Media And World Cup

The people of India have no  problems. Grinding poverty, unemployment, malnutrition and semi-starvation for a large section, state terror on dalits and tribals—these issues are not to be concerned with. What is needed is only victory in the cricket field. Cricket is synonymous with war, and a victory in an international cricket match is an occasion for national celebration. This is the grotesque idea of nationalism that the news media sell.

For the last few days, what was witnessed was a spectacle as if of national mourning owing to India's loss to Australia in the 'historic' semi-final of the cricket world cup. In an important mofussil town of West Bengal, cricket lovers took out an effigy of M S Dhoni, India's captain and shouted slogans against Dhoni and a key batsman who, they hoped, would steer India to a victory against Australia in the semi-final of the World Cup. These disappointed cricket-crazy chaps cannot really be blamed, because influenced by media propaganda, they have come to see cricket as war.

Just on the eve of the semi-final match, the largest circulating daily in India-it is incidentally a Bengali daily—published a front-page headline calling the semi-final match a world war in the caption. Now that India has lost, the newspaper has begun to ferret out the reasons for the ravages brought about by the war. If poverty and inequality are accentuated, if large sections of the population continue to live at below-subsistence levels, if farmers commit suicides, people should not be worried. India's pitiable rank in terms of Human Development Index is not a matter of shame, but a defeat in the World Cup is. One should feel concerned only when India loses an important World Cup cricket match.

Now the question is how many of Indians are seriously interested in the game of cricket, although many watch cricket matches on the television or in the field. Cricket is a costly game, and people constantly in struggle with poverty and want cannot afford the expenses. Again, why so much emphasis on cricket? Is it not a fact that football and even hockey are far more popular games, considering the world as a whole? India has long ceased to be reckoned as football power even in the Asian map and there is no knowing when she will able to match the achievements of Neville D'souza or Chuni Goswami or Tulsidas Balaram. In hockey, the mighty world-beaters of yester years are now lowly placed in the Olympics or World Cups. But who cares? Members of the Indian cricket squad may justifiably take pride in the fact that their defeat is considered shameful by the nation, in spite of the fact their economic and social status is astronomically higher than that of the average Indian. Had India won the match, there would certainly have been an occasion of nationwide jinks and junketing, and M S Dhoni and his playmates would certainly have been projected as national heroes of this poor country, although each of them is a billionaire in terms of the Indian currency.

Coming to cricket again it is a legitimate question whether test matches or one-day matches are more important for this game. Did Sachin Tendulkar or Shane Warne attain such heights as they did by playing one-day cricket? Yet it is the instant excitement provided by one-day international or 20-20 games that matters, not the subtleties of the game. This illustrates the shallowness of the understanding of the cricket-crazy public. Ordinary Australians have demonstrated that their attitude to cricket is somewhat sober, at least in comparison with Indians. They rejoice in their team's victories, but do not take such rejoicing to fanatical heights. On the other hand, they do not feel crestfallen in the event of defeat. More than seventy percent of the crowd that came to the Sydney cricket ground to watch the match consisted of Indians, although it was an Australian ground. Australians who came to watch their side's win were fewer in number. Indian media and sponsors may however take pride in that they have been able to spread a pernicious type of cricket culture to all the corners of this country.

Vol. 47, No. 40, Apr 12 - 18, 2015