Cricket in Absurdity or Absurdity in Cricket?
Song Recommendation: Absurdity by Hans Zimmer https://open.spotify.com/track/0R3xnv3AW3VAwyInlCSy4U?si=6a9691c0d3114cb5
The spectators, the players (although not all), and, more importantly, both the cricket boards and the broadcasters got all the cricket action that was scheduled. Rain threatened to but, in the end, refrained from playing spoilsport. It perhaps understood and respected the efforts of the authorities and the organizers of squeezing this series into a jam-packed cricketing calendar alongside packing the players in a bio-bubble, albeit the virus still found a way to seep in.
Since cricket was played, there were cricketing consequences also. Furthering the heritage of the teams that preceded them, this novel, young side clinched a 9th consecutive ODI bilateral series win for India against the island nation. The Sri Lankans also showed their steel, as they – led by the brilliance of Wanindu Hasaranga and under the captaincy of Dasun Shanaka – came back from behind to win the T20I series against a covid-hit Indian team. This was their first bilateral series victory against them in their last 21 attempts across all formats and also their first-ever T20I series win over the Men-in-Blue.
However, if we take a breath for a minute and try to contextualize what we have now assumed as the new normal, we will find that events that occurred in this series were drenched in absurdity. For instance, this series, at the very onset, was postponed because of a covid-positive case in the Sri Lankan camp. Moving on, in the middle of the series, Krunal Pandya tested positive. While the series went on, eight individuals who were in close contact with him had to isolate, out of which two more players got the deadly virus recently. Meanwhile, the second-string Indian team, which comprised of 20 players, ended up even using one of the net-bowlers to complete their playing XI by the end! Needless to say, their team balance was well and truly wrecked.
On the other hand, the situation in Sri Lankan cricket is much more cluttered, and coronavirus isn’t even the primary culprit. A dispute over annual contracts between the players and Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC), the governing body of cricket in the island nation, had been going on for months. The players were reluctant to sign the contract due to concerns regarding lower pay and a lack of transparency about the newly introduced evaluation system. As a response to this standoff, SLC withdrew its offer before the team returned from the United Kingdom and decided to continue with a tour-by-tour system of player contracts, until the end of the year. Allegedly, before the India series, there was even tension amongst the players on whether to agree to sign these singular deals or not. When the board threatened to drop them from the squad and gave them a deadline, the members of the team that played against India signed the tour contract. According to ESPNCricinfo, Angelo Matthews was the only player out of the 30 who refused to sign the contract because of his discontent with the whole matter. Notably, Test captain Dimuth Karunaratne and senior Test players like Suranga Lakmal and Dinesh Chandimal were excluded from this list of players, and will not be under any contract until Sri Lanka plays Test cricket. Amidst all this, The Sunday Morning, a Sri Lankan newspaper reported that, due to lack of payment, some players were having difficulty in paying off loans, EMIs, and insurances for their families.
Cricket today has become like a product, a commodity – albeit a product that brings us joy and keeps plenty of going in life – that is sold to us on our screens at the speed of lightning. At this very moment, The Hundred, the West Indies tour of Pakistan, TNPL, county cricket are happening. Soon, the England-India Test series, the Australia tour of Bangladesh, and the South Africa tour of Sri Lanka would start. During the same time bracket, Indian women will face off Australian women, while the English would play against the Kiwis. Then the IPL will follow which in turn will be followed by the men’s T20 world cup. The point is that cricket will be played in abundance, and it is greatly important for us to retain a critical distance from what we consume and not become numb and stunted by this product. Alongside enjoying the on-field skill and action, it also becomes vital for us – the viewers – to stay in touch with the behind-the-scenes, the context; to humanize the sport and those associated with it in different capacities; and to not passively accept everything that is shoved at us or, in many cases, kept hidden.