The sporting world is in turmoil and there doesn’t seem to be a light at the end of the tunnel. To be sure lives are far more valuable than any sporting activity, but sport is one of the channels for passing time in this period of self-isolation. Nostalgia is high even on the list of the TikTok generation as current internationals go back to their growing up years to see how they got through the initial tough times to become the heroes of the modern generation. Thankfully, there are also some grainy black and white videos of some earlier times to let the Internet generation know that cricket was played earlier than the 1990s.
But what about the earliest times before there were any cameras or instruments to capture the skill and talent of those generations? Test cricket started in 1877 and there were no cameras then, but does that make the players of that era any lesser than the current ones? Even when cameras and films came into being there’s not much stock of sport to go through. So how deadly was Fred ‘the demon’ Spofforth? How really great was Dr. W. G. Grace? Only the written word is there to chronicle the talent of those times, but as we know even today so much of that is also up to the personal likes and dislikes of the chronicler.
Television has made the chronicler more aware of the need to put personal likes aside and be true to facts. Gone are the days of the chronicler saying a player he didn’t particularly like as having dropped a simple catch in the slips, even when the ball had landed well in front of the fielder. Today it can be seen with so many camera angles exactly where the ball had dropped and was it even a chance. In the same way, these days, a writer can’t say that it was a terrible shot when a batsman had been bowled by a delivery that would have challenged even the best in the business. He also can’t wrongly comment on a bowler because he will be exposed more than the player he is trying to discredit. That’s the biggest plus of the modern age. Not that individual biases don’t exist today. As long as there are humans these will be there, but at least the general public will be able to see for themselves and decide rather than relying on the words of others.
Debates will always be there, especially in these times of not much other physical or mental activity. Were the earlier eras tougher or is the pressure of being scrutinised by millions of viewers today greater? Comparing eras has been a favourite pastime since ages. Don’t we all say our school and college days were the best and our children don’t have an idea how much ours were better than their teen years? These kinds of ‘my days were better…’ is a constant theme between eras and one needs to take it with a bagful of salt. Right now though, the sporting world is in pause mode and it looks like no events will happen till August at least. The cricket world is waiting to see if the ICC World Twenty20 Cup will take place or be postponed to a later date. There have been proposals to play in front of empty stands for everybody knows that the real income is from TV rights, and even if there are 100 spectators at the ground the organisers will still make money. How the current players think about this will be interesting. For, every performer likes to be appreciated and hear and feel that appreciation which can’t happen in empty grounds. That said, even he would want to get back into action after the forced inactivity even if there is nobody to see his skills.
The idea, though, to have a Test series in one centre and venue is not an appealing one. The essence of a series is to be able to play on different surfaces and in varying weather conditions in front of crowds of different temperament, so that’s not a great idea to start with. What it suggests is that only money matters and not a real test of talent and temperament. It’s like saying, let’s play all the four Majors in tennis and golf at one venue. It’s like saying let’s have all the Formula One races at just one circuit.
Health, safety and human lives are extremely important. So it’s better to wait till conditions permit a proper sporting contest rather than one contrived only for revenue.
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