Dhoni finishes off in style, a magnificent strike into the crowd!!! India lift the world cup after 28 years and the party starts in the dressing room. Aah those moments…
Moments that every Indian Cricket fan would cherish for their lifetime. Moments when you felt like hugging the person beside you and shouting in joy. No matter what he was, a Hindu, Muslim, Sikh or a Jew he just had to be a cricket fan to share those moments. This one moment defines the love for cricket in India. This one moment defines the support the Indian cricket team enjoys wherever they go. This one moment defines what Cricket is to India. It is a religion in fact, more than a religion.
Just 4 days after India emerged the winners of Champions Trophy, they had to participate in yet another meaningless tri series which included West Indies and Sri Lanka. Though the tri series eventually had a much bigger part to play in the development Virat Kohli as the Indian Cricket team, it surely seemed excess at first thought. Many even wonder why India play Sri Lanka anymore. Both these teams have played like a million times in the last few years and the only answer to this question is Money. Money that is attached to the Indian cricket team. Money from TV rights that is generated when India plays in a series away. All this surely is due to the fact that, us Indians are never bored of cricket.
3851 crores, this was they sum that Star TV had to bid to win the rights to broadcast home matches of the Indian cricket team for 2012-2018 and all this money goes to the BCCI. Now, imagine even if an amount like 10 crores goes to the West Indies Cricket Board for playing a tri series with India, why would they play some test matches with Sri Lanka which surely wouldn’t even fetch merge 1%. Now, in addition to the TV rights there are naming sponsors like CELKON and many more. Even the Zimbabwe Cricket Board is very happy to play a series with India, not that their team would be playing a quality cricketing team but the money generated from the series would surely fund the Cricket Board for future tours and series. The Indian Cricket team is now the hottest commodity in the International cricket market, not because of the fact that they play good cricket but it’s because they generate great amounts of revenues to the Cricket Boards.
I quote this example not to show that BCCI is rich or the cricketers are rich, (which as a fact they surely are) but this example shows the huge following that Cricket enjoys in India. Though an another example showing the TRP ratings of the matches or the ground attendances might suffice the fact but, money as we all know runs the modern world and what would be a more fitting example but show the popularity of a sport by the revenue it generates. Cricket surely has a religion like status in India. But did Cricket always had this religion like status in India? The answer surely is a NO. The journey of cricket in India from a sport introduced by British for their amusement to its present day status is an interesting one.
Indians were always fascinated by cricket. From the very first time they were introduced cricket by the East Indian Company to ODI series in Zimbabwe being played presently Indians always felt a special bonding towards the sport. Even in the pre-independent India, cricket was a popular sport. The very fact that the first test which India played against England at Lord’s in 1932 attracted a massive crowd of 24,000 shows the following which cricket enjoyed then. Though the sport had a huge following, it was no way comparable to today’s scenario. India continued its journey in the cricketing world with ups and downs, so was its popularity in India. But the truly defining moment which motivated a generation of kids to take up cricket was the 1983 World Cup triumph. It inspired kids like Rahul Dravid and Saurav Ganguly to play cricket. But despite all these changes, cricket in India wasn’t a money making machine like today nor did the cricketers appear in commercials as they do now.
This commercial success of cricket in India can be credited to one person and that is none other than the God himself. Sachin Tendulkar debuted in 1989, a time when the Indian economy was passing through a very difficult phase. But, with Sachin’s rise the Indian economy too has risen. A liberated Indian economy saw the advent of private companies into the market. Sachin, a swashbuckling attacking batsman was seen as an idol to the country’s youth. He inspired a generation of country’s youth to be aggressive in their own right and soon these people were enjoying the fruits of this aggressive stance. And the advent of TV into the Indian homes further increased the following of cricket. Amid all this came a new president to BCCI. A spectacled small guy, whom at first sight you can mistake for your daily office going neighbour. Jagmohan Dalmiya changed the face of BCCI with his new ideology. He, along with bureaucrat Inderjit Singh Bindra helped to win the right to stage the World Cup in South Asia in 1987 and 1996. He now saw cricket as a money making machine for the BCCI. Soon, BCCI was making huge amounts of money from TV rights and sponsors and Sachin was seen as the face of Indian Cricket. The private companies surely saw this as an opportunity to endorse their new brands in India and started shooting commercials with cricketers.
But, this heavenly paradise of Cricket was soon to be shattered. Mohd. Azharuddin, then Indian captain was accused of match fixing along with few other players. This soon angered the masses and people started losing their faith in their Gods and religion. Indian cricket needed a magic to retain the trust of the people and this magic was delivered in the epic 2001 Kolkata test match. This reinstalled the faith in Indian Cricket and along with a captain like Ganguly and an able coach in John Wright, India achieved new heights. Cricket, now truly established itself in India and enjoyed a status more than any religion. It was this confidence in cricket that prompted BCCI to launch IPL, a cash rich league and further enhance the status of cricket in India. Now the Pollards and Morkels are household names in India and IPL was successful in establishing home team loyalties like in Football leagues.
Then came the 2011 World Cup was a fitting parade to the God of Indian Cricket like the Puri Jagannath Yatra. The entire nation rejoiced the victory of the Indian Cricket team and it was celebrated with more grandeur than any other festival in India. But nature always maintains its balance and so does cricket. The IPL was soon marred with controversies and scams. Lalit Modi, the brain behind IPL was arrested and 3 players were accused of spot fixing (one of them being an international cricketer). These threatened the very existence of IPL, but you can’t remove a religion from people’s mind just because some of it is corrupted. Dead Sea scrolls nor Da Vinci code have stopped people from believing in Christianity. You just remove them from your mind and continue following your religion. The same thing was done with the corrupt and the Indians enjoyed Team India’s Champions Trophy triumph.
Sachin Tendulkar is nearing his retirement and his retirement is sure to end a revolution which started with him. But his retirement would not stop Indians from following cricket nor would it stop them from worshipping their favourite cricketing Gods. After all, life is a cycle and it must go on.