A dead ‘Tiger’, black bucks & cricket hypocrisy

SUNAAD RAGHURAM writes: Cricket in the bush. In a clearing of the famed Phinda Game Reserve in the vast grass lands of the Kwa Zulu Natal region of South Africa.

With rhinoceroses and cheetahs gawking from around long on; lions and elephants gazing in wonderment from around deep extra cover; with leopards and buffaloes glancing at the wicket from wide mid on.

A 12-over match between Indian and South African veterans grandiosely titled ‘World Cricket Legends in the Wild’.

Yet another version of the game.

Yet another concoction—-one more dimension to it, all for the personal aggrandisement and amusement of a privileged set of men who once padded up or held the cricket ball for India. And in this case, South Africa too.

Out of work and over-the-hill cricketers whose names figure in the veterans category, like Kapil Dev, Dilip Vengsarkar, Roger Binny and Ajay Jadeja are eminently entitled to their fun. Especially when they still find themselves in circulation one way or the other. And especially when someone else is paying for it.

Be it cricket on ice around the cold peaks of Jungfrau or playing a game in the bush where the ball goes for six if you perhaps hit it over the herd of zebra in the distance!

And then, there was Sharmila Tagore (in picture, above), who flipped the coin at the start of the game and applauded from one of the safari vans that formed the perimeter of the boundary.

How wonderful.

How nice to be part of the picnic and get some stress off the mind. To stretch out under the sycamore figs and the weeping boerbean trees, sipping a sherry on a perfect bushveld day under the glow of the South African sky.

But to hear about “the concept of utilising sport as a means of raising conservation awareness—an idea close to the heart of the late M.A.K. Pataudi” was a bit like hearing about the leopard in the bush holding a sermon on the goodness of eating papaya for breakfast!

The very same man of style and debonair deportment, who once so shockingly shot black buck for fun in the company of an equally degenerated bunch of friends who were either drunk with power and their reach in high places or plain old alcohol that day, when they randomly pressed their triggers at one of the most beautiful and gentlest of creatures on the planet?

Or does the conservation manual, in some inside page and in some less understood paragraph, as read with the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972, sanction the shooting of black buck and the subsequent absconding from the police for a few weeks?

I’m a bit confused.

How fake can fake get; how hollow and quite utterly without even a semblance of responsibility can statements get. All to see a few lines in print the next day at the crack of dawn.

The cricket match in the bush was conceptualised by a group called, ‘Beyond the Boundaries’. Jaideep Sinh Parmar of the group has gone on to say that the enterprise was well received and beyond their expectations.

Well received by whom, I wonder.

The hippopotamus and the nyala?

Also read: How we successfully Save Our Tigers on page 3