“My word Brian it was a sitter” thus roared the voice of a legendary cricket commentator the late Omar Kureishi on BBC radio who along with Brian Johnston and Alan Gibson once induced cardiac flutters among the serene hearts of listeners. It was 1967 when Pakistan led by the legendary Hanif Mohammad was battling to avoid imminent defeat in the third and final Test at the Oval. As the main stay of Pakistani batting line up timidly collapsed before lunch, it seemed all was over except for the shouting. Yet Omar having a superb eye on youngsters differed. “No”, he insisted, “a prodigy is still there and I can count on him”, he uttered with absolute authority. Taking this determined statement as a gaffe, both commentating giants opted to keep quiet. They might have grinned as well but there was no way to see their facial expressions. Only then, the cricketing history went on to see the longest partnership of its time in Test cricket for the ninth wicket between Asif Iqbal and Intikhab Alam. England conceded the lead and had to bat again. Asif was their nemesis; he ended up taking two wickets before England went on to win the match and the series. Despite losing at the Oval, that delectable ninth-wicket partnership left the people of Pakistan in a delightful mood, the team went down fighting, their pride was salvaged. The real winner was the game of cricket. Under dazzling lights, the only thing which glitters is gold. The bookies, the match-fixers, and the media houses masquerade their greed in the garb of nationalism and swindle the people already prepared to fall for it Those were the good old days when every sport, especially cricket, was played in the real spirit of the game. Neither victory nor defeat was a matter of ego/vanity. The moment the match was over the outcome was immediately dipped into oblivion. What was left behind was the joy of a crisp cover-drive, the memory of an exquisite square- or late-cut or a leg-glance piercing the on-side field to the fine-leg or midwicket boundary, the pleasure of an in-swinger or an out-swinger, a sheer beauty uprooting the off-stump or an elegant diving catch taken by the keeper leaving the viewer in awe. No matter which side was playing it was the performance and not the result which carried the meanings. Then the malignant capital invaded the game. Channel 9 and Kerry Packer turned the world of cricket turtle. It was an interminable plague, which afflicted the sport forcing it to shed the aura of a gentleman’s game. The colored clothing, the floodlight matches, the shorter version of the game which keeps getting shorter, destroyed the spirit upon which the essence of the sport was based. Today how many players voluntarily walk out after faintly nicking the ball while the umpire has yet to adjudge their fate? Majid, for one, invariably did so. During the Sydney test in the 1977 series against Australia only two runs away from his half century, he bewildered the crowd by leaving his crease even before the umpire could react to the appeal for a caught behind. On the way to the pavilion, a standing ovation and a thunderous applause awaited him. Today cricket is a war declared by one team/nation on the other. Tycoons, led by a mafia, owned by film stars or affluent lobbies run cricket teams. After infusing nationalism, capital has decided to demolish the boundaries of the nation-states as well. While the IPL types brought the players of different countries under one umbrella, they have revived the redundant Greek model of belligerent city-states as well. Now every city represents either Sparta or Athens. A war of Troy is waged permanently and the Trojan horses are ever-ready to fight. Steve Smith leads one Indian city, while Glenn Maxwell another, the only passion is money. Lions and Kings in a variety of hues! We are back to the era of totems/animalism; the one referred to by Frazer in his masterpiece The Golden Bough. This is how capital transforms relations. “Bourgeois sport”, states Adorno, wants “to differentiate itself strictly from play. Its bestial seriousness consists in the fact that instead of remaining faithful to the dream of freedom by getting away from purposiveness, the treatment of play as a duty puts it among useful purposes and thereby wipes out the trace of freedom in it”. Once a definite purpose is attached to play the freedom which one seek from anxiety, itself becomes a source of anxiety. In the service of useful purpose such as winning, betting and advertisement, deprived of pleasure sport becomes a duty, a compulsion, and a source of alienation. Not the class of a player but the ultimate objective of success, monetary or otherwise remains the sole criterion of the sport. On the pretence of false national, racial and ethnic pride, the spiritless souls dance to the drum beat of capital. In an artificial trance of paranoia, the objective is to forget one’s own suffering especially when it is all too evident. Under dazzling lights, the only thing which glitters is gold. The bookies, the match fixers, and the media-houses masquerade their greed in the garb of nationalism and swindle the people already prepared to fall for it. For a fleeting moment of gratification, they wilfully buy a deception, appearing transparent to them. The hysteria of victory for their respective countries dazes their minds. They become the defender of their faith, state or whatever, which prior to that was the least of their concerns. On the field, victory does not translate itself into a victory against the alienated labour; on the contrary, it liquidates the very thought of it. Nationalism turns people into more authentic slaves who testify and conform to those who wish to superimpose this repressive liberty on them. Once the pitch of fever calms down people look to their empty hands, only to find out they have lost more than before. This time the casualty is decency and/or humanity. The writer has authored books on socialism and history. He blogs at saulatnagi.wordpress.com and can be reached email@example.com Published in Daily Times, July 1st , 2017.