Sachin Tendulkar
Sachin Tendulkar
Sachin Tendulkar
Sachin Tendulkar

As I hover metaphysically over Estádio Nacional de Brasília, along with the cameras that keep criss-crossing and snooping in the field, my daughter asks me a question in the middle of the simmering knockout fixture between La Albiceleste and Les Diables Rouges. She pops it innocuously enough while a troika of Belgians are busy stamping the ankles of Lionel Messi out of existence, a much-loved man in this household. ‘Say papa, say you are asked to choose between an all-expenses paid trip to a football world cup and a cricket world cup, where would you go?’

 Transcended back to my rickety ribs, I realise I’ve not been breathing for a while. Briefly weighing her words in my mind, I decide they have many more ounces of curiosity than mischief. I wonder though if she knows the answer already. It seems such a Hobson’s choice in the heat of the moment.

 I close my eyes to a picture of an exhibition match of cricket in my mind between India and Pakistan, circa 1989. I was a very young man then, but the lad I was watching was younger, probably just 16 or so, if I am not mistaken. What is still vivid to my memories is an over when he whacked Abdul Qadir out of the ground, again and again and again, and he had this placid look on his face as against the horrors writ large on the cumulative Pakistani countenance. Abdul Qadir, who could put invisible fetters on the feet of the best batsmen of the terra firma with his inscrutable bowling, had silenced the willow of a fiery Srikkanth in the previous overs.

The aficionados of the game would soon learn and remember the name of this tormentor of bowlers across the Cricket-dom, he who’d be endorsed and toasted by none other than Don Bradman in years to come, he who could be talked of in the same breath as Vivian Richards, he who’d morph into ‘God of Cricket’ to a massive population. Now if only the whole world knew that cricket can be more than a petulant insect that chirps at night! Or perhaps they have heard of the game but pay no more heed to the phenomenon than to the pesky katydids. So long, Mr Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar, and thanks for all the fish.

The furore and outrage of the fans will surge and ebb. Maria Sharapova’s Facebook page has been mobbed and pelted. The Internet is agog too with the names of countless sportsmen who won medals for India in the Olympics and elsewhere but who are now merely a notch better than beggars. If a feckless, cricket-besotted nation finds it hard to acknowledge the existence of its priceless gems other than from cricket, what right has it got to foist Mr He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Known on the conscience of bewitching stars of Tennis?

Eventually, the question that drove me to write this post turns out to be a no-brainer to me, as my daughter is kind enough not to challenge my meagre faculties in their declining years. Cricket may have transformed itself from timeless marathons to explosive Twenty20s, but it retains its soft nature in spite of the Bodylines and ball-tampering, in spite of the apparent anonymity. I may periodically love the parabolic kicks and astounding head-butts of football, the spellbinding control of the one-pound sphere amidst the stampede of adversaries, but it is hard to digest the brutal, meditated charge over the players of the other team, the stunning blows aimed at humans. In a world where violence and intolerance are turning into epidemics, it is less than acceptable from a sporting event based on the premise of universal brotherhood to begin with. The Colombian assault on Neymar Jr’s vertebrae was merely a symptom. Brazil may have survived the encounter in question but the game was delivered a sudden death in the afternoon.


  1. That’s exactly why I have never been able to appreciate football. It seems more like war than like a game. Or maybe my expectation of courtesy on the play field is a dated concept.
    Loved, simply loved this. Your tongue in cheek humor, so delicately flavored with scorn, made it a fabulous read. 😀

    1. I am not surprised we share the feeling, Dagny. Courtesy does seem to have fallen out of favour on the play field, just as you say. Thank you for liking the oblique touch.

  2. Mmm,
    I see your girls are starting to ask the difficult questions US; having already moved on from the mundane notions of the meaning of life I suspect.

    I’ve often wondered @ the crossovers between sport & violence – crowds & teams alike…similar to the gladiatorial contests of olden days.

    I have to say though, that having lived in Africa for awhile now, I’ve been captivated by the hopes of all Africa as they followed `their’ African teams in the World Cup. No, I’m not a sports fan these days, of any denomination…but I do hope for whatever success less-fortunate countries can achieve.

    With limited access to education, it seems to me that `sport’ is – unfortunately the only light for many young kids in the world.
    Cheers, ic

    1. Ian, the invocation of gladiatorial contests is astute —some of the sports do seem to be headed that way. The light you talk of puts the medium in a different light, however. Ironically, that too smacks of gladiators again.

      It’s true I cannot treat my daughters as kids anymore!

