India’s string of SEVEN away losses in Test cricket have evoked strong response from various quarters but the one that really made me go “What the…” was from an unexpected source. P Sainath, keeper of our collective conscience, wrote a longish piece deducing what went wrong with Sachin, Rahul & co in Australia, and England before that.
He writes in an opinion piece titled “BCCI: Billionaires Control Cricket in India” :
“There’s been too much playing to advertising-driven, media-orchestrated euphoria with the IPL. You belt sixes over shortened boundaries, swank in and out in perhaps 30 balls — get lionised for it, and swagger all the way to the bank. Some players have done IPL seasons but skipped going to the West Indies just before difficult tours. Others when ‘tired’ took their ‘break’ from playing for the country. They played in the IPL, though, injuries and all. England and Australia were disasters waiting to happen. It’s because you have great players that these have taken some time to unfold.”
“We served up India’s brightest and best to private team owners. Indian cricket paid the price. Most of those who slaughtered us in England and Australia did not play in the IPL. Some took a conscious, and wise, decision to avoid it.”
“]Really? I mean I’m not exactly a fan of that blasted league, have actually had a lot of fun at their expense a couple of years ago, but to go ahead and say the world is crumbling because Sachin Tendulkar is on Mukesh Ambani’s pay roll is fairly ridiculous. A friend shared this article on Facebook and below is the comment I left on the post:
“Too emotional an argument, someone needs to explain to Mr Sainath that everything involving entertainment of the “bourgeois” is not evil…this same bunch won the World Cup not too long ago [yes it was home, but few months before that they gave a very credible performance in South Africa against better bowling attacks]. If you rewind a few years back, in 1983 post World Cup victory, Indian team got blanked by West Indies at home, and struggled for quite a bit before a change of guard saw Gavaskar take over and lead India to victory in the World series in 1985. I guess it is more like a de-motivation for most players who somehow know that there will never be a greater high in their playing career [or what's left of it] as compared to what they have already achieved.”
“Who plays too much t20 cricket yaar? Sachin plays 10 odd matches in a year, and Rahul/Laxman play it even less. Heck, the latter duo don’t even play ODIs. In the Test side besides these three, out of others only Kohli/Dhoni/Gambhir play a lot of limited over matches (Sehwag’s returning from injury so he hardly played anything). These three were supposed to be the support act, the main actors have failed in Australia but not because of IPL. It can be age, good bowling, lack of focus or an amalgamation of all three/four reasons. Just suggesting that IPL is the root cause of everything evil might not be the right diagnosis.”
Seriously, think about guys like Sreesanth, Ashish Nehra…even Yuvraj Singh who wasn’t part of something magical like THAT Test match at Eden Gardens in 2001 – Harbhajn Singh’s calling card to fame [Yes, not VVS because he has done a LOT more than just having pissed Steve Waugh off for a lifetime]. Life as a cricketer will perhaps never give them a high similar to what they felt on 2nd April 2011 at the Wankhede Stadium. Damn, I don’t think I’d ever be happier in life after I experienced that…and I was watching it on TV, almost a 1000 kms away in Delhi!
Aren’t these cricketers people who are going through the motions and perhaps for the time have lost the will to push on any further. Maybe they needed it to dust themselves up, buck up and carry on or maybe walk into the sunset Clint Eastwood style [or maybe Ravi Shastri style!] Don’t these guys deserve a chance to at least have a say before we cry Mercenaries and send them to the guillotine? I believe in these guys, despite the 7-0 line-up. I will keep on abusing them, but don’t think I will lose faith in them. If Mr Sainath wants to investigate the causes, and he is perhaps one of India’s most meticulous & resourceful journalists, then he should dig a little more and see how corruption thrives at every age group, every club level match where insidious administrators are killing the game & the joy associated with it daily. Or maybe he should write about BCCI President, Chennai Super Kings owner N Srinivasan & his multitudes of conflicts of interests that points to the deeper malaise of the way how the game is run.
Second point about players in England and Australia sacrificing the IPL riches – well, not really! Their board played spoilsport by hosting a series which clashed with the tournament, so despite the likes of Graeme Swann (unsold – this also has the entire list of players) & Stuart Broad (injured) offering themselves up for sale at the auction, they couldn’t really play. Mike Hussey played, so did David Warner, Shane Watson is a star here, Ben Hilfenhaus, James Pattinson, the list goes on. Only honorable exception is Michael Clarke who always stayed away from the IPL glitz and glam. Well, good on ya mate!
IPL, in itself, is not such a bad idea. Without IPL players who are relegated to the anonymity of Ranji trophy year after year would have never received the recognition the likes of Kamran Khan, Aditya Tare among others have received. And the cash never hurt anybody. For Sachin, an additional crore or two sits good in his bank account but had IPL not been around, he wouldn’t have missed it much. Aforementioned fringe players would have, for whom these payments ensured down payments to book a house, secure the future for their families. They don’t have anything else to fall back on, besides cricket. Any money they make of it, don’t be-grudge it folks. Not everyone turns savvy commentator or chooses to move to England/Australia to settle down with the wife and kids. Some of them turn into absolute wrecks, or worse. Read this Outlook story, major reality check. Riches acquired from leagues like IPL goes a long way to avert tragedies in the life of people who chose of follow their dream.
IPL is incidental, cricket is destined to overcome such trivialities and will continue to thrive. It might have to evolve to accommodate changing demographies and tastes. It is an adjustment an rational individual can live with.
Mandatory disclosure: Ok, minus the sarcasm here I have huge respect for Mr Sainath…it’s a shame there aren’t few more journalists around with his sense of understanding of policy decisions & there impact on the poorest of the poor. [Read more about his work here - fascinating, insightful, moving: http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/columns/sainath/]