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Cricket news, the new sitcoms

When it comes to India?s cricket fever, nothing has more gossip value than talking about money in the game, writes Amrit Mathur.

india Updated: Nov 12, 2006 00:54 IST

It is one thing to moan woh kuch karte kyun nahi? after every defeat and look for mujrims, but last week, India’s obsession with cricket went to unprecedented levels.

When an internal, insignificant squabble in a visiting team grabbed our attention, cricket touched a new low. In the name of breaking news and screaming headlines, hotel waiters/ managers and bus drivers were hounded for interviews and guests hauled into studios to provide us their views.

Does it really matter if a player and coach disagree over the choice of music in the team bus? Whether one actually slapped the other? Or what Mrs Greg Chappell was wearing at night?

Do we have to know whose door was banged in the early hours of the morning and if someone behaved rudely with a female guest at a disco? The issue is not that of a thappad, not even what a security officer saw or heard, or the reason why he is saying these things.

The issue is larger — it is about cricket itself and what it has become. The entire episode demonstrates, once again, the incredible power of cricket. Today, it is some temporary hand shooting his mouth off, tomorrow a dressing room attendant could go to town with juicy details — and hit the headlines.

This is not far fetched, considering the extraordinary tamasha that accompanies cricket. The latest in this bizarre sequence is the focus, for instance, on players’ hairstyles.

Such is our ability to pick on trivialities that Sehwag’s depleting hair attracted more comments than his batting form and Harbhajan’s look in an advertisement attracted more extreme reactions. And when Dhoni went for a hair cut there was, according to the police, a law and order situation.

When it comes to India’s cricket bukhaar, nothing has more gossip value than talking about money in the game. This is an all-time favourite — endorsement details are followed as closely as box office results and there are regular updates about BCCI’s riches and the millions made from deals struck every other day.

Obviously, this economic clout is linked to the surging economy and the northward movement of the sensex. Cricket has an amazing ability to connect with consumers; players who only sold colas once now have a larger field of play — they endorse products ranging from mobiles to mobil oil.

In India cricket is the ultimate lottery, the fast track to fame and fortune. If some obscure colonel, who had an accidental brush with cricket, can grab our attention and headlines, then what happens to others, including players, is not difficult to imagine.

The bottomline is that things being revealed happen in every team. Players fight and abuse each other and scream at coaches; this has happened in India too, and with more than one coach. If all those stories were to tumble out of the dressing room, there would no longer be an audience for the Nach Baliyes and the saas bahu serials.