The mystical metaphor of cricket
Expounding on the metaphorical life-lessons that cricket throws at us if we happen to have a philosophical bend.
In a world marching forward relentlessly, alongside innumerable occurrences, diverse experiences and a plethora of happenings – all taking place at the blink of an eyelid, timelessness of moments might often feel rather isolated. When hash-tags become as frequently used as the punctuation mark - the comma, you know it’s time to acknowledge the fact that we are in an era where we need a sort of an index to 'classify' our life into chapters. Or perhaps, we need those pound marks to ease our way of ‘retrieving’ the moments that we might seek in the future, if we ever were to stop our banal pursuit, albeit for a few seconds.
Though the terminology would evoke a deja-vu for a database administrator, it is a fair indicator of what we are heading towards. However, for all that we know and seek to desire, some moments leave us wondering. These start as just another ticking seconds, yet end up startling us. The time stands still and we are left rather bewildered when we have a look at the potential enormity of such moments. These moments, more often than not, end up giving us notional experiences which stay with us for a fairly long time.
When it realizes that the hitherto considered constants were only disguised variables, the human mind longs for something very certain, no matter how impermanent the certainty is. Sports relieves us with such assurances, regardless of how short-lived the assurance really is. The contest between the bat and ball, which we fondly know as cricket, is a metaphor for something very mystical; something that takes us to the essence of our existence, if we happen to have a keen eye for metaphors.
Cricket gives us euphoria, cricket gives us heartbreaks. Cricket gives reasons to cheer about; cricket gives excuses to attribute our sadness to. Cricket unifies; cricket deepens the borders. Cricket elevates the ecstasy; cricket solidifies suffering. Cricket rejuvenates, cricket reiterates the past. Cricket ennobles; cricket enlightens. And if you happen to be one of India's 1.3 billion, it can even be a non-secular religion, guarded strongly by fundamentals of idol-worship and blind-faith. Cricket is a melange of emotions and a symphony of strewn melodies. It is amazing to note how cricket can invoke duality with relative ease – a phenomena that can be a spiritually divine experience for many, can also be the ground for twitter-battles for countless others.
While our concentration spans are taking a southward turn with every passing second, the ability to do one particular thing with utmost focus for a relatively long time is increasingly being sighted as a rare commodity, and hence, the people who do not lose themselves mentally in the clutter that is surrounding them already start finding themselves placed a notch higher than others. A typical middle-order Test batsman is an ideal poster-boy for being successful at relationships - both personal and professional. A middle-order batsman cannot afford to care about the wickets stumbling at the other end; instead he has to play the ball on its merit, keep the scoreboard ticking along and punish the occasional bad delivery. He has to be stoic about the conditions as much he has to be aware about them.
He must not let his guard down when the odd part-time bowler rolls his arms. With a calm mind, he has to anchor the innings and not try too many things at the same time. Very similarly in life, we cannot assign too much importance to the adversities we face. The mantra of success lies in playing a simple game consistently. We cannot afford to over-analyse as much as we cannot afford to under-analyse. Even good batsmen get beaten by good deliveries, just like good people find themselves on the wrong side of conflicts. The trick is not to let the previous delivery affect the next one that you are going to face.
The catch here is to settle and stay on the crease for as long as possible, without playing many flashy shots. The bowlers eventually get tired, and similarly, even difficulties no longer bother us. The advice to a Test batsman is to know where the off-stump is, to shoulder arms against flashy out- swingers and have no two minds while playing or leaving balls pitched in the corridor of uncertainty. In the same vein, people have to be sure as to what they stand for and not get blown away by short-term shortcuts or patch-work solutions, and most-importantly, make the right choices confidently when placed in a dilemma.Of all the yardsticks and metrics available to evaluate the success of a cricketer, his performance on diverse tracks and conditions stands out as the first among equals. A batsman is often labelled as a flat-track bully or a plodder on bouncy wickets; a spinner gets the stigma of being only the sub-continent's son. Even Sir Donald Bradman's accomplishments, arguably the best man to have picked up the cricket bat, come with the asterisk mark of him having played in just two countries. The champion of the champions, as in cricket and in life, perform everywhere, sans the circumstances or conditions they find themselves in.
They see the change in surroundings as a pointer for mental adjustments to be made. At times, familiarity with conditions and inability to venture outside our comfort zones makes us oblivious and ignorant to the possibilities that lie within us. A hitherto non-encountered problem is fodder for the winner and a cause of concern for the also-ran.
The toughest position while fielding is arguably the slip, especially when you happen to don the white flannels. A slip fielder needs concentration in absolute abundance, and he is often judged by the number of catches he drops rather than the ones he catches hold of! (Did the one who coined the term ‘slip’ intend a pun here?) A slip fielder has to wait for an eternity for a ball to find the outside edge of the bat and come flying to him. If the slip happens to drop it, he won’t dare to meet the bowler alone in the dressing room!
Continuing the same analogy in our practical existence, we may come across situations where our failures begin to define us; our success will be expected as a given assumption. However, one wrong step and eye-brows will be raised. When people indeed do raise the eye-brows, it only tantamounts to the fact that they have noticed our work in the first place! The perils of success must not translate to the causes of failure.
Cricket also pointed out the necessity of staying relevant and constantly reinventing the taken-for-granted ideas. Cricket’s greatest consumer- the humble fan seated in his drawing room opposite the television set – isn’t by any stretch of imagination short of channels for viewing. Add to that the outburst of content-broadcasting smartphone applications; the options he has are endless. Cricket too had to fight the battle of survival wherein T20 was the most crucial antidote. It provided a much-needed context to the millennial world, which does not accept things just because they have been in existence since quite a while.
Over a period of time, fast bowlers learnt to bowl the off-cutters, knuckle balls and the slower ones; spinners learnt to master the arm balls and the fire the quicker ones; batsmen explored the possibility of hitting over the keeper’s head, the cow-corner became a strong scoring area and yorkers too were plundered in the stands; fielders realized that jugglery too can be used near the boundary ropes. We would have missed these aspects had T20 not been an everyday term.
Very similarly in life, ideas fade if they lose relevance and context. Reinvention becomes a survival tool; though the fundamentals do not have to undergo a sea-change every single day. Presence isn’t always a given. Minute moments decide the eventual victor. Orthodoxy may be pleasing to the eye, yet it may not be always pleasing for the scoreboard’s liking. Convention has to marry the contemporary!