OUT OF MY HEAD
By Rupa Gulab
(Published in Bengal Post, 7th September 2010)
I remember the good old days when cricket was regarded as a gentleman’s game. The only vulgar and ungentlemanly thing about it is was the groin guard batsmen used to protect their erm, manhood (helpful tip: when squeamish about referring to certain parts of the human anatomy, always fall back on idiotic Mills & Boon euphemisms). I always found it terribly embarrassing when players would nonchalantly adjust their groin guard mid-game. Had they forgotten that many viewers were carrying binoculars? Or were they merely sickos? That’s why, I guess, I never had even a fleeting crush on a cricketer. Heroes don’t fidget with their underwear in public. Superman never did that - and if he ever got the urge, he discreetly disappeared into a telephone booth.
Admittedly what I know about cricket can be written on a grain of rice by a ham-fisted amateur calligraphist: it’s a deathly dull game where sweaty men wearing shiny lip-gloss get paid loads of money to hang around on a field all day adjusting their underwear when not trying to hit or throw a small hard ball – it’s sort of like playing ‘fetch’ with a dog. During off-season those sweaty players are still on our television screens (they never ever go away –sigh) telling us what brand of toothpaste they use – like I care! Why that inspires crowds of gorgeous women to fling themselves at the feet of mainly appearance-challenged men and lustily beg, “Take me, take me!” beats me. Perhaps because they are assured that the players have good dental hygiene?
When the term ‘Aussie sledging’ came about, the picture that immediately popped into my head was the Aussie team dramatically thundering into the cricket pitch on a sleigh while cheerfully singing “Jingle bells”. I was a tad disappointed when my husband corrected me with a sneer – ah come on, players skidding on reindeer droppings would have been vastly entertaining. I had to amuse myself by peering at the TV screen trying to lip-read instead: was it the nasty F-word or the innocuous S-word an irate player muttered?
My faint interest in cricket flickered to life again during the ‘racism’ scandal implicating members of our own team. I recall thinking that Harbhajan Singh could have been a great replacement for Jade Goody on Big Brother. Since then, I have sternly warned my three nephews and only niece that the F-word is okay, but if they ever use the M-word (m**key) I will make them gargle with a harsh toilet cleaner. They are not even allowed to use it at a zoo.
And now another match-fixing or rather, spot-fixing scandal has reared its ugly head. This is way more embarrassing and ungentlemanly than those gosh-darned antics with groin guards. While the cricketing fraternity is up in arms against a few allegedly guilty Pakistani players, I wish they’d concentrate on corrupt cricket boards, betting syndicates and all those politicians sneakily involved instead. Go after them. Throw those nasty spoil sports into vats of boiling oil. Better still, lodge them in an Indian jail – they’ll boil there just as well during summer, because there are no fans. Since we’re on the subject of betting, I’m willing to bet there’s an Indian connection to this (we’ve seen this before, remember) despite what ICC president Sharad Pawar claims. I have never had reason to believe a single word Pawar has said in his political avtaar. He plays his own game. And that game, I’m afraid, is not cricket.
That’s why I didn’t mutter darkly about racism when former English captain Mike Atherton said that a total eradication of corruption from the game is highly unlikely because of financially strong countries like India's dominance in the International Cricket Council. Like him I really wish cricket could be cleaned up. Hey, I may not love this game but my husband does - and without the assurance of fair-play he’ll probably wither away and die broken-hearted.
Sadly, all that we can realistically expect those inept cricket boards to do is keep feeding us hogwash till we’re bored to tears. The only thing I’m eagerly looking forward to is a face-off between the Pakistan Cricket Board and the International Cricket Council. What’s the bet that the president of the PCB will aggressively tell the president of the ICC, “We will not discuss anything till the issue of Kashmir is settled.”?