The Ebbs and Flows of Cricket

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Poetry and Prose in ‘Motion’

Cricket is not just a game, not only a religion in our country. Like literature, it’s a form of art. Sir Gary Sobers and William Shakespeare, for instance, are masters of their trade, but they were born geniuses. If we isolate the champions of these arts and study the evolution seen in these arts over a period of time, we find that champions keep their own place irrespective of the challenges the forms face themselves. So, it would be very intriguing to analyze the common challenges literature and cricket have faced in the course of evolution.

Change is inevitable. But change never comes sans opposition. There was a time when certain genres of literature where seen as low, unimportant and non-serious. It has taken a length of time for people, especially the purists to accept forms of popular fiction as a part of literature. While the forms have slowly but surely been accepted by the masses, the purists maintain that canonized literature is untouchable. Classical forms of poetry, plays and serious novels are seen as ‘the’ high forms of literature. Though the popular forms of literature are read by the masses, they do not leave a lasting impression which canonized literature does. Purists maintain that the masses fail to understand the complexities and intricacies of high literature and hence refrain from going through the grinds of reading and analyzing these texts.

If we compare this to the changes cricket has gone through, we find that the masses and the purists react similarly as in the case of literature. Cricket meant ‘test’ cricket in its initial stages, that too ‘timeless’ tests. It was a means of socializing, expansion of cultures. Then the duration of a test was reduced to five days, including a rest day. Hence within six days a game would either be won or lost or and in a draw. Then came limited overs cricket. Then in 1980s’ Kerry Packer revolutionized the game by introducing colored clothing, day-night cricket etc. The purists saw these changes as an attempt to rob the game of its traditions. It almost divided the cricketing world into two factions. In the due course of time the purists started accepting one-day cricket as some form of cricket. Then T-20 sent ripples around the cricketing circle once more in the early 2000’s. Greats such as Micheal Holding still feel that T-20 cricket is not cricket. It’s a source of entertainment which should not be taken seriously. The fact that these attractive forms of slam-bang cricket gained momentum amongst the masses and powerful corporate houses was seen as a threat to test cricket. But in the due course we have seen that if test cricket is of the highest quality, people cherish it. Though the numbers may be in favour of the shorter forms of the game, test cricket has a special and unassailable supremacy of its own.

So, we see that its not mere market value, the economics, the numbers that determine the position of a certain art form in a given time and society. Yes, we may tend to be swayed away by a gust of wind which blows in a given direction and therefore be misleading. The rigours of playing and watching test cricket are similar to the grind of writing and reading high literature. Both have a special position in the heart of the purists for they leave a lasting impression which is indelible. They become historic and hence have greater value. For instance, a drawn game of cricket may not satisfy the result oriented viewers, but it brings a lot out of a player and his character traits can be seen only in a test match. After all, life too is not only about winning or losing, but more about how one faces its challenges. Popular forms of literature and slam-bang cricket require special skills to write and play respectively. Though, the approach in both the cases seems to be simplistic, by no means can they be debunked and dismissed.

Canonized cricket and literature could benefit from the possibilities shown by the other forms of the two arts. It is imperative that all forms of both the arts are treated with due respect so that the two arts continue to thrive forever. Evolution should fine tune the art to adjust with the evolving times while maintaining their tradition and heritage.

Sushrut Bhatia

Image Source: [http://www.stgeorgegolftrail.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/cricket.jpg]

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