Cricket – it’s just the name of the sport that remains the same; its actual interpretations and core values seem to have been long altered irrevocably. Even keeping with the changing times, the change in the sport is, at times, too much to grasp and too easy to blank out. But most of all, there seems to be no one reason for someone to put one’s feet up and watch the sport, like they used to a decade or two ago.
Between the test cricket and the World Cups in the past, a fan was happily entertained. Not that fans aren’t entertained now – there are professional cheering girls who do the job, because of whom, the entertainment factor has multiplied by a factor of indefinite value. But today, entertainment has become equivalent to commercial value of not just players but also of their teams – or to put it more technically, their franchisees.
But , to reiterate, the point is not about a particular league or cricket board, the point is about the cricketing panorama as a whole.
With the more-than-normal influx of tournaments in a particular season – the word is just semantics, cricket still doesn’t have a season per se – one wonders where to start watching cricket and where to put an end to it.
Test matches have become more a custom than a rule; one-days are filled with power-plays and the T20 version has a world cup of its own. All-in-all, even a person living his life basing it upon a cricketing calendar would find a genuine lack of time to allocate to the sport, considering that these days even a small cricketing tournament is one quarter of a season in any other sport.
And perhaps, this is the only similarity that exists between the sport of the past and its highly revolutionised version today – its length.
In spite of its streamlined formats, the duration of a cricket match is still probably longer than three soccer matches combined- unless the teams playing are really that great or that bad, to wrap-up a match quickly; or probably due to rain where the esteemed M/S Duckworth and Lewis would have been brought into play.
And yet, regardless of these minor blips, cricket still remains one of the longest sports to be played in one single day, counting for some random good memory arising out of the mists of the vintage past.
Speaking of vintage pasts, records still remain an integral part of the sport. Yet, again, the creation and the breaking of records seems to have taken a different turn altogether.
Each tournament sees a new lad creating records, sometimes more than one at a time. And with each passing day, this record gets eclipsed by someone better, making one question the premise of records itself. Where making a century was considered to be a monumental feat in one-dayers in the past, scoring a double-century has been made achievable now.
Whether this is good or bad, is subjective, but the question merits asking that if almost every player starts to make things so easy, is there any excitement beyond record-creation worth looking forward to?
Ensuring that the playing field doesn’t get too harsh on players is one area of contention, but paving a metaphorical concrete road on a pitch that needs to be kept bouncy, isn’t exactly the answer. While the transition from good to better, and from better onto the best needs to be prevalent in any domain, keeping the competitive spirit alive is necessary too. Power-plays and free-hits can only revolutionize so much.
At the end of the day, it’s the individuality of the players and their sustaining abilities that matters the most, especially considering that lots of players in the present times are exhibiting shorter professional life-spans.