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What happens when cricket is turned into 'dharmayudh' between India and others

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat* 

India ‘lost’ the World Cup. Winning or losing is part of the game, but what happens when the game becomes part of the political propaganda and the audiences are not sports lovers but fans who hate others? An Uttar Pradesh daily gave a headline for the final game as ‘dharmyudh’.  
The game of cricket is being used for political purpose. As cricket is a powerful business in the country, every non-playing dignitary in the game earns much bigger sum than the player. 
There is not a single stadium in the name of any cricketing legend anywhere, unlike  politicians and powerful leaders, who might not have played cricket. Bishan Singh Bedi opposed Feroz Shah Kotla ground in Delhi being named after Arun Jaitley, but what happened? Bedi, the legend, was sidelined.
The same thing happened again when legends like Kapil Dev and Mahendra Singh Dhoni, two World Cup winning captains, were not being invited to watch the game in Ahmedabad. Why? 
Perhaps because the the Board of Cricket Control of India (BCCI) and its political masters were certain of Indian victory, and hence they decided that nobody ‘else’ should be there on the podium to ‘greet’ the Indian team except the ‘Supreme Leader’, who must have been practicing to ‘deliver’ the ‘winning speech’ for days. Unfortunately, that did not happen, as India got defeated.
As a team, India's is a superb team which  lost the game but won the hearts of the people. But the real defeat is of the BCCI, which has converted it into a political game.  It is no more sports. It is pure business and politics.
I lost interest in the game once I saw players being ‘auctioned’ and the format of the game was changed to favour a few batsmen. The biggest crisis of the cricket set in with the demise of the game in western India.  They were unparalleled and a sheer joy to watch. 
In India, the biggest upturn in the cricket came after the historic victory of 1983 under Kapil Dev at the Lords. I still remember the excitement and joy it brought in our lives. It was the transistor age. Many of us did not even have the luxury to watch it on TV. After that investors came in and cricket became a big game. 
Kapil Dev was the player who changed cricket, bringing it closer to the non-English speaking people of the country. He was not an intellectual like Bishen Singh Bedi, nor sophisticated like Sunil Gavaskar, who could fit anywhere according to the requirements. Kapil always spoke from the heart and that is why he has always been straightforward and stood up for the rights of the players.  
Years later, the other man who changed the dynamics of cricket in India was Mahendra Singh Dhoni, emerging from a relatively small town/city.  After Kapil Dev, it was under Dhoni that India won the World Cup. That was the time when we were growing, and rules of the game were still great.
As the new dispensation in India came in, in 2014 the game of cricket also changed. More money came in. It sought players to sing and dance to the tune of the BCCI. 
India had already hosted several World Cup tournaments in the past, but I think the latest one in Ahmedabad was the worst. And the reason was clear. Rather then thinking about India, the whole focus of the BCCI appeared to be Gujarat and Gujarati asmita, as if other cities and states don’t have it or deserve it. 
Whenever cricket will be understood and the history of cricket is written by an impartial person, four or five cricket grounds would be mentioned. The first and foremost is the Eden Gardens in Kolkata, where players world over would love to play in front of a truly sports loving crowd. Does one remember how the first World Cup win of Australia happened under Allen Border at Kolkata, and how he was greeted by the stadium giving standing ovation. 
Similarly, Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai, Cheapak in Chennai, Feroz Shah Kotla in Delhi and Karnataka Rajya Cricket Stadium in Bangaluru have always been extremely welcoming to international players. After all, you go to watch a match to see a good game, and not merely a win for your team.
In the last ten years, Gujarat has got unprecedented favour from everyone. It got the maximum funding for ‘sports’ even when there is not even one player who could have gone to any international event like Asian Games, Olympics or elsewhere. States which have been sending players at the international events never get even half of the funds that Gujarat has got. 
Look at the World Cup event. Ahmedabad was pampered so much that it was given the ‘prestigious’ match against Pakistan. Why?  It is purely for monitory purpose, because a match against Pakistan is still a popular game in terms of business. The crowd at Ahmedabad has been boorish, to say the least. They don’t come to watch a game but are purely brought for political purpose. 
Frankly, Ahmedabad doesn't deserve important matches of the World Cup. The World Cup final should have happened in Kolkata or Mumbai, the two cities with incredible cricketing history, but then what does expect from a cricket administration which has not even bothered to invite the two giants of our cricket history, who brought us the World Cup and gave us tremendous joy, Kapil Dev and Mahendra Singh Dhoni, to Ahmedabad? 
Can there be a bigger scandal than this?  The crowd forgot that they were watching the final of an international event and needed to be polite and appreciative the game.
It was sad to see the crowd behaving in such a filthy street level manner. They had not come to watch the game but wanted to celebrate victory. Obviously, every Indian would love to have World Cup victory, but then at the end of the day it is a game, and once the game is over, the opposite team needs to be applauded and acknowledged. 
The crowd at Ahmedabad left the stadium even  before the Australian captain could be handed over the World Cup trophy. This is not merely disgraceful but simply outrageous, but when you convert people into mindless frenzied crowd, such international embarrassment is bound to happen. 
The Bania-Brahmin media in India has reduced us to a joke. It needs to educate people that it is a game and gamesmanship is the need of the hour. There is a need to respect players and enjoy the game. Winning and losing a game is not important. The richest board of the world suffers from megalomania and remains highly biased and prejudiced. Any cricket lover in India would give Kolkata, Mumbai, Bangaluru, Chennai and Delhi stadiums and crowds far better rating than the over-pampered Ahmedabad. 
It is time the administrators of cricket and other sports bodies think beyond their narrow political interests. The Indian cricket team played like a champion team; though they got defeated in the final, that is the part of the game.  
The real defeat happened for those who wanted to reap political profit from India’s victory. A country which ignores and is disrespectful to sporting icons for the sake of political masters will never be able to have sporting culture and sportspersons of international class. 
The defeat in Ahmedabad is not of the Indian cricket but that of its political administrators who are lording over the body, minting money and destroying the gentleman's game. 
---
*Human rights defender. Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/vbrawat. X: 
@freetohumanity. Skype: @vbrawat

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