If cricket was but a game, as it once used to be, winning and losing would have been par for the course; you win some, you lose some. That’s been the way of amateur competitive sport for centuries. So why do we get so confused today, feel so miserably betrayed when we lose? That we lose even with the “home” advantage only adds insult to injury.
The cricket establishment traditionally comprised the Board and the players. The players meekly submitted to the whims of the Board. Not any more. With sponsors, the media and the multitudes of fans now an integral part of the game, the balance of power has shifted in favour of the players. With the backing of their sponsors, and the media, and with the financial security of money in their bank accounts, players are unwilling to capitulate to the demands of the Board. Now you would think that this would be good for the game but actually it has achieved the exact opposite, especially as the Board sadly remains the same dinosaur that it was. The superstar players of Indian cricketer are beyond the reach of the Board, and now they are unwilling to grant even that simplest of requests — that they play dedicated cricket.
While the cricketer himself has changed, and the demands from the game have changed, the player still conveniently hides behind the old façade, that cricket is but a sport where winning and losing is part and parcel of the game. Unfortunately, that defence is no longer available as the amateur for whom the spirit of the game and the laws were written is no longer an amateur. He has now become a professional. He gets paid millions for his services and unless his role is redefined by the official as one of a professional and he is made answerable for each mistake made, Indian cricket will suffer.
To prove my point, all you need do is see the complete lack of application shown by the Indians in the last few Tests. When a doctor loses a patient his reputation suffers much like the lawyer or any other professional not performing to expected levels. Similarly, the cricket professional can no longer hide behind the old amateur façade. To him losing is no longer an option. The order of the day is simple: lose and make way for someone who will not. The problem is that this has not been spelt out to the players. Our cricket star continues to live in denial and believes, because of his status, his fat bank account, his huge fan following and the support he has from sponsors, that he is beyond reproach. As long as the Board allows players this leeway, complacency will continue to cripple Indian cricket and we will waste talent and slide lower in our rankings.
On Sachin Tendulkar
Had I to decide on Sachin Tendulkar’s future, and thank God that decision will never rest with me, I would have, had he been an amateur, allowed him to play till he dropped of old age. But Sachin the professional I would have dropped many moons ago. We need to redefine the position of our players and align our policies and long-term objectives accordingly. Now, who would be in a better position to achieve this rather intricate manoeuvre of redefining Indian sport, an amateur or a professional? An Honorary Board Member or a highly paid CEO? With the introduction of large sums of money into Indian cricket, with the game itself changing completely in most respects, with the player becoming a highly paid professional, to expect an Honorary Board Member — an untrained amateur elected into power by another set of untrained and unpaid amateurs — to provide optimum professional support to the game in India is quite amusing if not downright unfair to us cricket lovers. It is time that the whole system was revamped and the amateur, at all levels, was replaced by the professional who is answerable to the people of India. Surely the Board has enough money to pay for the services of such professionals, and surely the pathetic performance of the Indians has proven that it’s about time we replaced the complacent members of our cricketing fraternity with dedicated professionals.
(Saad bin Jung is a writer and former Ranji opener for Hyderabad.)
Team India cricketers can no longer be called amateur sportsmen, so the cricket board too should not be managed by untrained honorary members