Sunday, June 03, 2012

The killjoys.

After the defeat in Australia in the Test match series, P.Sainath of The Hindu did an exhaustive analysis and came up with this conclusion: 

Just weeks ago, the pundits said this was our best chance ever to beat Australia in Australia. Our best team possible. Did the best team ever age in weeks? What happened? 

IPL happened. And happened long before the disaster tours. A team full of players carrying injuries playing 90 days of sub-standard club-level cricket happened. That prepares you only for more sub-standard stuff, year after year, not cricket at the highest levels. They continue playing there with injuries because the BCCI-IPL has brought big bucks to the privately-owned side of the sport, not to the domestic game. 

What is the man’s credentials to make such an assessment? Zilch. 

Mukul Kesavan wrote in a column  that the IPL is stage-managed with nexus between the BCCI and the owners. But the most damning point, according to him, is the fact that there are cheerleaders: 

…the most obvious token of the IPL's decadence is the dancing girls. These aren't cheerleaders (though sometimes they pretend to be) because this isn't collegiate America. These are young women paid to tart up the tournament with their bodies, to strut their stuff for mainly male audiences in a country where every adult woman has suffered the predatory gaze (and worse) of Indian men.

This edition of the IPL has them in the television studio as well for the delectation of the anchors. When the governors of cricket in India begin to use female bodies to sell tickets and capture television ratings you know that a cricket tournament has lost its bearings and become something else. And when the journalists who enable the tamasha and the audiences who watch it begin to take the dancing girls for granted, there is a larger sickness abroad. 

Ramachandra Guha, in an op-ed in The Hindu has several points of criticism on the ‘smash and grab crony league”. Just to cite two of his points: 

The IPL has given capitalism and entrepreneurship a bad game. But it has also been bad for Indian democracy, in that it has vividly and even brazenly underlined the distance between the affluent, urban middle classes and the rest of India. Consider the fact that no city in India's largest State, Uttar Pradesh, which has an excellent Ranji Trophy team, was awarded a franchise. Nor any city in Bihar, Orissa, or Madhya Pradesh either. To leave out four of India's largest States — all cricket-mad, and which collectively account for close to half the country's population — must seriously disqualify the League's claim to be ‘Indian.' 

Yet it can still be called ‘Premier,' for it speaks for the more prosperous parts of India, and for the more prosperous sections within them. The very names of the teams are a clue to its elitist character — two ‘Kings,' two ‘Royals,' and one ‘Knight,' this in a democratic Republic whose Constitution and laws (rightly) did away with aristocratic titles of any kind. 

So, what this guy wants is an IPL which is a microcosm of the country, with every state and every tribe from far-flung hamlets represented. And, combining both his points on the states and the titles, we should name teams as “Patna Petty Paupers” and “Bhopal Wretched Beggars”. No kings or chargers or knights to figure in the titles, and no teams from decadent cities such as Chennai or Mumbai or Delhi. 

Why do these fellows constantly need to make us feel guilty for the entertainment we choose? Are they the only socially-conscious people around? Is it a zero-sum game? Is my watching the IPL at the expense of some farmer’s happiness? Who the hell are they to pontificate on what constitutes the right form of cricket? If the spectators didn’t like it, it wouldn’t have lasted 5 seasons. And the spectator has a right to choose his form of cricket. 

IPL was the reason for our loss in Australia? Damn it. There were cricketers in the Australian team who had played the IPL too. 

What’s immoral or vulgar about cheerleaders? Bloody hell, far worse things are shown in the most decent of Hindi or regional movies. 

Why are these fellows such killjoys? Why can’t they tolerate people having some legitimate fun? The only explanation that I can think of is this. 

These are all professional writers who have built their own individual brand by hyping some theory or other. And they make a living out of their writing, and must find as many outlets as they can to get their ‘writing’ published.

