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Where is the love for cricket?

When was the last time we watched sport without any nepotism? Let me rephrase that – when was the last time we didn’t dislike a team for winning? When was the last time we appreciated the opposition for their game play and spirit? When was the last time we watched cricket while not foul mouthing a player from the opposition? When was the last time we watched cricket purely for the love of the game?

Today, after years of following Cricket, I find my love for the sport being beaten every time I watch a game and the reactions after it; where is that love for the sport we had felt when we first began watching it merely for what it was? Why are we always nit-picking now? Why are we always critiquing the game and its players? Why is there always a need to debate who the best in the sport is? Why is there a need to evaluate and dissect every single element of the game now? Has the entire essence of the sport vanished due to our clouded bigotry? Has logic evaded us to the extent that we choose to ignore sportsmanship completely? Have we forgotten the feeling of loving the game for what it is?

A massive billion were waiting for this particular player to achieve what had never been achieved before. After the long wait of more than 12 months, Sachin Tendulkar accomplished the enormous feat, and one that will probably never be matched – a century of centuries. In a country like India, where so much passion accompanies cricket, not to mention the Sachin’s demi-god status, this moment was bound to have an emotional association. For the past year, the only thing that mattered when India played was the elusive century that took its own sweet time to come by. Every time the Indian team took the field in the past year, the same question sprouted up every single time – ‘Is today going to be the day that he will score that century?’ The whole country seemed more interested in the century than in getting their work done at their daily jobs. India lost the game against Bangladesh in spite of Sachin getting to that landmark, but it didn’t seem to matter – the century was all there was to it. Doesn’t a team win weigh more than an individual statistic? Is that kind of number-obsession in sport healthy? Are numbers and records the only validation of the competence of a player?

A Sachin Tendulkar, a Ricky Ponting, or any player, for that matter, cannot be judged by the sheer numbers and records they hold. They have given much more to the sport than the their incredible numbers; they have devoted themselves to the sport. Can that devotion be quantified? No. The sheer delight of watching Ponting take a virtuoso shy at the stumps and running the batsman out, or the pleasure of watching a classy straight drive by Tendulkar, or David Hussey’s screamer of a catch at the boundary, or even the chainsaw spectacle when Dale Steyn or Brett Lee take a wicket, account for much more than the numbers we’re habitually obsessed with.

Why do we now think that every team is duplicitous? Why is it everything a conspiracy? For instance, why is Sri Lanka losing to Bangladesh a conspiracy to prevent India from qualifying? Are our prejudices making us underestimate every team’s capabilities? Bangladesh beat India too; is there an ulterior motive behind that as well? It probably is time to accept that the entire world does not revolve around us and our objects of desire. Why in the first place are we dependent on someone else to go ahead? You win some, you lose some; that is what makes up sport.

At the end of the day, it is not about one single person on the cricket field; it is about the 21 others playing that game as well; it is about how the team fares. It’s about the little things that make the game such a pleasure to watch, like a simple handshake acknowledging an opposition player’s feat. As correct as it is to say that individuals are the ultimate contributors, cricket is, at the end of the day, a team sport, and the team is of primary importance. There is no greater feeling than watching a team work together and put together a performance that is tailored to achieve success.

Is visionless jingoism harming the overall spirit of the sport? What are we watching cricket now – to feel bitter, or because we love what it gives us? That is one question we should ask ourselves the next time we sit down to watch a game. Maybe we’ll realize that appreciating the positive elements of the sport can give us infinitely more joy than criticizing the negative ones.

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