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Sight Screen

Saturday, November 26, 2005

The moving finger writes

I wonder if it is not time to flip the metaphorical middle finger at the BCCI? After all, if Indian cricket these days make more headlines for non-cricketing reasons than otherwise, that body is solely to blame.
Throw your mind back to the spat in Zimbabwe; the supposedly private emails and rejoinders that found their way to the media and thence into the public domain. Reduce it all to its essence -- what was all that about?
The BCCI had appointed a coach, and given him a brief to shape a team for the future, as defined by WC2007. The coach and the captain did not see eye to eye on how this should be done; on the methods to be used, on the personnel to be picked, or omitted, on the standards to be set and on the means by which those standards should be enforced.
It was, plain and simple, a disagreement on procedure. And the logical solution was equally plain, and no less simple -- since both parties had made certain allegations, what was needed was a full-scale inquiry.
The committee needed to call everyone concerned -- the captain, the coach, the manager, the various players whose names cropped up (for instance, Sourav Ganguly in his response repeatedly referenced his deputy Rahul Dravid, as being able to witness his statements; VVS Laxman was a key figure in the controversy; Harbhajan Singh had spoken of divisiveness and needed to be heard on the subject...), the physio and other members of the back up team. It needed to ask hard questions, compel frank answers -- and at the end of the exercise, make a determination, one way or the other.
Either the coach had lied throughout -- and worse, by distorting facts had deliberately undermined the credibility, and authority, of the man picked to lead this country's national team -- or he had not.
If he lied, that is clearly unacceptable, and the solution was immediate dismissal from the post. If he hadn't lied (oh, I forgot -- friend Mahindra gave Ganguly a clean chit, did he not, based on the word of the team manager but not the team physio, whom he found no need to consult though the accusation was about fitness), that in turn meant that his central premise -- that the then captain was not fit for the rule, stood true, and that in turn suggested the proper solution.
But no -- the preferred solution by a body whose emblem by rights ought to be the ostrich was to conduct a little sham; to, at the end of it, talk of rapprochment where, clearly, none was possible; and to craft a devil's bargain with both parties (come on, you would need to be incredibly naive, in the light of all that has happened since, to miss it -- Chappell takes a hit on his veracity, allows the board to state officially that there was no truth to his charge that Ganguly feigned injury; in return, Ganguly is dropped from the one-day squad).
Clearly, that bargain was entered into as a stop-gap measure; the masterminds who dreamt that up obviously reckoned the BCCI elections would take place sooner rather than later, and once the office bearers were in place with a year-long mandate, final decisions could be taken.
In all of this, one factor was not taken into account: the fact that the Indian public has a tremendous emotional investment in the game, and the players who represent their country. A back room compromise was not going to wash, not with the public -- they, rightly, needed to know what was going on, who was in the right and who was in the wrong; in a word, they needed closure.
Once the BCCI in its wisdom denied us fans that basic requirement, the rest was bound to follow. The fans have been divided into two camps, where none should have existed (would there be all this heartburn had the BCCI and its selection committee had the good sense to state, clearly and for the record, exactly why Ganguly was dropped -- and if the reason given stood the test of logic?).
The two camps have parsed the statistics, pro and con, ad nauseum -- and there is just so many times one camp can reference 'the last Test innings was a century' and the other camp can go 'yeah, right, against the terrifying Zimbabwe attack'.
Once saturation point was reached, the debate naturally had to descend into ad hominem attacks on parochial lines. And -- another unfortunate concomittant -- at this point, enter the politician, that class of animal that makes a career out of wallowing in muck. Here, politicians got into the act, put out 'spirited' statements ('Let's see how the player will not be in the team!'), and -- with support from that other class of creature that will do anything for 15 minutes of media fame, the actor) -- framed the debate on us versus them lines and, in doing so, poured needless fuel on already high-burning parochial flames.
Ergo, the situation is now totally out of hand -- you have a situation where one player will be booed in Bangalore and another in Kolkatta, both forgetting that they are booing one of their own (if we don't respect ourselves, what right do we have to complain when a foreigner doesn't respect us?); you have groups going around conducting funeral rites of those they dislike (When my father died, I did, by the book, the 14-day funeral rites; I still remember the anguish, the sorrow and, finally, the cleansed, peaceful feeling that accompanies it; I cannot conceive of the sort of minds that converted that ceremony, handed down through aeons and sanctified by the tears of those who have performed it for their loved ones, has been converted into a means of protest). And you have the man at the center of the storm flipping off his perceived 'enemies' -- an act as indefensible as all that preceded it.
Was there ever anything less edifying? And for why? Not, no matter how many statistics you dredge up, because Ganguly merits or does not merit a place in the team. Not, no matter how many ad hominem statements of the kind anyone makes to mask the real issues, because of a 'white' fixation or a north-south, aryan-dravidian divide.
But because the BCCI forgot one simple tenet of public life -- when a problem surfaces, sticking your head in the sand and your rear end in the clouds is not the way to deal with it.
The people -- those who invest their time, their energy, their money and, most importantly, their emotions, in this game that, more than caste or creed or language or any other factor united us, and now divides us -- deserved answers. Denied it, confronted with a vacuum, they are now making up their own, as suits their own individual mindsets.
PS: Is this how it is going to be, here on? A board that makes people pose smilingly for cameras, and pontificates on unity, furthering divisiveness, mutual suspicion and all else for its own narrow political reasons? You messed with my captain, I mess with yours?
The Indian team management had pleaded with curator Prabir Mukherjee to shave off the grass but their request was only partially met, sources said.
It was only after repeated requests that the curator agreed to snip off some of the grass but the greenish tinge that remained is unprecedented for an Eden Gardens track if one takes into account the history of one-day games played at the venue.
It may be mentioned that the greentop at Nagpur during the Test against Australia last year had given rise to a debate after it transpired that the organisers had summarily rejected then Indian skipper Sourav Ganguly's request that the grass be cut.


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