They call it a tradition unlike any other. It is one of the most revered events in sports and brings a twinkle to the eyes of connoisseurs worldwide. It is a four-day event held at the same time in the same place every year. It lasts longer than most test matches. It is held at a venue that banned people of color until about 20 years ago and women until 8 months ago. Spectators cannot bring cellphones or cameras in to the event and the television coverage is heavily packaged and canned. The actual outcomes themselves are very random and the event is self-scored which means unlike any other sport, it is based on everyone doing the right thing for everyone else.
Antiquated idiosyncracies associated with the sport came to the forefront this weekend when a 14-year-old prodigy was penalized for taking more time than some old men thought he needed to take to play his stroke. Also, the sport’s sole icon and on the backs of who, the whole cottage industry runs, was penalized two strokes nearly 12 hours after his score was recorded. He was penalized because some anonymous fan got thru the event’s hotline to the deciders-in-chief and ratted out an apparent 2 yard drift in the ball. If similar events had transpired in a non-American sport, they would have been mocked mercilessly. But instead – A TRADITION UNLIKE ANY OTHER!
Football in England is advertised, marketed and watched worldwide. The Premiership markets itself as the world’s most watched league with 4.7 billion viewers. Here is something that happened in the Premier league this weekend –
Twenty nine people were arrested, horses were punched and drunken hooliganism ended up reminding people even more of the times of Margaret Thatcher’s prime ministership. The country’s premier knockout competition saw some violence of its own –
A lot of people brush these incidents of violence off. They’re considered part and parcel of the British
soccer football experience. The violence is quietly mourned but forgotten as it continues to support the stereotyping of the crazy English fan. Not much ink is wasted over whether or not this is a sports league that warrants the popularity and respect it has among the world’s public. The same teams win year after year, the rich always kick the poor’ butt and the national team’s performance or thereof is but a predictable offshoot of the draining and exhausting league calendar.
The EPL and British soccer have more problems to contend with and more black marks than its public reputation suggests. And yet it is the greatest and most popular sports league in the world!
The only sporting event I watched this weekend was a cricket match between the Chennai Super Kings and the Royal Challengers Bangalore. It was an event that provided coffee-spilling, sweat-inducing tension, excitement and entertainment at the crack of a California dawn. It was compelling theater. It was a local derby between teams that represent two cities that mutually respect and hate each other. On Twitter and Facebook it was a rivalry that sucked you in no matter who you rooted for.
A lot of Chennai wishes it were Bangalore. Bangalore has always been Chennai’s much more attractive, cooler cuter friend. A friend who even had all the water (Search #kaveriderby on Twitter for the related tweets and laughs).
A lot of Bangalore cannot get what the fuss is about Chennai. That the uniquely uncosmoplitan city stays relevant rankles and rattles many a Bangalorean. Apparently soul and sambar have not hit them yet. And yes, they also hate the fact that Chennai has dominated them when it matters in the IPL. Last year Bangalore conceded 42 runs off 12 deliveries and a last ball boundary to Sir Ravindra Jadeja. Surely they will not lose in such a painful manner this year!
But of course they did. In a contest that see-sawed amid excellent performances by AB De Villiers, Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni, the Chennai Super Kings stole one on the backs of some late fearless hitting. The last 45 minutes of the game were thrilling beyond words. Batsmen played outrageous strokes to many a fullish delivery. A sporting full house played its part in escalating the Saturday night atmosphere and the contest climaxed to an outrageous yet memorable crescendo of a no-ball. Here are the highlights of the match –
The IPL will never be associated with tradition. It will never be fully embraced by the British, Australians or Americans. It will always have corporate overreach, overdone elements of entertainment and differences from the highest form of the game. But it will embrace not discriminate, stay non-violent and provide you with more thrills and excitement than most leagues you consider following. So until you find evidence that the results are compromised do watch…