Monday, 23 April 2007

Of players, prostitutes and a Prince

(Photo: AP)

"There is a little bit of the whore in all of us, gentlemen. What is your price?"
Kerry Packer , during negotiation with the then Australian Cricket Board for TV rights.

Packer did not say cricketers but I find they have a lot in common with the prostitutes and I don’t mean to insult either of them in my comparison.

As professions, they can’t be more different but at the end of the day, cricketers, like prostitutes, are actually entertainers and at least Brian Lara, the entertainer par excellence, knows that.

"I just want to be remembered as someone who went out there and tried to entertain - it is a sport where people pay to come through the turnstiles and watch you and it is most important that someone can leave and say they have enjoyed watching Brian Lara play and enjoyed watching West Indies play."

And after we saw him last time against England, an emotion-drenched Lara again asked the choc-a-bloc Kensington Oval, "Did I entertain you? If yes, I'm very, very happy."

It’s rather surprising to see how close cricketers are to the practitioner of world’s oldest business and both know, they are as good as their body. A cricketer tones his torso, strengthens the legs and works on his muscles with the same care that a prostitute would do. For both, body is the temple, and also their bread-and-butter. They are in demand as long as they are in fine shape and they know the worth of their body.

All these talks of winning, losing, records, sportsmanship are pure crap. All that maters and appeals to us is entertainment. Deep at the heart, we always wanted to see a particular player, often an entertainer in gears, to do well. If that meant team’s victory, it was a bonus. Cricket pretends to be a team game but essentially, it’s an individual’s arena. Teammates merely provide the contrast.

Posterity, fortunately, cares little for teams. It’s the individuals we remember. Mind is not a dormitory where you put up squads. It’s a sacrosanct chamber, that square of the temple where you place one, maybe two, cricketers and deify them. And the lone criterion for that place has to be entertainment. Down the years, people won’t care how many matches Lara’s ramshackle West Indies won. What will linger is Lara’s high backlift, the angular trajectory of the bat and his gazelle footwork. For that’s entertainment.

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