal, Maninder Singh’s dismissal leading to a tied test match, Kapil Dev’s incredible assault to avoid a follow on and several other such moments. Never once were we tempted to go down the path of suspicion. Maybe things have changed. Is then the innocence that marveled at the twists and turns, dead for good?

While I lament this possible death of innocence another question begs to be asked — if the cricket follower is now a sceptic, then why the massive viewership still? What does that say about the viewers then, are they genuine sports lovers or an audience ready to accept any potentially ‘choreographed’ event as long as it entertains?

As the IPL comes to an end, we, as lovers of the sport, must ask ourselves a simple question. The evil menace of match-fixing had marred the tournament way before this edition had started. We were left with two options — to trust the on-field stars or not trust them.

If we did not trust them, we should not have followed the tournament at all, or even if we did, we should not have taken it seriously. However, given the fact that we are having that familiar rush of adrenaline during every close finish, is it justified that we classify these matches as rigged and suspect our heroes?

Are we getting it right?

(Bejoy Balagopal is an engineer working with a leading technology firm, with a passion for cricket and writing. He brings a layman’s view on the proceedings combined with the ability to look at the larger picture of how sport plays a crucial role in society)

West Indies tour of India, 2014

Oct 20, 2014 (14:30 IST)   at Kolkata

Pakistan vs Australia in UAE, 2014

Oct 22, 2014 (11:30 IST)   at Dubai

West Indies tour of India, 2014

Oct 22, 2014 (19:00 IST)   at Cuttack

Zimbabwe tour of Bangladesh, 2014

Oct 25, 2014 (09:30 IST)   at Dhaka

South Africa tour of New Zealand, 2014

Oct 27, 2014 (03:00 IST)   at Hamilton

More

South Africa tour of New Zealand, 2014

Oct 24, 2014  at Mount Maunganui

South Africa won by 72 runs

South Africa tour of New Zealand, 2014

Oct 21, 2014  at Mount Maunganui

South Africa won by 6 wkts

West Indies tour of India, 2014

Oct 17, 2014  at Dharamsala

India won by 59 runs

West Indies tour of India, 2014

Oct 14, 2014  at Visakhapatnam

Match cancelled

Pakistan vs Australia in UAE, 2014

Oct 12, 2014  at Abu Dhabi

Australia won by 1 run

Photos

Pakistan vs Australia, 1st Test at Dubai

Videos

AB de Villiers praises team after win in 1st ODI

Pakistan hold advantage at stumps on Day 3 of 1st Test against Australia

Asad Shafiq emerges as dependable No 6 for Pakistan

Pakistan vs Australia 2014: Mitchell Johnson shows signs of effectiveness on unhelpful surfaces

South Africa vs New Zealand 2014: Vital for Brendon McCullum to find form quickly

Australia Australia tour of UAE 2014 Australia vs Pakistan Australia vs Pakistan 2014 India New Zealand New Zealand vs South Africa New Zealand vs South Africa 2014 Pakistan Pakistan vs Australia Pakistan vs Australia 2014 South Africa South Africa tour of New Zealand 2014 South Africa vs New Zealand South Africa vs New Zealand 2014

David Warner feels lucky to have equalled Don Bradman’s record

Kapil Dev’s Dev Musco Lighting accused of inflated costs by GCA

VVS Laxman advises budding batsmen to score big hundreds

Pakistan hold advantage at stumps on Day 3 of 1st Test against Australia

West Indies women not distracted by controversy in men’s team

Pakistan vs Australia 2014: Spin hunt continues for visitors

Sarfaraz Ahmed may have trumped the Akmals as Pakistan’s wicketkeeper-batsman across formats

Don Bradman — even if every chance he ever gave in his career was accepted, he would still remain head and shoulders above the others

Len Hutton’s hundred gets reported as illness

Viv Richards’ 6/41 bowls West Indies to a thrilling victory over India

Fan of the Day

Suraj Gowda

Suraj Gowda

642 Posts | 9 Fans

Virat Kohli's Family Meets Anushka Sharma

Air quality deteriorates alarmingly in Delhi post-Diwali

Google partners Oxford University to teach machines to think

How to make tamarind or imli packs for hair and skin

Ram Jethmalani writes stinging letter to Arun Jaitley slamming government over black money issue

Box office collection: Shah Rukh Khan’s Happy New Year gets bumper opening!

Top Sex Positions: Frog Princess

Pyaar Tune Kya Kiya 2: Will Alka and Sushant’s love stand the test of time?

Nokia turnaround since handset unit sale continues, reports $950 million Q3 net profit

Also on cricketcountry.com

Play Fantasy Cricket & Win

Cash Daily! Click here