Weekly Musings It Isn’t Cricket

Shyam K.C.

            On Sunday the final of the International Cricket Council (ICC) Champions Trophy 2017 between India and Pakistan took place at the Oval in London.  In the much touted final match, Pakistan convincingly defeated India by 180 runs. Earlier in the tournament, the two rival teams had met in one of the opening matches in which India also convincingly beat Pakistan by 124 runs. Also on Sunday, the semi-final match of the Hockey World League was held also in London in which India beat Pakistan by 7 goals to 1. The point is that a sports discipline is just that and the outcome of each match varies with the abilities of each player in a team and how best they perform as a team. This is why the old but true adage goes like this “May the best team win”.

In most of the team and individual games, some team or individual has to win and the other has to lose, but sometimes there is a tie. The spirit of sportsmanship is to give one’s best and sportingly taking the final result – win or lose. The game of cricket which is said to have originated in the United Kingdom was termed “gentleman’s game” which meant that there was to be no tantrums if one team loses and other wins. And that too was the spirit of the modern Olympic Games before the advent of professionalism in the Olympic Games movement.

            That cricket has become one of the most popular –if not the most popular – sports disciplines in South Asia is testified by the fact that three of the four teams that made it to the final of the ICC Champions Trophy 2017 were South Asian countries – namely Bangladesh, India and Pakistan. The other country to make it to the final was England which was roundly defeated by Pakistan to reach the final. Other cricket luminary countries like Australia, South Africa and the West Indies were eliminated.

The craze for cricket in South Asia has no doubt been fanned by the media whose hype in reporting of the cricket matches and cricket luminaries has conditioned the thinking of the general public towards this game which once was called a gentleman’s game. The media attention to the game is no doubt a boost that makes the sports even more popular among the people and diverts their attention towards healthy physical and emotional outlet which is sports in any form. But the manner in which the ICC Champions Trophy was covered in the many of the Indian television channels left much to be desired. There was politicisation of sports every step of the way, especially with the politics of India-Pakistan relations.

             It is normal for the people as well as for the mass media to side with the team they like. This is even truer when one national team takes on another national team. We have cricket, football, and other national teams in Nepal, and we all back them up whenever they take on other national sides and take such encounters by our national teams as normal sporting meets and while rejoicing in their victory, we are also not downcast by their loss. In this way both the Nepalese people as well as the Nepalese media are really showing the sporting spirit that seem to lack in some of the South Asian countries.

The India-Pakistan encounter in the ICC Champions Trophy was being projected by the Indian television channels as a battle for supremacy and not as sports, as it should have been projected. One of the Indian TV channels boycotted even the news of whole ICC Champions Trophy saying that it was wrong for India to play in the tournament with Pakistan at a time when there is so much tension on the India-Pakistan relations, especially with reference to the Line of Control (LOC) in Kashmir. This was publicly stated by the news channel even before the commencement of the ICC Champions Trophy tournament. The cable network to which I subscribe does not have many foreign news channels and not even one Pakistani channel, but one can well suppose that the Pakistani news channels too must have taken the same attitude on the India-Pakistan final. Given the attitude of the most South Asian countries, most of the Pakistani TV channels can be presumed to have taken the same attitude.

This brings to the fore the dire need for our government to ensure that there is a balance in what our cable and satellite media distribute to the public. The time, it seems, has been long overdue for the concerned authorities in Nepal to ensure that the cable and dish TV subscribers are not subjected to one sided view of things and events and that they are given the opportunity to weigh and balance both sides and not be guided by propaganda alone. This means that the government needs to have a better media policy for cable and satellite media distributors. For too long, the Nepalese public have to make do with whatever channels that were dished out by the distributors. And the distributors always choose the easiest, cheapest and free means to do so. But this kind of random choice is not a good alternative and hence the government needs to have a strong media policy which, while not curbing the freedom in any way, must also ensure that true balance is maintained.

The media outlets need not only be seen to be neutral but they should truly be so and this needs to be reflected in the manner they serve the public. The media whether print, audio, visual or cable or satellite distributors need to play cricket like a gentleman’s game; otherwise it isn’t cricket.

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