Many could be forgiven for thinking that for all their 'divide and rule' strategies, the English actually left us with two unifying legacies.
Today, those who think the viewing of cricket promotes a harmonious social experience are as far from the truth as Douglass Jardine, if he might have said at a press conference that Bodyline was merely a new range of apparel.
For within the confines of conference rooms, where corporate India steals away to glimpse their favorite heroes in action, during this World Cup down under, there lurks an uncomfortable phenomenon.
The game of cricket brings out the hidden dark sides of people.
Facets that raise decibels and escalate blood pressure levels.
Cricket uncovers shades which plant anatomy-rearranging thoughts in the minds of the other, not-so-innocent bystanders.
It stirs the very premise most naive marketers perfunctorily assume as given: that there is a humongous sameness to the cricketing audience profile.
But there isn't!
For as the match ticks on, these clandestine personalities begin to creep out of their mental closets and stand up to be counted.
Here are but a select few one might encounter:
1. The Chronic Statistician
Most likely to quell the adrenaline rush of watching an agricultural Virat Kohli slash sail over cover for a six by quipping in a bored tone, 'That's not surprising, he gets that shot right 73 per cent of the time'.
The chronic statistician seeks solace only in cold quantifiables, because warm human touch is extremely elusive to this person.
Likely to try and entice attention by espousing numbers, secretly hoping that these would attract the right figures in his direction. Tends to be spectacled and hangs onto his nerdy disposition, with the frenetic frenzy of a sub-continental team appealing. Firmly believes that he has the unique gift of seeing the universe as an endless stream of scrolling numerals. This vision persists, until someone turns his transfixed head away from the Matrix screensaver on his computer.
Largely harmless to the rest, as is likely to be instantly shouted down into silence, he is still persistent enough though to ebulliently resurface, when another alluring 'unnecessary knowledge' sharing moment presents itself.
2. The Arm Chair Critic
In sharp contrast to the chronic statistician, offers 'helpful' qualitative inputs which are about as desirable as having your toe crushed by a Lasith Malinga yorker.
Usually protected by at least a mid-managerial kind of visiting card or rippling muscles straining against body fabric, the arm chair critic enjoys relative immunity unless trumped in the room by a higher card.
He considers himself a genuine expert on the nuances and technicalities of the game. This, even if, his rendition of a perfect straight drive is one only possible behind the car wheel.
He often has a single college-level trophy, prominently displayed on the mantelpiece of his mind. And that seems to give him justifiable license to extrapolate his nostalgic experiences onto the world stage.
Audiences tend to bear the arm chair critic, because, after a few scathing comments, he tends to leave the room disillusioned, finding nothing worthy enough to watch.
3. The Agent Provocateur
This is a devious mindset which is designation agnostic.
Very fascinating to watch in action; if you are not interested in cricket and have only wandered into the room to have a good time. He is known to have the same effect on one's nervous system, as a piece of chalk being scraped against a reluctant blackboard.
The agent provocateur, at least at a surface level, has absolutely no interest in the actual game. He has the sublime talent of entering a cricket watching room and instantly summing up where the interest of the majority lies. Then, he will work towards stoking a rapidly building deluge of pure wrath. If Rohit Sharma is nearing a hundred, he is likely to begin quietly and consistently saying with disconcerting confidence, 'I think he will miss it'.
He runs the risk of intense bodily harm, especially if still lower down the hierarchy. But, for him, the intense pleasure of seeing people first squirm in discomfort, then watch their faces do a reasonable impression of the colours of a rainbow, and finally to have them lunge across the table with homicidal intent, qualifies as an extremely fruitful day at the office.
4. The Silence Inducing Boss
Maybe you work in an organisational culture where you can get away with incessantly sledging the boss during the office match. By the way, do let me know how that goes. But, there are still many companies where the boss entering a room, which till then had the joyous banter of employees enjoying the game, results in a period of deafening silence.
Volumes begin to drop faster than AB de Villiers latching onto a short-pitched ball. Soon, the only person offering any sound bytes in the room is the boss. Having that privilege does enable him to mouth some blinding clichés.
For instance when the captain goes to the umpire and some obvious gestures are made, the boss will intelligently murmur, 'I think he is going to take a power play, that's what a leader would do at such a moment'.
Given that most employees don't want a zero missing on their salary slips, all of them will weakly smile his way. Some on the fringes of confirmation will even try and acknowledge the boss's superior wisdom, with a rather more accentuated nod and an appreciative purr.
The boss's presence in such rooms, however, is a boon for all cellular companies. This can be explained as follows: the venom (towards the boss) which cannot manifest itself verbally, transforms into a flurry of rather nasty messaging activity. Silent smiles are exchanged. Sanities are kept in check. Steam is let off. This results in rather inflated phone bills. But, perhaps, that's just what the economy needs, so everyone is happy all around.
5. The Guilty Employee
Endures Hamlet like conflicts in terms of embracing good times.
The guilty employee is the sort of person who is known to ask after purchasing a blockbuster ticket at the window, when exactly (to the precise minute) the movie is likely to end.
He never quite gets around to enjoying the match; but such is the hold of the game over him, that he never seems to leave either. 'One last over' is what he frequently tells himself and his subordinates, who, by now, like all modern day employees, have learned to splendidly latch onto their boss's shortcomings. They merely grunt their approvals and get back to watching the game; because they know that 'one last over' is a lot many overs away.
The guilty employee continues to endure visions; of urgent assignments popping up on the screen, like rapidly escalating run rates. Eternally torn between white collar duty and patriotism, he cuts an extremely tragic figure. Someone, perhaps the Bard himself, would have loved to write about.
However, in many ways, he is one of the better persons to have in the room, especially if he happens to be your boss.
These are but a few of the hidden personalities that might surface while watching the game, and there could be many more.
Perhaps, the English truly had benign intentions in leaving cricket behind.
But, after watching people unravel their true colours, catalysed by events on the screen, one can't help but wonder. Was this a far more long-term strategy than what we give it credit for? Could a harmless game succeed, where the might of weapons had failed? Surely questions to ponder.
So, the next time you see MS Dhoni go out for the toss, strain your ears to listen. For above the deafening roar of the crowd, you might just hear the contented chuckle of an old English statesman.
(The author is an independent brand ideation consultant and a trainer in the art of creative thinking. He has written two books, 'Lessons from the Playground' and 'The Madness Starts at 9')First Published : February 06, 2015