I presume that rarely in my many years on this planet have I been as disinterested in the cricket that is on offer than I have been over the last few weeks. The Champions League has been on and I could not care less. There is Duminy from South Africa (and a Mumbai Indian) representing a South African T20 team facing off against fellow South African Jack Kallis wearing a Bangalore jersey. Then there is Gibbs from Deccan Chargers who does not turn up for the team we associate him with but for a different franchise. If Delhi Daredevils had advanced and New South Wales had not, then would David Warner switch loyalties midway through the tournament and turn out for his IPL team?
Why single out the Champions League you say—national lines are blurred inside IPL also. But there at least the allocation of different international stars to different teams is kind of fixed—-Bravo plays for the Mumbai Indians, Hodge and David Hussey are not supposed to be on the winning side. Over here, even that association is torn apart creating weird situations like what would happen if Beckham, in his Real Madrid days turned up for Man United in a tournament just because Real Madrid had not qualified for it. This of course does not happen since players like Beckham play for one club at a time unlike in cricket, players are journeymen playing in different leagues at different times of the year with someone like Brendon McCullum being associated with three franchises concurrently(Otago, New South Wales and Knight Riders).
The only good thing about the Champions League is that it reminds me of gully cricket growing up in Calcutta when the big bullies would be captains, do a toss (usually done by guessing correctly if the opposing captain has the pebble in his right or left hand or has it/dropped it) and then alternately pick players based on strengths (I was always the last person selected)so that every afternoon the composition of teams would be different. Of course the Champions League lacks the joy of breaking glass or getting shouted at by second-floor “masi” for putting the ball in her balcony (not our fault that it is straight in the mid-wicket region where all cross-batted hoicks go). Which is why I have avoided it totally this year.
Now coming to what I do care for.
With respect to the forthcoming ODI series against Australia, the board of selectors once again showed their sagacity by laying the blame for India’s latest debacle on where it was due—on the shoulders of Venkatesh Prasad, cricket’s very own Latin Lover whose legacy to a game of pace and speed has been slow delicate caresses and sensual massages as symbolized by his slow and slower deliveries. When he was hired as India’s bowling coach, my first impression was that he would be the glorified ball-fetch guy, since he never revealed great sagacity while bowling. Evidently he proved everyone wrong being felicitated for India’s awesome pace prowess last two seasons. Recently however with the wheels of the great Indian pace machine coming off, the Board has decided that Venkatesh Prasad is the real villain. And so the axe has fallen, slowly of course, on the shoulders of the great Venkatesh. And if Batman gets chopped, can Robin be far behind? So out goes Robin Singh. And if RS gets booted, can the other RS be far behind? So there goes R(P) Singh and Yousuf Pathan as part of the ritual bloodletting that must follow a bad campaign, the Board of selectors has once again cycled back in Munaf “Bobby” Patel (context here) —though something tells me that it is just a series or so before RP Singh comes back in as part of the selectorial musical chairs.
Of course the most controversial omission was that of Rahul Dravid. Several questions have been asked with respect to why he lost his spot—-did the selectors just choose him for one series as a fire-fighting measure? Was he omitted because the Indian pitches are flat and will he be recalled once again when we tour? Does Dravid deserve this kind of “Now you are needed, now you are not” treatment? Or was this because Dravid, in the match against Pakistan, ran horribly between wickets and that Gambhir, never the most even-tempered of persons, threw away his wicket frustrated at Dravid’s inability to rotate the strike at a time Gambhir was in sparkling form?
Or were the reasons elsewhere?
Following India’s first-round exit from the ICC Champions Trophy in South Africa, a senior player in the team made it a point to call Prof. Ratnakar Shetty, Chief Administrative Officer, Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and told him that some of the youngsters don’t have any feeling of sadness losing.
Of course they don’t feel sad. Why would they? When I used to play “gully” cricket even I never felt sad when my team lost. Why? Because there was no “my team” since if I was in “Sunil-da”‘s team today I would be in Paplu-da’s team tomorrow and in Tunku-da’s team day-after-tomorrow on Wednesday (Paplu-da has maths tuitions on Wednesday afternoon and does not play). The only thing that made me sad was if I did not get my batting, especially after having made to fetch the ball from the fourth floor three times while fielding.
I would think that with cricket being reduced to gully cricket in terms of team loyalty, thanks to the money-sharks at the ICC and BCCI and the proliferation of tournaments like the Champions League , its useless blaming the players for not feeling too distraught at a defeat.
After all is not the “Indian team” yet another “club side” (after all didnt the BCCI argue that the “Indian team” represents a private entity and not the nation), just one of many, for which they play throughout the year?