Lalit Modi is widely acclaimed as the ‘Tzar of Indian Cricket’. A ‘Messiah’ of the game. There’s talk of a movie to be made on his life.
The Commissioner of Cricket is in a league of his own. The tributes keep coming as fast as the 20-20 sixes.
No doubt he is dynamic, energetic and innovative.
No doubt he has revolutionized the cricketing world (for better or for worse, history will tell us).
But I am not writing this piece to debate the future of cricket – franchisee, test, or otherwise.
What bothers me is - what is Mr. Lalit Modi doing for the Indian cricket fan?
Yes, the ordinary, die-hard, for the most part loyal, passionate Indian cricket follower.
The one whose life revolves around cricket.
The one who lives from tournament to tournament. From game to game. From morning to night, and from minute to minute of the match.
The one who plans months in advance to see a live cricket match. Who scrimps and saves for the big day.
The one who gets up at the crack of dawn and rushes to the stadium for tickets. Waiting patiently, in serpentine long queues – to see his team, or his heroes, play.
The one who braves heat or cold, rain or shine, to come out and cheer the cricketers.
The one who sits on the stands – anywhere he gets a seat – as long as he can watch the game.
The one who puts up with any kind of inconvenience – in the stadium or out of it – so long as he is part of the crowd.
The one who turns up at the turnstiles – and fills and re-fills the cricketing coffers.
The one who watches ‘Live TV’ at home – and sends the TRPs soaring – and the sponsors roaring – all the way to the banks.
The one – without whom – the Commissioner wouldn’t be where he is.
What am I meandering on about, you may well ask.
Hasn’t Mr. Modi done so much for Indian cricket and for the fan?
Hasn’t he brought ‘entertainment and cheer’ - along with the beer?
Hasn’t he given cricket followers a choice between ‘boring tests’ and ‘with-it’ 20-20s.
Haven’t he, and his sponsors, distributed largesse to the cricketing public. Given in abundant charity to schools and other worthy institutions?
Is he not pouring the money back into the game?
Then what am I cribbing about – you may ask again.
Let me tell you.
Has the CEO of Indian Cricket, in his frenzied hi-profile lifestyle, had time to ‘stop and stare’ – and actually see how the cricket fans fare?
Has he, in his lordly overseer role - ever noticed how and where the common man (read woman as well) sits to watch the game?
The Tzar and the common cricket fan are as far apart as the North and South poles – when it comes to watching the game in comfort – at the grounds.
The Common Fan, in India, puts up with appalling stadium conditions.
The seats are hard, the stands are dirty. The catering is done in unhygienic conditions.
The restrooms are anything but ‘rest’ rooms.
But what’s killing – is the uncovered stands. No roof above one’s head. The blazing Indian sun in league with the scorching display on the 20-20 fields.
Yes, the Indian cricket fan is a patient species. Long-suffering and accommodating beyond compare. Tolerant to the stadium surroundings, that is. Not so charitable to the losses of his team!
You may argue that Mr. Modi is doing his best. That plans to modernize and renovate take time to execute.
But surely, for one so forceful and go-getting – who air-dashes from match to match;
who organizes a tournament out of thin air – when there is a home threat scare.
Who, like Hanuman, transports the game from one country to another single-handedly.
Who gets the financiers to conjure up the moolah, staggering in its figures.
Who sets the rules of the game in every which way.
Surely it is not too difficult for such a one, to uproot the old and turn things around, immediately, for the regular cricket fan?
Surely, he can lay down the law when it comes to providing decent amenities, and cater to the ordinary cricket follower?
To propel us into the ‘Champions’ League’ of sports grounds?
Say, in 20 to 20 days?
Only the best will do Champion cricket fans.
A hopeful Indian Cricket Fan