, by SOROOR AHMED
Religion is opium, was the famous Marxist slogan of the 19th and 20th centuries. But the Communists of the 21st century are yet to identify the opium of the present age; thus there is no question of neutralising its ill-affect. The invisible hand of capitalism has made the whole society hostage yet nobody is in a position to know as to where lies the problem.
The game of cricket is modern day opium, at least for the people of South Asia. The addicts indulge in killing, destroying property of players and government, maiming people, reducing many to penury. Nobody is realising that they are playing into the hands of the same capitalists. They are taking to streets not to protest against the starvation of thousands of people, but to express their anger over the defeat of their respective teams. Yet all this is going on unchallenged. If you fail in your class or do not succeed in a competition, the friends, parents and the whole society would come to console you by saying that it is never last. But once you fail to click in a game the whole lot of cricket crazy hounds will bay for your blood.
We will have to expose the capitalist design. After all India lost to Sri Lanka in 1979 World Cup when the latter was a non-Test playing country. That was just like the defeat of Pakistan at the hands of Ireland this time. In the pre-liberalisation era there never used to be any hangama of this proportion as it is taking place now in the subcontinent today. Sunil Gavaskar, one of those all time greats, scored just 36 runs and batted for the entire 60 overs. Then the One Dayers used to be of 60 overs. Yet his house was not attacked. No coach was killed. There was no betting racket. And people still used to enjoy the game of cricket. No, there used to be some peaceful demonstration on the defeats of India, but that was confined to one or two places. The players were never under pressure to perform simply because once they are defeated advertisement worth Rs 150 crore would be pulled out. Why have these players been made demi-gods and the next moment hunted out like anything?
But the menace caused by the multi-national companies and their agents in the media, especially electronic channels, have destroyed the game of cricket. In the name of nationalism and patriotism players are hunted down like anything. The 'murder' of Bob Woolmer, the Pakistani coach, did not change anyone of them. The intoxicating affect of opium is so strong that they never understand that the players and coaches are human beings and are under tremendous pressure. It needs to be mentioned that India won the 1983 World Cup without having any coach. These capitalists organise cricket tournament every day and expect the players to win all of them.
In the last three decades or so the one 'reputed' country which lost maximum number of cricket matches – both Test and One Day International – is none else but English team. This is the country which claims to have given this game of Lords to the world. Yet it continues to lose at the regular intervals. It has not won any of the World Cup Cricket in the last 32 years of its existence. The English team was white-washed many times at its home ground in Test cricket by West Indies. It has lost to Pakistan and India on English pitches innumerable number of times both in Test matches and one-dayers. In other sports too its performance is pathetic. Since 1966 it has not won any World Cup Football final and since mid-1970s, when Virginia Wade, lifted the Women's single of Wimbledon, none of its players has won this famous lawn tennis tournament. The irony is that Wimbledon takes place in England. In hockey their condition is all the more pathetic. In many of these sports not only England but many other western countries have to rely on Asian and African countries. Yet there is no loss of life over their continuous disastrous performance. The irony is that England continues to lag in most of the sports notwithstanding all the facilities and wherewithal.
In cricket New Zealand is another team which has a long list of losing matches. It too has not won any big tournament. Recently Australia lost five continuous one-dayers and lost triangular series at home. Last year it conceded 437 runs to South Africa and lost. They were defeated by Bangladesh too. In 1996 World Cup in the subcontinent West Indies got all out four 93 and Kenya and failed to chase even the meagre total of 160. All this notwithstanding the presence of Brain Lara and Richie Richardson.
Yet not a single player of any of these countries has ever been targeted, no houses demolished or stoned and no charge of match-fixing ever levelled against anyone of them. And even if it was levelled their board stood behind them and they got away by just uttering a few apologetic words. Who is not aware of the fact that Shane Warne and Mark Waugh were guiltier than Azharuddin or Salim Malik, but nobody ever dared to touch them. The truth is that the evil of betting has its origin in the West and not in the subcontinent.
Yet why not a single individual and organisation has opened its mouth and come out against this madness in the name of cricket. The media should be taken to task and penalised for whatever is happening in the world of sports. Take any major newspaper and the first page will be filled with the stories of speculation in the betting circle on the match about to come that same day. If betting is illegal and players are not even allowed to drop any hint whatsoever to any person why is it that media is free to front-page reports about the speculation among the gamblers. It is not simply the case of Woolmer's murder or India's ouster but the death of our sensibility. The time has come to come out openly against this capitalist design. Crude capitalism comes in a very subtle way. The British capitalists drugged a large part of Chinese population with the help of opium in the mid-19th century. And then they succeeded in virtually controlling the whole country. Two Opium Wars were fought then. Now a third war of different sort is needed to weed out the opium of cricket.