Dr Zafar Altaf
There have been very few analysis of cricket along these lines. My own experience with cricket is that it has social psychological dimension as well as a very strong philosophical basis. That is the collective end and then there is the individual one in which psychology plays a pivotal part. In fact it is the collective function of many social sciences.
With the advent of professionalism, came the economic aspect which seems to be the overriding cause of today’s materialism and monetary greed. This materialism has cut across the other social sciences as greed always has an overriding effect. Given that the game was sponsored by the British and was played in the largely Commonwealth countries, the attitudes of the British came in to play. The British were traders and small traders at that. They were called penny pinchers. In coming to the Subcontinent, they brought the East India Company and then went on to through trade policies to impose their attitudes on the largely Hindu community-not the Muslims for they distrusted the religious personalities of the time. The removal of Bahadur Shah Zafar is enough evidence to history. The Bania Hindus delighted in the process for they had suffered under the rule of the Moghuls. These two countries are now the money-minded ones. The third force to join them was the Australians and their legacy is from the British penny pinchers so that there was an unholy joinder between the three. That is now visible in the alliance that they have forged.
The unfortunate part is that in the joinder of these three countries, the cricket philosophy was and is lost. The game that was the love of cricketers’ life has been rent asunder by the call for money. Money was never a point in issue when we were involved in cricket. In fact whatever goodwill money that I received in cricket was promptly sent to an orphanage with the direction that money from cricket was to be utilized elsewhere and for the benefit of the orphans. Playing the game as a living was never encouraged.
But the game itself has been lead by finances and the day is not going to be far when this will be an unending demand from players. Necessary funds were necessary but to take it a fetish is unpalatable and difficult to comprehend. The character that was supposed to be built as a result of the intangibles of the game has since been stalled by the greed of the people involved in the game. This was a game of pure joy and one in which the team players were always appreciating the opposing teams performance. The bowler appreciating the batsman’s and so on. All that is lost. In fact, there is viciousness between the players of the opposing teams. The friendly talk after the match has also been lost. The individual psyche will be lost and it will seem that opposing teams are at war with each other.
What and who should control the game and the match itself. I was always apprehensive of too much interference in the game of cricket by the ICC. Every meeting that I attended there was always the administrator trying to tell what was good for the game. The structure was becoming more and more artificial and less the natural game that we had played. We were always opposed by the trading countries of UK, India and Australia till one-day skipper Kardar latched on to the Australian representative and made him admit to certain aspects for which he had no mandate from the Australian cricket board. What I did notice was that the cricketers that were representing their respective boards were not for more money but for trying to make the game more attractive so that the crowds would come.
The British game of cricket is organised along corporate lines. There is therefore an inherent requirement for injection of money as the shareholders demand their dividends for money spent on shares. The subcontinent was more evenly based as a game and did not have that much spent on the layers. Only recently with the advent of Premier Leagues have money started flowing to the game through advertisements and through record crowds flocking to see the game. The game was perverted by the MCC who were mindful of the dwindling crowds and the shortage of time. The invention of 50 over game and then the 20 over game may have brought in the crowds and the money but nothing stays forever. The game besides losing its technique has also caused a lot of criminal activity in betting. Games can be fixed and money can flow in uncertain ways. The recent events in India then raise a paradoxical situation. Does one find value in pure and undiluted cricket which may have less money resources or should one risk betting and third rate players’ performance? Gone are the graceful ways of doing things in cricket. It was an unhurried game with a lot of gentlemen amateurs involved.
Systematically, we have lost out on the playing conditions and the crowds that were knowledgeable are not so now. I recall the Lahore town people in their wrap around playing tip and run early in the morning in the Iqbal parks. All that has changed. The fierce battles are no longer there. Once the T-20 loses its appeal where next? No one knows.
The traders have now changed the complexion of the game. The decisions will now not be based on cricket but on the basis of money. How can money, which is only an exchange medium, transform the game of cricket? Should cricket be left at the mercy of money?
Dr Zafar Altaf