Cricket is the national sport of India. Well, technically, hockey (field not ice) is the national sport. It is probably more accurate to say cricket is the national pastime, much the same way baseball is in the US. Baseball and cricket actually have quite a lot in common. There are innings (singular and plural), batters, and fielders. There are also bowlers, wickets, and pitches.The newer 20-20 version of cricket is a fast-paced game that takes about three hours. It was created to spur interest in a sport whose original rules mean a match can go on (and on) for up to five days. In India, 20-20 cricket is played in the India Premier League (IPL). The IPL consists of teams from different cities: Mumbai Indians (my team for a variety of reasons none of which has to do with Sachin Tendulkar), Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB), Delhi Daredevils, and Kolkata Knight Riders, among others. We are at the height of the cricket season here. These teams have been in the news a lot the last few days, but not for the cricket match scores. Cricket players are getting a lot of bad press these days for misbehaving. A few days ago, a big story broke about game fixing that included players from multiple teams. This week, a player from RCB has been accused of assaulting an American woman after a party.
But, perhaps most surprisingly, today, the Maharashtra Cricket Association (MCA) banned Shah Rukh Khan from Wankhede stadium, home to the Mumbai Indians, for five years. SRK, as he is generally known, is the Indian equivalent of Tom Cruise. He is the biggest movie star in India and owns the Kolkata Knight Riders. Banning him from Wankhede stadium is like banning Jack Nicholson from Lakers games. The ban is the top news story on many channels. Why was he banned? Well, according to reports, there was a skirmish this week with security guards, and the MCA found that SRK misbehaved as part of the fracas. Of course, there are two sides to the story, and the national governing body has yet to make a determination on the ban.
With cricket, the expectations of sportsmanship for its players and spectators are very high. That is where the phrase, “It’s just not cricket” originates. It is a gentlemen’s game. One must act like a gentleman. Failure to do so has consequences. Cricket players are routinely fined for unsportsmanlike conduct that a US football player would receive only a penalty for. As an owner, SRK would be held to that same standard. Moreover, he is a symbol by which the MCA can set an example. And, right now, the IPL needs to set a good example to counter some bad press. It is a shell game. Watch the celebrity owner over here so that you do not notice the cheating players over there.