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A question of perception

india Updated: Dec 14, 2008 01:01 IST
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The zeal which begins with hypocrisy must conclude in treachery; at first it deceives, at last it betrays — Francis Bacon

Do we live in a world which says what it doesn't mean and means what it doesn't want to say? India today may be in ferment, where it's ruling elite is baying for blood, a blood-curdling revenge against enemies of the state. It is searching for villains and wants to stone them to death. Somehow, this search rarely allows us to look within, to introspect and to face the mirror. The mirror, they say, never lies, but even here it reflects what we may want to see. The beautiful and the ugly go side by side, or do they?

You may ask what makes a column devoted to sport indulge in philosophical inanities. But somehow, watching and reading about Test cricket these past few days has made me a brooding pest, who finds the very essence of the meaninglessness of sport and the ephemeral joy it gives, of little use now. Or perhaps I've woken up to this reality a bit late in the day. It was always there, right from the moment competitive sport between two nations was played. It is being argued, and there are many takers for the theory, that the England players decided not to abandon India because of the fear of losing future lucrative IPL contracts. They have also been lauded by those who see in this gesture, a lofty, noble purpose of saving humanity from the evil designs of the terrorists. India, in return, has not only thanked England profusely but should be indebted to them for all times to come.

Why Pakistan, which too wants a similar commitment from Test-playing nations for the sake of the same reasoning, is being treated as a pariah is something which also needs a logical answer.

One would have imagined that this indebtedness of the Indians would get translated into huge crowds coming to watch the Test and giving a standing ovation to the England team for showing the courage to return to India. But instead, the people of the country for whom this grand gesture was made, decided not to fill the ground. Chennai is traditionally one of India's best Test-loving centres. If crowds seem to have turned their back to this format of the game even there, then the time may have come to seriously ponder the future of Test cricket, at least in India.

Many of us were trying to find reasons other than cricketing for lack of crowds against the Australians, but if people from cities that have been bred on Tests, find the five-day format tedious to watch, then the lack of interest is endemic. If that is the reality, then was there any need to get England back to play in India? Or perhaps when we live in abnormal times, symbolism becomes more real than the event itself.