The Indian cricket team now in South Africa without the top batsmen, Tendulkar, Sehwag and Gambhir, seems to be doing well. This is a happy situation to be in. If the team loses, we can console ourselves by saying that it was our second team. And if it pulls off a win, we would have the bragging rights. Our national prestige and honour are at stake, you see.
In his essay “ Sporting Spirit”, written in 1945, George Orwell wrote:
I am always amazed when I hear people saying that sport creates goodwill between the nations, and that if only the common peoples of the world could meet one another at football or cricket, they would have no inclination to meet on the battlefield. Even if one didn't know from concrete examples (the 1936 Olympic Games, for instance) that international sporting contests lead to orgies of hatred, one could deduce it from general principles.
Nearly all the sports practised nowadays are competitive. You play to win, and the game has little meaning unless you do your utmost to win. On the village green, where you pick up sides and no feeling of local patriotism is involved, it is possible to play simply for the fun and exercise: but as soon as the question of prestige arises, as soon as you feel that you and some larger unit will be disgraced if you lose, the most savage combative instincts are aroused.
Anyone who has played even in a school football match knows this. At the international level sport is frankly mimic warfare. But the significant thing is not the behaviour of the players but the attitude of the spectators: and, behind the spectators, of the nations who work themselves into furies over these absurd contests, and seriously believe — at any rate for short periods — that running, jumping and kicking a ball are tests of national virtue.
After India won the second test match in the recent series, Graeme Smith tweeted that he was assaulted with a barrage of abusive messages from Indian tweeters, proving Orwell right. We had acquired the rights of a conqueror and had to trample the fallen-down opponents to dust.
Orwell ends the essay by suggesting that if Britain had to send a football team to Russia that year, they should “send a second-rate team which is sure to be beaten and cannot be claimed to represent Britain as a whole. There are quite enough real causes of trouble already, and we need not add to them by encouraging young men to kick each other on the shins amid the roars of infuriated spectators.”
We should follow the same strategy during the World Cup and ‘injure’ Sachin and make him unavailable for all the important matches. Knowing his level of patriotism, I am sure he would gladly oblige.