To talk about cricket or its financial health in the immediate aftermath of the Mumbai tragedy may sound insensitive, but life has to go on.
Sport for many symbolises the coming together of various nationalities, races and religious identities, in conflict with each other. In this war minus the shooting, the conqueror and the vanquished share a drink together once the battle is over.
And given the financial health of cricket, especially in India, it is also a sport now which is making the players and the boards of various countries richer by the day. Even after the chilling terrorist strikes in Mumbai, aimed among many things, to maim its economic stability, India may still not be seen as vulnerable to terror as Pakistan in the eyes of the world.
The world of cricket refuses to travel to Pakistan, citing threat to life as the reason. The Australians, Kiwis and West Indians have cancelled their tours to Pakistan and now even the Indians are threatening to do so.
India so far, despite also being ravaged by bomb blasts, was not seen by the players and the boards as an “untouchable”.
During the IPL, the bomb blasts in Bangalore and Jaipur did not deter players from Australia and South Africa from playing in our country. They did not see India as a country where terrorists could strike at will and with impunity. A withdrawal would have also meant considerable loss of earnings from the IPL for the players.
The brave decision of the players could be seen as much as an affirmation of sports triumphing over the politics of hate and divide, as the lure of money being stronger than a threat to one’s life.
It is understandable why no one has raised an eyebrow when the England team withdrew from the one-day series after what happened in Mumbai. Even the Indian players were too traumatised to think of playing. The Indian Board readily decided to cancel the rest of the two matches but have managed to persuade the English Board to send its team back for the two-match Test series.
It may be difficult for the England authorities to allay the fear of the players who are reluctant to return for the Tests but it is not an impossible situation.
The stakes are high, not just for England or India but the very survival of the game could be threatened if India as a venue gets excluded from international cricket.
Unlike Pakistan, India is the hub of cricket, both in terms of its popularity and its financial health. If the game’s revenues have grown manifold and the players are earning more, it has a lot to do with India and its growing economic clout.
Already the postponement of the Champions League is having a negative impact on state teams from Australia and South Africa.
They and even their boards were hoping to make huge financial gains from the League, which is supposed to impact the future of cricket in a major way.
If India loses its primacy in cricket’s pecking order due to the fear of terrorist strikes and if the economic meltdown further erodes the investments in the game, then cricket could be in serious danger of losing the kind of mind-boggling revenues it had started generating of late.
It is because of these very reasons that foreign teams will think ten times before refusing to come and play here.
India is not Pakistan, at least not yet.