Believe it or not: cricket is a game played only of India, by India and for India! Whether it be a Ramnaresh Sarwan, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Mahendra Nagamootoo or Dinesh Ramdin of the West Indies, the famous Mutthiah Muralitharan of Sri Lanka, Nasser Hussain to Ravi Bopara to Monty Panesar in England or even the Shahs of Kenya and Hashim Amla in South Africa, around the world, every team has an Indian root somewhere.
It stands to logic too! The game does not involve too much body contact, is cost effective to play (from gully cricket onwards, that is), involves skill more than brute force, is not confrontational (Bhaji and Symonds be damned), relies on shrewd marketing and, best of all, pays the most in the present time: all requirements that the average Indian fulfils. This has led to more open-minded thinking and the further development of the game in these countries.
Indians, as a rule, have a tendency of working very hard and trying to come up tops at whatever they do. Three things are vividly typified by a man who represents India – the spirit of work, the spirit of travel and the spirit of excelling in life. This is exemplified no better than the rise of Dhirubhai Ambani, who started work as a petrol pump attendant in the Middle East and eventually established a multimillion dollar empire. Most importantly, we Indians do not shy away from doing our chosen or assigned task down to even the most menial job. These are qualities of thorough gentlemen. Is this why cricket is called a ‘gentlemen’s game’? Indeed, cricket by India/ Indians.
Putting aside sentimentality, there are hard economic reasons too. With a population of one billion plus, we can lose only on popularity to the Chinese! An Indian in every team, preferably on merit, not only boosts the game in that country but the television ratings in India as well. Remember the way the beauty industry got a boost in India the moment both Misses – Universe and World – were from India in the 90s? Aishwarya & Sushmita? Cricket occupies an even higher position in Indian culture, so that same effect is more pronounced when Star Cricket shows Jeetan Patel lining up to bowl in New Zealand’s colours.
Cricket is today working on the womb-to-tomb concept in India. You start off as a player, have a career as an international/Ranji player, then can branch off as an analyst, coach, commentator, expert (on any of the innumerable channels), curator, or even be a Bollywood biggie and rub shoulders with the stars… or, as a last ditch effort, a writer like me, just putting the pieces together. It is thus a complete package: you even have a choice of countries! They don’t pick you in one; you go to the other! It is as easy as players changing teams in IPL.
The effect will continue. Just as players change teams, organizers are in a strong enough position to change countries: an IPL can be hosted in South Africa. That, folks, is the cricket of India.