Is cricket above patriotism and national honour?

Is cricket above patriotism and national honour?

Who won the gold medal in cricket at the recently held Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea? Many will be surprised to learn that both men and women’s cricket were part of the competition after it first became a medal sport in the 2010 Asian Games.

For the record, Sri Lanka won the gold medal in men’s cricket while Pakistan was the winner in women’s competition. 

Matches were played in T-20 format in which 10 teams took part and 28 games were played to decide the medal winners. Unfortunately, for patriotic Indian cricket fans who consider the game as religion, their team was missing in action both in the men and women’s contests.

By failing to send even a B team to the Asian Games, BCCI is guilty of the worst kind of treachery. It completely ignored the event in which India would have certainly come home with the gold medal. While participants in other sports are constantly questioned when they choose to skip Asian Games or Commonwealth Games or the Olympics, it looks like cricketers and the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) is above any such scrutiny. No one has ever questioned the country’s richest sporting body for its transgressions especially when cricket players and BCCI place commercial interests over patriotism and a sense of pride in representing the flag on victory podium.

Tennis stars are constantly hounded by all and sundry when they choose to skip Asian Games or Davis Cup games and instead opt to participate in Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) and Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) events. 

Shooters, boxers, wrestlers and runners come under an enormous pressure to put up an exceptional performance whenever they are representing the country on an international stage and competing for medals. 

The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) and Sports Authority of India (SAI) express shock and outrage when players and athletes choose not to represent the country in marquee events. They even talk about of sanctions, issue warnings and rebuke them in public for not being patriotic enough for choosing to skip representing India in major sporting events.

But when it comes to cricket, there is a clear double standard. Cricketers and BCCI are indeed a privileged lot. The richest sporting body could surely afford to send a men and women’s cricket team to compete and win a gold medal for the country. Instead, cricketers are treated like children born with a silver spoon. 

Players and BCCI provide no explanation to a billion fans on why they are above patriotism and chose to ignore an important sporting carnival. Winning cricket gold medals would have placed India in sixth position on the final medals tally that would have matched their 2010 performance on the ranking list.

The high priests and mandarins of BCCI never fail to invoke national pride and prestige when it comes to supporting commercial interests. “Team India” is promoted aggressively in the international arena and citizens are asked for their unflinching support whenever Indian team takes the field in test matches and other tournaments. 

Cricketers are lionised for their match winning performances while playing for the national team. Failures, especially ones abroad, are asked to be overlooked on the basis of national interest. And whenever uncomfortable questions are asked about transparency, accountability and integrity of the game, cricket administrators divert attention from the governance mess by pointing out to Team India’s winning performances.

Autocratic institution

The BCCI has increasingly become a self serving autocratic institution that ignores public interest. Matches involving “Men in Blue” are a cultural phenomena and draws rapt attention of millions of ardent cricket fans. More importantly, cricketers are role models for many youngsters especially for the poor and downtrodden in society. 

By making a conscious choice of placing commercial interests over the priority of winning a gold medal for the country, BCCI has indeed sent the wrong message to the youth that mammon matters more than its players representing the country. It is also a blatant indication of cricket and cricketers being mightier than the national anthem and Indian flag that is played and hoisted during the victory ceremony in sporting events like the Asian Games.

When it comes to patriotism, national pride and representing the country in the international sporting arena, athletes from all sports should receive the same message and treatment from the Ministry of Sports and organisations associated with their respective sports. 

Unfortunately, in our country, cricket has become a religion and hence the godly status accorded to our cricketers places them on a pedestal that is much higher than other sportsmen and women. Such kind of acclamation escapes scrutiny of players well as of Officials at BCCI. 

Cricket was introduced in Asian Games with the intention of providing a boost to the sport in China. Soon, it could be an Olympic sport. Unless cricket fans vociferously demand a team be sent to every international sporting event, it is likely that BCCI will ignore national interest in support of its commercial endeavors.

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