Cricket’s Second Problem

by Devanshu Mehta

I am fighting a battle within myself that pushes me away from the game. Until ten years ago, I used to follow many sports: NBA, F1, tennis, and cricket. As life intervened, and I found myself with less time, I consciously culled the list down to cricket.

These days, it feels as though cricket is consciously culling me from its fans. The relationship between fans and the game has been perverted at every opportunity. The quantity of quality cricket in 2013 is perhaps the lowest in decades. Add to that the latest reminder of the depth of corruption in the game, and I’m almost ready to give up on the game all together.

Almost.

There is only one central relationship in professional cricket, and that is between the players and the fans. All other systems exist only to support this relationship– the administration, the media, the infrastructure, everyone else. This is the assumption behind everything I am about to write, so if we disagree here, we may disagree on everything.

I have been writing about cricket for more than two years now, and complaining about it for even longer. And while there are a million different issues I could chase down, almost every complaint about modern cricket can be traced back to this one fact: the support systems of cricket are getting in the way of the sacred central relationship between player and fan. And the reason is hard and soft corruption.

Hard corruption is obvious. It is cricket’s first problem. It’s usually illegal, and involves money changing hands to the detriment of the player-fan relationship. See also: Sreesanth, Butt, Majola, SLC, LKM. It is a problem of enforcement and of perverse incentives. And it is a problem that, for now, I consider beyond my power to fight.

But, let’s talk about soft corruption. Or “corruption” in the sense that the system is so queered by the influence of money, that it can’t even get a clear and simple issue right.*

The incentives of the media and the administrators of cricket are not aligned with the fans and the players. This is soft corruption. Often legal, but always perverse. Media rights, the role of media, influence peddling, ICC and board power, sponsor and broadcaster power, conflicts of interest and revolving doors, the bastardization of the game.

This is cricket’s second problem. But it’s the only problem that we, the alternative media, can meaningfully fight.

From this point forward, this blog is dedicated to the issue of soft corruption in cricket. Blogging against the machine.

Previously on DeepBackwardPoint.com:

* That’s me paraphrasing Professor Lessig, the founder of Creative Commons, now spearheading an anti-corruption movement in the US. Here, he talks about why governments push ahead with idiotic ideas:

The answer is a kind of corruption of the political process. Or better, a “corruption” of the political process. I don’t mean corruption in the simple sense of bribery. I mean “corruption” in the sense that the system is so queered by the influence of money that it can’t even get an issue as simple and clear as [copyright] term extension right. [..] [A]n economy of influence bends public policy away from sense, always to dollars.

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