A Higher Standard

Amidst all the brouhaha over the rioting in London and its suburbs for three days, one important development that has gone quite unnoticed from the general blabber of political punditry is the Indian cricket team’s decision to continue the test series in England despite the riots. Now, one can point out many ‘deeper underlying sensibilities’ between the two boards of cricket, and other considerations involved in the decision, but all things apart, this decision shows, particularly in context of India, a conscious attempt by a post-colonial society in a previously imperialist country, to differentiate itself in terms of decisions, thinking, the manner of perception and modus operandi. The present riots in London bust the popular myth that civilized culture is the monopoly of western societies. The reality is that in a world torn apart by poverty and strife, it’s for the rich and prosperous to decide what is civilized and what is barbaric.

The Indian cricket team could have opted to postpone the present cricket series citing ‘security concerns’ and could have gently snubbed the English and Welsh Cricket Board by depriving it of its revenue from the remaining two test matches. By doing so, the Indian cricket team could also have salvaged their no.1 ranking in test cricket based on strong and genuine ‘concerns’. By refusing to act as such, the team has marked a departure from that knee jerk cowardice that is typical of European teams visiting India. Each blast in India makes the whole country a landmine, each stray incident cements their perception of India being a jungle littered with sadhus and snakes.

The Asian countries had, in between themselves, showed such maturity even before the context of this debate arose. Sri Lanka toured Pakistan in March, 2009 despite the warnings of an imminent attack. The team eventually got attacked, but instead of freezing the sport exchanges with Pakistan by its immediate and not-too-immediate geographical neighbours, it strengthened the belief that terrorism was a menace that needed to be fought jointly, aggressively and uncompromisingly. One could not shirk away from its responsibility by describing it a state problem as terrorism knew no boundaries. Of course, such understanding is unexpected of the western countries perpetually diseased by the pre-world war superiority complex.

Contrast this with the numerous cancellations and postponements that the South East Asian countries have seen by the visiting European countries even after being provided with fool proof and impenetrable security shields. The most recent and famous examples being the cancellation of England’s tour to India midway due to the November, 2008 terrorist attacks and the recent postponement of a July, 2011 tour by the EPL club Blackburn “as a result of an advisory from the London police which was against their travel to India because of the Mumbai blasts.”

Such knee jerk cowardice does not only strip the hosts from their expected revenue, but also deflates the aspirations and resilience of the hosts, and also directly or indirectly boosts the morale of those hell bent upon disrupting normal and friendly exchanges between different nations. For some curious reason, these countries seem to be always eager to play puppet at the hands of the very extremists whom they fight tooth and nail in their own countries.

This decision by the Indian cricket team raises questions even beyond the realm of cricket. It remains a fact that the record of western societies in terms of assimilating varieties of opinion, culture and a host of other differentiation’s is not so good with the recent spate of killings by right-wing psychopath Anders Behring Brievik in Norway providing an illustrative example of wide spread aversion to multiculturalism; especially Islam. Mindless and non-sensical stereotyping remains a popular norm and a certain red line is drawn for anything deemed to be a threat to the Conservative forces of the country, crossing which the false bogey of ‘phobias’ is raised to misguide the popular perception and stoke up public anger. It is always the minorities, the underdeveloped and the developing and the poor and the underprivileged which are at the receiving end of such ostracism. The question now arises that should these minorities behave in the same way, should an opportunity arise, against such societies? Should the same standards be adopted while dealing with the threats of security, while internal or external?

The threat posed to the Indian team right now is graver than the threat posed by a terrorist attack. A terrorist can only attack stealthily and on a fixed target and is bound to be caught sooner or later. But what do you do with a mob of rioters and arsonists who know nothing except the language of violence? News reports today suggest that the Indian team has decided to stay in its hotel. Suppose the mob sets the hotel on fire. How many would you catch? On whom would you fix the responsibility?

By refusing to indulge in such threat consciousness, the Indian cricket team and the BCCI has shown a higher standard of authority and a clear headed reasoning. By recognizing the symbolic value of solidarity, the team has sent out a clear message of intolerance against such barbaric acts. On field, the visitors may be losing, but off field, they are the clear winners.

Anshul Kumar Pandey

The author is a student of Zakir Husain College, University of Delhi pursuing graduation in Political Science. Apart from Politics, his areas of interest include short stories (fiction and non-fiction), travelling, photography and blogging. You can reach him at [email protected], http://twitter.com/pandeyanshul or http://facebook.com/emailanshul.