An event such as IPL is an excellent means to grab public attention by writing a column or two. For a professional writer, it’s too good an opportunity not to encash on. Sadly for these disgruntled writers, no newspaper would invite them to write a regular column on the IPL, for the simple reason that nobody will read their dreary stuff. Therefore, the only option is to somehow persuade their newspaper to allow them to write a contrarian piece bad-mouthing the IPL and to keep it in line with their brand image. So one guy can write that farmers are dying while we are fiddling, while the other guys can use the chance to hold forth on their respective pet theories cleverly weaving in the alleged ills of IPL. Their hope and intention is that such of their readers who are also IPL followers must die of guilt and shame. 

Ironically, all the papers that carried these critical articles on IPL benefited immensely from the advertisements placed by IPL and the franchisees.

Much as I hate it, ‘freedom of expression’ means that such writers who make a living by spreading gloom and guilt should be allowed to do so.  But I wish they would be socially ostracized for causing incalculable damage to the morale and happiness of the people. 

 “How dare you be happy?” is their refrain, as I blogged once. I would argue that even when the economy is depressed- or particularly when- people must be allowed to celebrate if, when and how they choose to, so long as such celebrations don’t come at the cost of someone else who is not a part of it.


Anonymous said...

Perfecto~~~ Very well written :-)

Anonymous said...

>>I would argue that even when the economy is depressed- or particularly when- people must be allowed to celebrate...

There is a dialog in last part of Harry Potter where somebody asks if a marriage must be conducted at such gloomy circumstances. The wise Hermione would reply with something along the lines of 'It must be done because of gloom'. :-) (I forgot the exact lines)

Mohan said...

Good rant. Glad you got it off your chest. I do not agree with much of it, but that's neither here nor there!

I have a simple question though:

You say of Sainath: "What is the man’s credentials to make such an assessment? Zilch."

Fair point. But does a person/writer need credentials other than genuine interest in (and feeling for) the sport?

And, if I may ask, what are your own cricketing credentials? You may be a former Test cricketer. I do not know, but thought I must ask.


Sunny Pathrakkaran said...

>> Why can’t they tolerate people having some legitimate fun?

Good point. I am heavily into pornography and drugs and I don't understand why I have to hide it. Why can't the government and people tolerate me having some fun ?

I am glad that at least you are there to support me.

Raj said...

Anons, thanks.

Mohan, your sarcasm is well-attempted but misplaced. I don't need to have played 50 Test matches to point out the idiocy in the argument that IPL matches played in May affected our Test performance in Jan next year.

Sunny: You have obviously not been to an IPL match where people of all age groups from 3-year olds to 80-year olds genuinely enjoy themselves.

It's your choice to wallow in a perverted world where T20 is akin to drugs, pornography and prostitution. May I suggest that you change your first name from Sunny to Shady or at least 'cloudy'?

Mohan said...

Hehe Raj, thanks for the response. I am *certain* you don't need to have played 50 Test matches to put out your opinion on anything related to cricket -- however accurate or relevant (or not). I have not played much and I have an opinion -- mostly wrong, I am told!

My point is, clearly, Sainath does not need to have played 50 Tests *either* to demonstrate credibility. Yet *you* asked him to flash his credibility-card. Why?

Raj said...

Mohan,'credentials', not credibility. Sainath is an expert on many things I know nothing about. He certainly has a right to opine that Test cricket is better than IPL cricket, but has no expertise whatsover to establish a link between Test series failure and IPL matches played 6 months before. Even so-called cricket pundits have not made this connection. It is evident that he was trying to find a contrived argument to support his pet theory.The cricketing world could do without such curmudgeons.

Mohan said...

Fair point on credentials. Apologies for making the jump from credentials to credibility. While the former entitles one to have an authoritative voice, the latter implies the anointment of one as believed/trusted. Fair point.

My original question still remains unanswered! Indeed, it has become a much more important question in the light of this important distinction!

So, who *has* the credentials to make and support a claim like the one Sainath made?

The players? One of whom said, "The time wasn't right" and another one who said, "Come to India, we will show you"?

The Board? Which is yet to decide on whether or not to call for a report from the Coach on the disastrous 0-8 loss, but has all the time to organize a complex tournament and bask in its after-glory?

Former players? Who are busy receiving their cash rewards along with a mouth clamp?