  3. Long may your daughter ask questions to inspire such a response! Money seems to have turned some professional players into thugs. I cannot understand the logic of paying people to play games. Still, my older brothers said when I was a kid, that they’d bash me up if I played sissy cricket; we were a rugby-playing family. Sport hasn’t been my thing since – unless, of course, New Zealand is playing India and walloping the hell out of them. 🙂

    1. Amen! The questions do inspire the odd post once in a while. You are bang on about the untamed greed of the players: most of them turn into thugs. Fortunately and unfortunately, not all roads lead to Mammon. I am glad you have a soft corner for cricket too. Next times New Zealand plays against India, I’ll cheer the kiwis!

  4. Cricket is still a gentle-person’s (to be genderically correct) game and as you correctly put it, inspite of the various taints, it has had to go through it has still managed to retain that spirit. Football on the other hand, definitely more physical and gladatorial as the comment above mentions.The other sports losing mention and mindspace of the diaspora is truly unfortunate for the sportsmen. I liked the way you conveyed the message along with a tongue in cheek humor !

    1. Well, women play cricket too, and yes, it is a gentler game compared to football. That said, there are many affable exponents of the latter. Similarly, there is any number villains of cricket darker than tar. My leanings towards cricket are an outcome of a lifelong glut. Thanks for enjoying the post.

  5. uma, whether in film, sport, or the news, the spectacle of violence seems to provide some temporary catharsis for a frustrated and beleaguered humanity. The thrill of it all escapes me, but it seems to make a lot of people a lot of money.

    1. I suspect it works the other way round than catharsis, Marty. It seems to fuel some demon in them. Rather than a release of pent up emotions, it stokes the evil within. Worse, it could be driven by material greed.

  6. Uma, I have never really “gotten” why people are so nuts over organized team sports. About all I know about soccer is that the players and fans take the game way too seriously, so much so that people get killed for simply wearing the wrong colored shirt to a game! I don’t understand the draw. My husband is an athlete, but he always hated competition and team sports. Go figure!

  7. Kris, barbaric as that may sound, that does seem to be not too covert a facet of football. Your husband is an eminently sane person!

  8. I’ve never watched cricket though I have Indian friends who play and love it with a passion and never seem to have too many scrapes or bruises after they have played. That’s my kind of game. In Ireland we were introduced to hurling. Oh, man! Now that’s a brutal sport. My husband fell in love with it immediately. Go figure!

    1. Janene, I must admit I’d never heard of ‘Hurling’ before! I checked it out on Youtube and guess what was the first thing that struck me: it’s got to be a cross between badminton, football and cricket. No wonder your husband fell for it! Cricket, on the other hand, remains a softer game.

  9. If it is the ruthlessness of one sport in the field then it is the ‘fixed’ tentacles of another on the pitch or even the ‘enhanced’ adrenaline on the tracks. However, brilliance does shine through all the muck and it is this hope for a brilliant game that keeps most of us glued to the arena. What a wonderful post woven out of an innocuous question!

    1. So true, Ilakshee. It is for the stars in the muck that we keep hankering for when we obsess with these games. I am glad you liked the post so.

  10. Indeed. I never quite understood football, or the craze for it midst Indians who are almost anonymous on the global or even national scene in football. But then, I don’t understand cricket either. In the end, for a spectator, it is the level of engagement, the heat, the guile and the adrenaline that counts. I enjoy football when I’m seeing it, though I rarely see it. I enjoy cricket when I see it, though again, I rarely see it. But then, I also enjoy a game of table tennis, or even dart boards, especially those on the international level, and even wrestling. In almost every game, we’re fighting, but what would a game turn into should everyone be on the same side? They all are momentary wars, and as long as you can get through, everything is fair in war, and love of a good game.

    Blasphemous Aesthete

    1. BA, I’ve too been swayed by the proceedings of different games as I’ve watched, it’s hard not to at times, and war it is. Yet, there is a line that must not be transgressed even in the worst of wars.

  11. Interesting question you have pondered about and interesting conclusion you have come to. Cricket indeed has that basic dignity of a gentleman’s post.

    1. I am glad those thoughts tickled you in some way. Cricket is a much more civil enterprise regardless of the occasional blackguards.

  12. “Not to challenge your meager faculties in your declining years!!!’ Don’t make me laugh at your hardly meager faculties :D. Cricket is largely a gentleman’s game yes, but there have been instances of slinging which have marred many a game. That being said, it is still way gentler than football and much more so than American football which I find nothing short of wrestling!

    1. Let’s face it Richa, test cricket would be a mundane affair but for the occasional perverts —you know who all I mean. 🙂 As for my faculties, they are already in the bottom of the hourglass.

  13. I’m not much of a cricket or football person but I’m a fan of your writing. It felt so good to read a post of yours.
    It’s been a long time. I hope you are doing well. 🙂

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