Wasn’t there a time when Mumbai was known as the ‘cradle’ and the ‘nursery’ of Indian cricket? Looking around today, it is clear that the nurslings have disappeared. Do you know who had the honour of ‘unveiling’ the ICC Champions Trophy in Mumbai last Friday? No, not any of Mumbai’s cricketers. That honour went to Bollywood action hero Suneil Shetty and cricket commentator Harsha Bhogle. It was such a low moment for Mumbai cricket.
If Friday was bad, the Sunday after was worse. Watching TV, I could not understand what was happening to Indian cricket. Who won the power game at the BCCI? Who lost? What was the major difference between ‘stepping down’ and ‘stepping aside’? Why were the vociferous critics of corruption silent? Only one issue was clear. Indian cricket has lost heavily and may never recover.
The ‘Trimurti’ dealing these fatal blows to Indian cricket was the BCCI top brass, politicians, who for years had ruined cricket and the newly-emerging cricket media mafia, particularly the loudmouthed channel anchors. Their performance flouted every single rule of broadcasting ethics. ‘End of the world for one billion cricket lovers,’ screamed Times Now’s Arnab Goswami. Starvation, scarcity, water shortage, inflation and the searing heat do not seem to be the problems these billion Indians face. The problem is cricket administration and the power struggle among the BCCI bosses.
I used to count myself among the billion. But ever since the IPL began and cricket was taken over by Srinis, Shuklas, Meiyappans and bookies with fancy names like Minerva Metro, Jupiter and so on, I withdrew from this billion camp. Indian cricket and the BCCI can go to the blazes, I don’t care. As TV anchors, their sidekicks, the politicians and their hangers-on screamed, I switched channels to Star Cricket, to watch some sensational cricket, as unfancied New Zealand thrashed England in a one-day match. It was cricket as it should be. Lush green grass, enthusiastic, but disciplined crowds, sensible commentators with a keen sense of humour…… everything a cricket lover could wish for. Shall we ever see such real cricket in India again?
Among the BCCI stalwarts were men like the Leader of the Opposition, Arun Jaitley, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi (he had a place in the BCCI without knowing anything about the game). Recently, referring to the Prime Minister’s frustration over the BJP’s impatience on national affairs, the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, Sushma Swaraj, had snapped, “Mr Prime Minister, since your government is more corrupt than ever before, we have to be more impatient than ever before.” This logic was lost on Arun Jaitley and Modi, who were not impatient and passively went along with the massive corruption, match-fixing and spot-fixing in the IPL. Jaitley, who likes to project himself as a crusader against corruption, did not urge any action against the coterie led by the board chief, N Srinivasan. Jaitley and Modi did not even bother to attend the important Chennai BCCI meet and appeared only in its video conference.
The Congress was also deeply embarrassed, but one of its senior ministers, C P Joshi, Board member from Rajasthan, kept quiet. The IPL commissioner, Rajiv Shukla, who led the singing of the ‘hosannas’ in praise his ‘baby’, suddenly decided to part company and urged Srini to resign. The confusion in the proceedings was made clear, with Srini first saying he would quit and then on the day of the meeting, observing that the meeting was as peaceful as a Buddhist convention and that no one asked for his resignation! The editors of TV channels and daily newspapers apparently gave full freedom to their cricket correspondents to write whatever they wanted. Imaginations ran wild. How could Srini represent India at the International Cricket Council, when he had ‘stepped aside’? Was the BCCI battle purely a political one, South vs West, with the North and East siding with the South? Was it a grand ‘tamasha’, staged to keep Sharad Pawar out of the BCCI? Did North scuttle the chances of another candidate, Shashank Manohar? It was total mayhem on the media front. At the end of the day, everyone was as confused as they were when the day began.
Times Now broadcast cricket and the BCCI meet non-stop because the issue involved ‘billions’. The channel had wrongly assumed the nation was glued to the TV sets, engrossed in the proceedings. The fact was that most of us found the proceedings a big bore. What came through was noise and more noise. Of the nine or so panellists on the screen, six looked resigned and haggard and as the day wore on, dozed. Arnab was the lead shouter, but this time he had competition. No, not from Rajdeep Sardesai, but one of the Times Now panellists, Boria Majumdar, who ended up being more of a bore. Boria has been calling himself a cricket writer, cricket scholar, cricket historian, cricket astrologer, and now, he can call himself cricket screamer. Fortunately, Goswami and Boria were on the same side. Had it not been so, their shouts against each other would have brought down the recording studio. The others on the panel had no chance.
Perhaps the BCCI and Indian cricket would be saved only with the removal of Srini and his coterie. But mere shouting from TV anchors cannot do this job. We want credible evidence, documents and logic arguments to be presented in court. As have been made available in the case of Gurunath Meiyappan.
The Arnab-Boria shouting led people to believe they were hounding Srini without any evidence Finally, what is the guarantee that the state of cricket will improve if Srini quit and Jaitley and Modi took over?
We Indians could care less about these blame games. The so-called ‘billions’ referred to by Arnab, came out in large numbers to pack Eden Gardens for the IPL final. That the IPL matches attracted so many crowds is a clear indication of the degradation among India’s cricket-crazy people. If the IPL were changed to the ICL (Indian Crime League) and featured matches between bribers vs bribe receivers, spot-fixers vs pitch-tamperers, there would still be ‘billions’ to watch these matches. The Arnab-Boria duo better give their vocal chords a rest.