Who has the credentials?

In the totalitarian cricketing regime we appear to exist in, such voices are, in my view, important. They may come across as painfully contrarian, irritating and crusty. They ask difficult questions. They need to, even if they come across -- to you ad me -- as irrepressibly irascible and annoyingly cantankerous.

BTW, I do not believe (I could be wrong here) that either Sainath, Kesavan or Guha requested me not to enjoy the IPL. A bad movie review of 'Dil Chahta Hai' would not have stopped me from seeing the movie. In that limited sense, they aren't killjoys or wet-blankets!


Raj said...

Mohan, you persist. Thanks for the interest:)

I’ve conceded that these writers have the right to their opinion and to express it in the manner they deem fit. But when they do so in a public medium, they lay themselves open to a critical review- which is what I am trying to do. Exactly how my blogpost is being reviewed by you now.

Having the right to express something and having the credentials to do so are two different things. In my opinion Sainath has no credentials or expertise (at least I haven’t seen any evidence) to establish a link between two cricketing events that are 6 months apart. I am no expert either, but I know who can be labeled an expert. If I say someone is not a doctor, I don’t have to be a doctor to say so. I can know this fact as a layman.

The Board can, in its wisdom, decide that no analysis is necessary to explain the defeat. In sports, sometimes the only reason a team loses is because it is completely outplayed by the other - due to a combination of home advantage, better age profile or whatever. When India won any series we tended to assume that we outplayed the opponents. Why don’t we grant the Aussies the same explanation without finding some sinister reasons to account for the defeat? A report from the coach or manager may have been delayed- and I don’t condone the lapse- but I’m sure it will be there in due course.

I need to remind you that when the team left for Australia, they had plenty of time to settle down. Dravid, Tendulkar and Laxman reached there a full month ahead.

Finally, without arguing more over the semantics, my gripe is that these writers are indulging in negative propaganda about IPL on very frivolous grounds, using the power of their prose . They are not merely giving it a bad review. They are trying to build a contrived argument that it is the root cause of all evils – in the cricketing arena and society at large.

Again, they have a right to. Again, I can object to that. I can see them as killjoys.

Mohan said...


I do persist. Sorry. But this is going to be my last -- there is only so much flogging of a theme that one should do! :)

I understand your right to criticize Sainath, Guha and Kesavan for the stands that they have taken. But, a nuanced argument should accept some of the valid points that they have made, while rubbishing some of their ludicrous hand-waves -- and I accept that they have made a few hand-wavy assertions.

I am not defending them. I do not need to. More importantly, they do not need me to defend them. I do dislike the IPL though. More of that later.

But I cut Guha-Sainath-Kesavan slack in this context because the totalitarian regime calls for contrarian (even shrill) voices of dissent. It appears that you do not cut them that slack. I am happy to leave it there. *shrug*

Perhaps Sainath said what he did because the experts with credentials said "Come here, we will show you" or "The time wasn't right" or "We do not need a review of the debacle" or "Boss you shut up ok"! Remember that that is part of the context for the pieces we have seen.

You say "I'm sure it will be be there in due course". We are talking about BCCI, run by people like Rajiv Shukla, and co, right? I do admire your optimism.

It is, IMO, disingenuous to the anti-IPL views of Guha-Sainath-Kesavan to label it as just an attention-grab; as just a populist/cynical encashment through the 'rubbishing of an event with the help of good prose'. But of course, it is your right to call it just that. No one can deny you that right. The very same 'freedom of expression' that gave that troika the right to express their seemingly irrational views for a cynical eyeball-grab (which made you call for them to be socially ostracized) gives you the right to criticize them, however rationally and without a call for your social exclusion!

By the way, for the record, I dislike the IPL and my reasons are included here in this LONG piece:

Nice to argue this out with you... Cheers


Raj said...

Mohan,I enjoyed your comments. Thanks for dropping by.

I also read your post. It is beautifully written and argued. I don't agree with much of what you have said, but I found it quite absorbing.

ramesh said...

haha this was a fun rant Raj