Today, digitised cricket seeks to remould both product and consumer to suit its own agendas. More importantly, it attempts to convert quintessential public goods – cricket and its fanatical fan following – into a source of private profit that cares little for either. The IPL’s continued reliance on public support – for stadia, security arrangements, officials, players and a ready-made customer base – while privatising benefits, and its disruptive effect on international and national cricket, are already subjects of bitter controversy across the world. By raising the commercial stakes, the World Cup victory is likely to exacerbate rather than soothe these tensions.
Moving from the commercial to the professional aspect of cricket, India’s second World Cup seems, once again, more dark cloud than silver lining. A healthy professional sport requires that its journeymen players make a decent living. This has never been true in Indian cricket, where the so-called “Mathew effect” – to him who hath even more will be given – works with a vengeance, as the unseemly scramble to shower largesse on the Cup-winning team demonstrates. Despite cursory efforts at improvement, the lives of players at the domestic level are far from enviable. Moreover, feudal styles of cricket administration encourage fixers, influence-mongers and other gatekeepers whose expectations are raised by the spoils of victory, further inflating the already high costs of entry and worsening existing inequities among players. In short, the unobtrusive but demoralising divisions deepened by a memorable victory may undermine its more obvious inspirational impact.