Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Dust Has Not Settled

Just when everybody had started thinking that India’s tour of Australia was limping towards normalcy, the powers that be in world cricket have worked extra time to ensure that the excitement doesn’t die out.

The BCCI, having realized that Bollywood might be its greatest source of cash in the future after the sale of the IPL teams, has gone to great lengths to show them that they too can script filmy climaxes. BCCI top bosses certainly feel that they belong to the same league as the Khans and the Zintas.

They have also shown us that they simply cannot rise above being petty-minded politicians. Expecting these people to understand concepts like ‘justice’ and ‘interest of game’ is like expecting the buffalo to understand the Vedas. In playing the game of brinksmanship by keeping the team on standby to fly back if Justice Hansen’s decision did not go in favour of India, the BCCI has torn to pieces all claims of moral high ground that India had.

The sad fact is that BCCI’s actions will find huge support in India. Many would be saying, ‘Serves them right.’ For many, it would be a way of getting back at the Australians for what happened at Sydney. What many would be forgetting is that the umpiring and lack of sportsmanship of the Aussies in the Sydney test and the Symonds-Harbhajan issue are two separate things altogether. In the first one, the facts of the matter are clear as daylight and India has every reason to feel wronged. In the second one, however, what transpired is not very clear. The only thing that is clear is that there isn’t sufficient evidence to ban Harbhajan Singh for 3 test matches.

The BCCI, obviously, felt that their cause was just and they went about using every means they had at their disposal to ensure that the decision went in India’s favour. My feeling is that BCCI’s actions would have had little or no bearing on Justice Hansen’s judgment – the case against Harbhajan was flimsy, to put it mildly. But in doing what it did, not only has the BCCI damaged beyond repair all its claims of ‘respect for the law and its processes’ but also committed the same mistakes that we have been accusing the Australians of making – any means as long you end up on the winning side.

You cannot walk out during the middle of the game saying that you don’t agree to the rules of the game. This is exactly what the BCCI would have been doing had Team India flown back from Australia. If anything, an unfavourable verdict would have reflected poorly on BCCI who was party to the framing of the rules and procedures concerning this entire saga. The honourable thing to do would have been to go to the ICC and demand a change in the rule books so that such incidents wouldn’t occur in the future.

The Australians are no saints in this matter and a criticism of their actions throughout this incident would run to a couple of hundred words more than this one. Their posturing and gamesmanship off the field have been nothing short of disgusting. Their endorsement of the ugly practice of sledging threatens to make bad behaviour on the field legitimate and somehow ‘part of the game’. However, this does not give Harbhajan Singh any right to indulge in any kind of abuse. If it is proved that he did call Symonds a monkey, then I believe that it was racist and he should be punished for it. And the BCCI should have the balls to accept it and not indulge in brinksmanship of the lowest kind.

It is truly unfortunate that the enthusiasm of the BCCI to go to the extremes in cases where there are political points to be scored is not to be seen in areas which truly require their enthusiasm. Their interpretation of the idea of supporting and standing up for the players is flawed, at best. Domestic cricket is in a pathetic state and the facilities that the young players have to put up with are pathetic. Of course, nobody is going to give Sharad Pawar votes for improving the quality of the pitch for the Tripura-Goa Ranji Trophy match. But the gains that he stands to make by ‘protecting the honour of Indians’ are immense.

Update 1: The BCCI has denied charges of hiring a chartered flight to take the players to India and has also asked its players to behave themselves.

1 comment:

Mathew said...

Mukul Kesavan, writing in his Cricinfo blog has a different take on the issue. He thinks the BCCI didn't give a rat's ass what happened to Harbhajan Singh - it was only the pressure put on them by the seniors that forced them to go to such extreme measures. The BCCI definitely need them if IPL is going to be any popular in India. Not that I think hiring the chartered plane etc were the senior players' idea, but still a very interesting view point.