The stupidest six

After the IPL 2018 concluded last night, Star Sports TV has been doing reruns of the tournament, showing highlights from all the 60 matches as well as compilations of the performances by category. One of these categories is “longest sixes”.

Hitting a six is a combination of strength and skill: you need to get the ball off the middle of the bat, time it perfectly, you need a stable base for a smooth follow through, and you need muscle. For the biggest sixes, you need lots of muscle. That’s why the biggest sixes of IPL 2018 were hit by Andre Russell, Chris Gayle, MS Dhoni and (the exception) AB de Villiers. I’m surprised Carlos Brathwaite missed out.

However, I fail to understand how this is a feat worth celebrating the way we celebrate sport. The best sports are those in which those contesting a title are doing so on equal footing. What makes this the ‘best’ is the contest transcends each contender’s natural advantages and disadvantages, and forces them to draw from reserves that are available to everyone. They must only have the knowledge and the strength of will to summon them at the right place and time.

Hitting the longest six is not such a sport. Hitting a six itself may be part of a wider sport enjoyed by millions around the world but in and of itself it stands for nothing. Those able to hit the longest six are not better or worse cricketers than those who aren’t, leave alone being better or worse sportspeople.

Moreover, we don’t see such displays as those recalled repeatedly by Star Sports TV among female cricketers – it’s a man thing, it’s a masculinity thing. It’s a glamourised display of the machismo that has come to undergird much of men’s T20 cricket. This is more so in the IPL, where those who launch these tremendous hits are awarded with lakhs of rupees for just that.

On the other hand, there has been a measure of acknowledgment in women’s cricket that hitting sixes has nothing to do with being a man. In July 2017, Hannah Newman, then a PhD candidate at Loughborough University, Leicestershire, wrote in The Conversation that women cricketers hit sixes, too, and that an uptick in the number of sixes hit by the England women’s cricket team is one of the reasons the game has become more popular “among fans and players across the country”.

We can only hope that this more deliberated and less barbaric approach to the game, and to those who watch it and pay for it, is not subsumed by the same capitalist machinery that continues to devour men’s cricket.

Featured image credit: PDPics/pixabay.