When the blame for India’s debacle at the World Cup is being apportioned, the easiest and most obvious targets are of course the players themselves. After all it’s ultimately they who dropped the ball. A few of them have their careers on the line, sponsors have dropped them from their payrolls, and no matter how much money the eunuchs may collect for Sachin Tendulkar’s pension, it won’t be enough to help Sachin, far less the other players who do not have the privilege of such universal adulation. The players are afraid of being seen in public. They have had their property damaged. Hell even their “duplicates” are afraid of being lynched.
The lookalikes of Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag and Mohinder Dhoni have been watching their backs in recent days. In the past, they made frequent appearances on television and were cheered by spectators during cricket matches.
“When Sehwag plays well, I am treated well by people. But when he scores badly, even the lives of my wife and child are in jeopardy as people threaten to beat me up for Sehwag’s bad performance,” The Times Of India quoted Yogendra Shah as saying.
Yes yes we all know. Things will be like this for a few more weeks and then all will be forgiven and our cricket players will again become demi-gods, the sponsors will come back and Yogendra Shah will once more be well-treated. But it is undeniable that right now, each player is having to face dire financial and other consequences for their non-performance, consequences which some may argue that are incommensurate with their supposed “sin” (that of simply having done poorly at work).
And yet debacle after debacle, there is a group of people associated with Indian cricket who get away scot-free, without the acceptance of any kind of responsibility, smug in the knowledge of immunity from censure and accountability.
I am talking about BCCI’s officialdom, those safari-suited peddlers of influence and power who have attached themselves, like leeches, to India’s richest sport: draining it of its resources as much as they can.
Consider this. Had India not been thrown out of the World Cup, 30 BCCI officials were planning to go to the Caribbean. Yes thirty of them: almost twice the number of cricket players. And have a grand old yacht party ostensibly in the player’s honour. But we know better.
BCCI President Sharad Pawar has cancelled a yacht party that he had planned to give the Indian team on April 3 in anticipation of their entry into the Super 8 stage.
Pawar was to leave for the Caribbean on March 27 and watch three of Indiaâ€™s Super 8 matches on March 29, April 2 and April 7. Indiaâ€™s 69-run defeat to Sri Lanka has also led to the cancellation of the 30-member BCCI teamâ€™s trip to the West Indies. â€œWhatâ€™s the point? Our boys will not be there,â€ BCCI Secretary Niranjan Shah told DNA.
Marvellous. While first-class players are paid a pittance, ground conditions and audience facilities chronically pathetic in many centers, our Board officials, after repeating the standard bromides of “youth and performance” (none of which are applicable to them) are content to shake their ample bonbons, in their beach shorts, and charge it to the BCCI account.
Dalmiya was bad. Sharad Pawar is even worse. If there was anything that could be said in Dalmiya’s favour, it would be that, no matter how much he may have played dirty politics and aggrandized himself, at least he devoted 100% of his time to running the board. Mr. Pawar himself accepts that he cannot give more than a few hours a week for administration functions since he is already swamped by other onerous duties incumbent upon a man who does only “desh-sewa”. Of course, it’s not that he has not done anything: he has brought the World Cup final to Mumbai and snapped the legs of arch-rival Dalmiya. When Ganguly publicly denounced Dalmiya before being brought back in the team, it demonstrated how much power Mr. Pawar wields even in those precious few hours he deigns to spend on cricket. Did I forget that amidst his packed schedule, Mr. Pawar has also sent in his nomination for ICC president : beware Mr. Ponting, a shove never goes unreturned.
Of course there is the Selection Committee, filled by many men, whose sole criteria for selection is that they belong to the “proper camp”. This of course has been accepted practice for ages, especially so during the reign of Dalmiya and because of this politicization of one of the most essential purpose of the Board, selection meetings are exercises in horse-trading, influence-peddling and other assorted malfeasances. Many ex-cricketers, who have genuine interest in the well-being of the game, are driven away by these goombahs: after all when India’s greatest wicket-keeper is shouted at and called a “goal keeper” in a selection committee meeting by someone like Kiran More with impunity (while pushing for the selection of Zone-mate Parthiv Patel), then who can blame decent men from staying away from the quagmire of the Board of Control?
And with India’s defeat, we hear Board officials airing their precious viewpoints to all and sundry: evidently gag orders do not apply to them. BCCI Vice President Dayanad Narvekar has conveniently distanced himself from the debacle and scored some popularity points by blaming it all on Chappell and describing the Indian team as the “most indisciplined” and on an “enjoyment spree”. It is kind of ironic hearing the word “enjoyment spree” coming from yacht-partying Board officials but we shall let it pass. The point to note is that the Board, after a defeat, always transfers blame on to the coach and a subset of the players thus implying that the system is fine; it is just a few rotten apples who need to be gotten rid off and things will be back to normal.
This is articulated almost word for word by another anonymous Board official who while pinning the blame entirely on the shoulders of players with an attitude problem says:
There is nothing wrong with the team as such, but we are convinced that it is the attitude of the players that affected the performance.
But the truth is different. There is something essentially wrong with the team. And also with the talent pool of cricketers in the country. As Dilip Vengsarkar said there is not a whole lot of choice available in terms of bench strength. The reason the so-called cancerous elements are in the team is because their fitter replacements were not upto snuff when put in front of serious opposition (South Africa) on fast pitches. Also talented young players like Munaf, expected to form the next generation, aren’t exactly greased lightning on the field, to put it mildly.
All of which implies that simply putting some players out to pasture and cancelling the coach’s contract will not solve the problem. But that is exactly what will happen. Heads will roll, the only variable being whose heads they will be and that will be determined by which side can play its political cards better and grab more power-brokers by their balls. A “serves them right” consolation will be offered to the angry nation. Business will be back to normal.
And the politicians will party on.