Saturday, April 17, 2010


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Test cricket, one of my favorite forms of professional sport, is surely going to be a victim of Twenty20. We're soon going to see the end of the richly layered plots, the idea of the honorable draw, the triumph of aesthetics over competition, the epic demonstrations of concentration and perseverance, and all those other archaic values that Tests used to symbolize. Yet I'm not in favor of artificial intervention to keep something alive just to keep purists happy. Despite my allegiance, I admit test cricket is a waste of time. But the death of tests is not the only cause of my T20-anxiety.

I recently had the chance to moderate a group discussion on whether the IPL is beneficial to us or not. Unfortunately, given the shortage of time, the group never really scratched the surface. The advocates talked about the increased employment opportunities, the unquestionable recreational value, the very visible CSR gestures and so on. The detractors brought up the ethical issue of the misplaced resource allocation (should we have power cuts at the cost of the IPL games), the loss of productivity, the grossness of the expenditure, and the extent of commercialization.

For me, there are other issues that I'm struggling to make up my mind about. I see people spend all their energy talking and tweeting about the IPL games. A bulk of the lunch table conversations that I overhear in office are related to the previous night's games. How does the cost of this misplaced (IMHO) passion compare against the purported "psychological benefits"? Are there studies that analyze if massively popular sport movements like the IPL revitalize the economy or further concentrate wealth in the hands of a few? What about the power of the IPL in forcing even the normally sane Tharoor to resort to such jingoism and waste his time on something that's not closely relevant to his ministry or his constituency? Chomsky summed my apprehensions in "Manufacturing Consent" .

"...sports -- that's another crucial example of the indoctrination system, in my view. For one thing because it offers people something to pay attention to that's of no importance. That keeps them from worrying about things that matter to their lives that they might have some idea of doing something about. And in fact it's striking to see the intelligence that's used by ordinary people in [discussions of] sports [as opposed to political and social issues]. I mean, you listen to radio stations where people call in -- they have the most exotic information and understanding about all kind of arcane issues."

Right now I don't have the answers or the data and I'm probably taking this issue too seriously. However, for me, T20 is guilty until proven innocent. I'm sticking with my boycott.
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