Just when you expect the Indian Board to do the right thing, it ends up doing the opposite

There comes a point in any ongoing discourse when if you are just about modestly endowed with intelligence it becomes utterly meaningless to try and make any meaning out of the simple process of explaining something to yourself, let alone communicating that meaning to others.

This is precisely how, as a long-time sports writer, I feel about the events that have unfolded in Indian cricket over the last few months leading right up to the now almost-botched tour of South Africa.

Just when you might have believed even if it flew in the face of logic, given past experience that public outcry and timely judicial intervention may have steered the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) around to a point where it would at least want to be seen doing the right thing, it outrageously ends up doing the opposite.

First the Board tried to browbeat its South African counterpart into accepting a two-Test tour as ludicrous as this may be given that South Africa is the reigning champion in Test cricket and India happens to be the nation where the game is most popular.

Then, shockingly, in a Working Committee meeting in Kolkota where it was business as usual _ after all, when you turn in an annual profit of Rs. 350 crore, why should you care about public opinion, or anybody’s opinion for that matter _ not a word was spoken about a much-awaited tour where you expected Dale Steyn & Co. to match their wits with a side that prides itself in having the best batting line-up in the world.

Instead, what do you have? A puny, who-gives-a-damn two-Test series against West Indies, a team that has long since left behind its glory days and whose active practitioners of a great art once taken to legendary levels by the likes of Gary Sobers and Viv Richards, would now be willing to play half the year in this country for reasons that have nothing to do with Sobers’s greatness or Richards’s pride.

Why would anybody want to trade a red-hot rivalry coursing its way thrillingly through Johannesburg and Cape Town, featuring one of the greatest fast bowlers of all time (Steyn) against one of the greatest batsmen of all time (Sachin Tendulkar), on what might have been his last overseas tour, for something much less satisfactory?

Even if you were to think I might have just arrived from Jupiter or someplace where the noisy nonsense of sections of the Indian media does not penetrate please do not try to convince me that a paternalistic, benevolent BCCI wanted to throw a life-line to a man who might have single-handedly generated half of its wealth, and none of its arrogance, over the last two decades.

Hey, Roger [Federer], want to do well in another Grand Slam before you take to caring for your twin daughters full time? Let’s see if we can set up a nice draw for you at the Australian Open in 2014?

Ah, Mr. Bolt, want to beat your own world record in Brazil before you take a bow at the Olympics? Let’s see if we can technology and weather permitting offer some wind assistance to you and rewrite the rules regarding wind-assisted runs and records.

There is only one thing that is worse than being ordinary and being patronised being supremely gifted and being patronised!

This column has absolutely no intention of dwelling on the question of why, when and where Sachin should go or, for that matter, should have gone. More man hours have been lost debating this question in a country whose currency is in free fall and whose ordinary citizens are feeling about as secure as passengers without seatbelts in a light, single-engine aircraft that has just run into nasty, turbulent weather.

And the last thing either Sachin or his tens of millions of fans in this country and elsewhere would want is to find out that our honourable administrators actually wanted to throw one last nice, juicy piece of bone to him.

Come on Mr. Legend, chew on it while your teeth are still in place, and then let’s move on!

You don’t do that to the Sachins of this world, not even if you are the BEE CEE CEE III (emphasis mine, of course).

Surely, there is more to welcoming the Windies and putting Cricket South Africa in its place than offering the great man the soft option.

As always, it has to do with money. Like any other greedy corporate board, the one that runs Indian cricket has its own yearly targets when it comes to its balance sheet. And Sachin playing his 200th Test match he is two short of that figure at home would be such a huge win-win proposition for both the Board and the game’s telecast rights holder that it was something that was hard to toss away.

But what a shame that Test cricket a game that is struggling to survive in the face of the Twenty20 onslaught should be reduced to this! Then again, Indian cricket traded meaning for mockery a long time ago.


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