JLF 2015: Indian Cricket at the Crossroads

  • Pathikrit Sen Gupta, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Jan 24, 2015 21:11 IST

India has no chance of winning next month's World Cup, concurred four panelists during a cricket-themed show at the Jaipur Literature Festival on Saturday, while presenter Rajdeep Sardesai chose to disagree.

"This should help me sell a few more copies of my book," he said, drawing hearty laughter from a large audience during the programme titled "Indian Cricket at the Crossroads" that turned out to be a crowd-pleaser.

There was little optimism in the discussion, with issues like graft, nepotism and conflict of interest taking centre stage.

Cricket was one of the last remaining bastions of meritocracy in India, suggested Sardesai, asking the panel why the game had captured the country's imagination so much.

"Corruption maybe," said Mumbai-based writer Dilip D'Souza and journalist James Astill agreed.

"There's too much focus on commerce," Astill said, blaming the Indian Premier League (IPL) for degrading the sport.

The league may be good for cricketers but not necessarily for cricket, said Hindustan Times journalist Soumya Bhattacharya.

"Perhaps interest in cricket hasn't waned, but youngsters are much more interested in football these days."

The IPL tournament has been mired in controversy since May 2013 when fast bowler S Sreesanth and two of his teammates from the Rajasthan Royals franchise were arrested by Delhi Police on charges of spot-fixing, or influencing the outcomes of parts of a match in exchange for money.

The previous UPA government giving the Bharat Ratna to Sachin Tendulkar also came up for discussion, with Congress MP Shashi Tharoor appearing stumped momentarily when Sardesai asked him if it was a vote-catching attempt.

"He deserved it and the country wanted it," Tharoor said, though he didn't get much support from the audience.

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