The BCCI XI’s Revival and the Larger Issue of Pride

A 130 run victory over tournament joint favourites South Africa, which followed a high-octane (even if entirely predictable) win over Pakistan – the BCCI XI is once again on a roll. In a time honoured tradition of fickleness, the ‘fans’ are back to cheering the team and invoking national pride. Doubtless, both wins were very compelling and seem to dispel the shadow that had been cast over a team that remained largely winless over an extended period (an acclimatizing away tour along with a tri-series preceded the World Cup). For now, let’s leave aside the conspiracy theories about what these very convenient (and imperative) wins have done for advertisers, broadcasters and the BCCI:

ET cricket advertisers

From nowhere, India (the country stupid, not the team) is back to believing the corny hashtag ‘#wontgiveitback’.

Which brings us to the distinction between Team India and Team BCCI. At the risk of sounding unpatriotic (entirely possible), the Men in Blue are a representation of a private enterprise not of India. The BCCI is not subject to any government oversight, is not covered under RTI, and no taxpayer money is used to fund team requirements (till a few years back, an India defeat was lamented as a waste of taxpayer money and thus evoked even stronger emotions!), although the BCCI does enjoy copious tax exemptions.

Rather, the team is a representation of a body that is greedy, corrupt, riled with conflicts of interest among office bearers, uses its muscle/money power to bully broadcasters and other cricket playing nations, is notoriously opaque, and is a magnet for politicians due to its massive influence and money spinning potential – mostly well known facts. In light of this, the ability of the Indian cricket fan to conveniently delink contempt for BCCI from support for its team confounds me. It would be admirable if it wasn’t for what it smacks of: a convenient escape of sorts where we can appear patriotic, get our back at our neighbors and whip ruffian teams that have (comprehensively) thrashed us, fair and square.

Objectively watching a sport is not possible when one is so heavily invested emotionally. My detachment with the game happened in subtle phases. First went the adulation for individuals, especially of the deified sorts. Then the disgust for the discredited BCCI cut the umbilical and made me the anti-nationalist that I am today (at this stage I felt liberated – I could watch any match without needing to root for any team and enjoy the game objectively). Next up, the IPL circus and the related T-20 farce designed for those with a need for a quick fix and IQs of a wombat – this travesty in the name of a sport has also contributed to the general decline in player skill sets as well. The effects are there in every form of the game; Test Matches that end in 3-4 days, one-dayers routinely have 300+ scores, we have had 4 individual scores of 200+ (incidentally all by BCCI batsmen and not-so-coincidentally, on flat track Indian pitches). This was the final nail in the coffin of my love for cricket. In most ways, I am glad that the dawn of this phase coincided with the retirement of players like Kallis, Dravid, Laxman, Kumble, Ponting, Hussey….a game inherently poorer from the loss of these greats decided to dig out a new low.

Then there’s the matter of ‘pride’. I fail to get how achievements of another can be a source of pride. If Team BCCI indeed ‘do not give it back’, how is that my achievement (even assuming for a minute they represent the nation)? The same applies to a Bindra, a Paes, an Anand, a Mirza, a Karthikeyan and so on. Armchair patriotism is what it is. I’d go a step further and even say that if my offspring achieves anything meaningful, I could not say ‘I am proud that he is my son’ – it almost seems like taking credit for a genetic accident that happened to make my son an achiever besides diluting his own effort! Why should the Mars Orbiter be a source of personal pride for me as an Indian? People, every human about to be born has a 20% chance of being born an Indian – making heavy statistical odds out to be source of pride is vacuous. The aptly branded ‘Pride of Cows’ premium milk is more like it – those bovines should rightly be proud of their produce, not we of 11 men in blue whose raison d’être is enrichment of the gluttonous BCCI.

Finally, here is an awesome clip from an unknown Bollywood flick that sums up my feelings rather well.

End of rant – so much for objectivity!

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