On a charming train ride from Manchester to Cardiff, livened by a gang of spirited Indian fans and cups of coffee, a question that provokes: Who should Indian cricket be liable to? The investors and business houses which pump in money, and in turn depend upon market dynamics and TRPs?
The impact of these entities on cricket is what makes the game in India look pretty among its poor cousins, hockey and football. This particular answer may seem valid, but it is not entirely correct.
The young men on board, proudly wearing their Team India jerseys and animatedly discussing the prospect of India v South Africa, grab my attention. One of them comes up for a chat. He has spent a fortune - £100 for a ticket, in addition to his train fare and hotel stay. That’s a huge financial and emotional investment - inspite of the muck of fixing.
The money chain starts from here, with the fans. It is they who bring in the moolah, which in turn makes India’s board and cricketers the richest.
Spare a thought
A cricketer may hardly ever give a thought to how a fan makes it to the stands. While players fly business class and stay in five-star hotels, the ones who fill the stadia to watch them, find the cheapest mode of transport, and stay in bed-and-breakfasts.
While players are ferried in comfortable buses, fans stand in never-ending queues to get into venues. They might moan and groan when India lose, but come the following game, they are back, egging their side on.
A cricketer has to keep his side of the bargain — which is to play good cricket. And clean cricket.
The latest spot-fixing scandal has shaken the core of this arrangement, for as much as the fan wants to witness a game full of theatre, he doesn’t want it to be scripted. How unpleasant it would be for cricket lovers to begin to view every no-ball or wide with cynicism and doubt.
While we must assume the players involved in the recent scandal are innocent till proven guilty, one fan in the group on my train, said he didn’t want to look back at the final moments of India’s World Twenty20 win, for the man who took the catch to dismiss Misbah-ul Haq had betrayed his faith.
The fact that this fan was still travelling 300km to watch India play spoke volumes about his love for the game. That love ought to be respected.
The writer is a former India opener