How does one react when the burden of innocence or of guilt falls on the sport you love the most? Cricket is no longer a sport, it has become a tool in the hands of those who use it to serve an end it was not meant for.
The State uses it to promote peace and even hatred. The Corporates use it to promote their products, their companies and make money. The administrators of the game, like the film stars are doing, use the sport to promote themselves. Those who play the game are given enough money for them to remain slaves of the establishment.
In this multi-layered and complex intertwining of various interest groups, the emotions of the fan are being manipulated, leaving him bruised to the core. By now he must have forgotten how to enjoy the myriad skills of those who enrich the sport and make a duel worth watching, regardless of who wins and who loses.
In this wave of attacks from all sides, the IPL has unleashed one more this year. What the Mumbai terror attacks could not achieve -- an Indo-Pak war -- this fresh row could well do that.
The League, which was seen by those who thought the Club concept blurs national boundaries by bringing players of various nationalities together as a path breaking concept, will realize how wrong they were. The IPL has, ever since its conception three years ago, been ironically stoking the fires of crass nationalism, like it did last year, when it was shifted out of India.
In times of terrorism, sport, particularly if used for political purposes, is a double-edged sword, and has the potential to do more harm than good, to the sport itself and to the mindset of the people.
The debate whether Pakistani cricketers deserved the IPL snub or not is now taking a dangerous turn in Pakistan, though surprisingly the Indian media has been very restrained. It has even been critical of the manner in which the whole issue has been addressed by the organizers. The outrage in Pakistan, though over the top, is understandable. The argument that if “we were not welcome, then this whole charade of putting the players for bidding should have been avoided” which former cricketer Rameez Raja has put forth, has a lot of merit.
It was insensitive on the part of the IPL and the franchises to have put some of the best T-20 players on auction and not buy them on the pretext of it being a cricketing decision. But what can one expect from those who revel in this “vulgar” casino game, where players are sold and bought, like herds of cattle from a market!
On the other side of the border, the Pakistani establishment should realize that after the Mumbai terror attack the rules of the game have changed and it would serve nobody’s purpose, least of all their own, if their sense of “hurt” is expressed in larger anti-India sentiment.
There are no cut and dry answers in today’s world and the tragedy of a fan is that he can’t say with conviction ever again: Let us play cricket.