India is a pot of crabs. Though blessed by the birth of brilliant individuals, India has forever been beset by insecure power brokers steeped in mediocrity who always feel threatened by these brilliant individuals. As a consequence, Indian history in every sphere has been witness to umpteen examples of heroic visionaries being pulled down by a system that felt threatened by the individual’s growth. Be it a Subhas or a Bhagat, an Ambani or a Bajaj, they were all forsaken by a system that should’ve nurtured them. In spite of this, they might’ve persevered and realised their visions in whatever measure possible, but that is besides the point.
The point is that the same, irritatingly familiar phenomenon is painfully evident in the manner in which the BCCI is handling India’s World Cup debacle. First things first – Greg Chappell’s gone and thank god for small mercies. The high-handed Australian ruined every team he touched as a coach and it proved to be no different for the Indian team. He had come in as the coach of the second best team in the world – a team that had consistently (and that is a rare word in Indian cricket) triumphed at home and abroad and was full of potential world-beaters and an assertive captain who had galvanised the team, led from the front and significantly enough, made an emphatic statement the last time the board – hand in glove with the ICC – attempted to bring up the issue of endorsements in 2002. Today, Chappell leaves behind a demoralised and broken bunch of rift-ravaged individuals who look behind their shoulders with suspicion at everybody in the team, the management and the board, even as they’re walking onto the field. No wonder they couldn’t perform. That is the legacy of Gregory Stephen Chappell who might’ve stayed on as coach if not for the dignified stand taken by the otherwise shy and extremely non-controversial Sachin Tendulkar who couldn’t help but react when the coach (and the captain, but more of that later), instead of accepting an iota of responsibility, dropped the scalding blame ball on the senior players in the team. He (Chappell) came, he saw, he ruined, and the board concurred. It is a terrible shame that a man like Tendulkar, more committed than any to the cause of Indian cricket, was asked to explain his actions when he spoke out against the tyranny of the coach.
What the Board fears is a strong, united player’s association because then it will find it difficult to impose its will on the team. The BCCI, in particular, has been guilty of a lot of excesses in terms of scheduling matches without considering the player’s well-being, along with recurring debates with respect to the player’s endorsement deals, which in the past have often collided with the Board’s understanding with the ICC and the deals it cut. Who knows, maybe a strong, successful captain (read Sourav Ganguly) may have challenged the Board’s callous exploitation of the players.
So besides bringing in an arrogant Chappell to batter the unsuspecting players into submission, the BCCI also institutes the robotic cricketing genius called Rahul Dravid as captain. Undeniably an all-time great batsman, Rahul is a wimp of a captain without vision or imagination. Appearances suggest that he is a good, honest human being; and he might well be all that, but he is also one of the worst captains in the history of the game in India. He had one of the most talent-laden teams to have ever played in a World Cup and yet he managed to shame the by now very blue billion with historic losses and an ignominious and humiliating (and that’s putting it mildly) exit.
With a brilliantly talented team, the odd victory here and there (and especially at home or against weak opposition) happens not because of the captain or coach, but in spite of them. It is consistency, courage and fire to perform as a team when the chips are down that takes great leadership; and this is why a Clive Lloyd, a Steve Waugh, an Imran Khan, an Arjuna Ranatunga and a Sourav Ganguly are special, and need to be left in charge for as long as possible. Beyond taking the wrong decision following a toss and being irritatingly repetitive with his boringly predictable and pointless on-field strategies, Dravid has been a colossal failure as a captain because he lacks the ability to inspire even a fly to fly. He is just so . . . well . . . inanimate; and might I add, a trifle shameless to have not stepped down already. And the only reason why the Board members (who, like the captain and coach, have shamelessly refused to take any responsibility for the losses) could have chosen to retain our worst captain ever and train their guns on the few players who performed reasonably at the World Cup – other than the fact that they could be stark, raving mad – is because they want to keep their unwitting stooge of a captain in a tight corner so that they can pull the strings and keep him dancing to their whimsical tunes. Perhaps I’m reading too much into this but the appointment of Venkatesh Prasad (Dravid’s one-time Karnataka mate) and Robin Singh (played for Tamil Nadu in domestic cricket) seems a bit like the Board’s attempt to bolster Dravid’s precarious standing within the team. I hope to God that my assumptions are incorrect and that regionalism isn’t as rampant as is made out to be, but the signs are ominous.
As for the Board’s tirade against players and their endorsement deals, it is almost ridiculously funny to hear them repeat the same inane old wives’ logic to deflect attention from their own failings. Players in every sport have the right to endorse as and what they choose; and as long as they can wrap up their corporate commitments 14 days before a match, there really isn’t an issue. The Board is huffing and puffing at the wrong candle. The BCCI has emerged as an irrational and exploitative organisation that is ruining Indian cricket and threatens to kill the goose laying the golden eggs with its greed and its dictatorial arrogance.
Indian cricket today is at a crossroads; and without the right kind of leadership across levels, it risks getting run over, over and over again, not by any enemy without, but by our very own enemy within, the BCCI!
- 22 April 2010 |