Fans deserve a clean game of cricket

After the recent spot-fixing case will the cricket fans continue to look at the game without a suspicious eye? © Getty Images

The recent spot-fixing allegations have caught the concierges of cricket off-guard. The gentleman’s game is being made into a scorn considering the theatrics of some of the cricketers who have given in to soul-selling. Just spare a thought for the fans of the games, their upheaval of emotions and yet them wanting to watch the game of cricket. Fans deserve a clean game writes Sarang Bhalerao.

Talk of the Indian cricket fan: him being demonstrative, a staunch critic, one who wears his heart on his sleeves, yet the one who prays that his team wins on every single occasion. “Hope,” they say springs eternal. And the recent spot-fixing scandal has put a cricket fan in a fix. The great game of cricket is brought into opprobrium yet again. The massive match-fixing scandal of the early century was a litmus test for the fans. They had the option of hating the gentleman’s game as they felt cheated. But the fans chose otherwise.

There is no fury more real than when trust is betrayed. What will a cricket-loving father bequeath to his young upstart learning to hold the cricket bat? We have a few role models and yet hundreds of others with the feet of clay who fall in for easy money. When every cricketing antic is viewed with a shadow of suspicion then cricket’s is heading towards an impending doom. That was envisaged a decade back when our heroes Mohammad Azharuddin and Ajay Jadeja were allegedly involved in the match-fixing scandal.

In the early 2000s, a cricket fan had every reason to sell his cricket bats, shift the loyalties to the other sport and not be part of hysterical support cricket gets. The Indian team had lost almost everything in Australia, South Africa whitewashed India in India. And then the news about players fixing the games was totally unpardonable. But the bigger question is then why the fans didn’t banish the game? Is it partly because they had no game to fall on to? Our national sport wasn’t creating waves. The media was focusing on non-cricketing issues: skullduggery, controversies and very little reporting of cricket. And that formula worked.

Within one year of the controversy the Team India played inspirational cricket. Unheralded greenhorns — VVS Laxman and Harbhajan Singh — became the toast of the nation. A cricketing catastrophe can be healed by a cricketing enchantment. India’s victory against the might of the Australians galvanised the nation. Cricket came on the front pages of the newspaper for the right reasons. A fan was getting what he deserved.

Today a cricket fan is on the tenterhooks. At this crisis hour of when the game is being tainted by the bouts of spot-fixing we need a Laxman and Harbhajan. Some of the stellar performances can be a soothing balm to the battered souls. The T20 cricket is an instant cricket and a franchise based game will always have divided loyalties. A cricket fan is befuddled. When Lasith Malinga bowls in Mumbai for Sri Lanka he is goaded but when he turns up for Mumbai Indians he is eulogised. A fan is getting used to such kind of a thing.

Watching the game live from the stadium is a great cricketing education albeit it has now become an entertainment-centric proposition. What do the captains do as the over ends? How does a bowler adjust his field? Sadly the advertisements on television rob the audience from picking up these nuances.
A cricket fan is oblivious to the infuriatingly high priced cold-drinks, water or a snack. The soaring high temperature does not deter their spirits; the absence of roof is not a big deal for the fans. All they want is their team to win.

And when a fan comes to know that his sweat and toil is abused he is bound to get hurt. A cricket fan is targeted time and again with “mountain out of a mole” kind of controversies. Yet, a fan worships the game for the right reasons — wanting his team to win. Cricket is still flourishing, the ticket prices are soaring like the mercury in a hot Chennai day and fans still have a sacrilegious belief in the clichéd phrase ‘gentleman’s game’.

One just wonders whether cricket can pass the loyalty test to give an unabridged joy of the stumps being cartwheeled. A dropped catch might no longer get the same empathy. The knives will come out. Cleansing of the game is the need of the hour for fans’ sake. Will cricket pass this test of time? The sombre mood amongst the masses is vindicated.

Hopefully cricket gets in the front pages for all the right reasons.

A cricket fan deserves that.

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(Sarang Bhalerao hails from a family of doctors, but did his engineering. He then dumped a career in IT with Infosys to follow his heart and passion and became a writer with CricketCountry. A voracious reader, Sarang aspires to beat Google with his knowledge of the game! You can follow him on Twitter here)