Issues have become immaterial in Indian cricket, ideas are extraneous, reason is out. Personal attacks are in, writes Rohit Brijnath
He showed fine judgment and a notable control of ego in ensuring the focus was always on the teamThe merit or legitimacy of an argument is secondary to the controversy
If Indian politicians could have The Satanic Verses banned without reading a word, why wait before calling John Wright a lying, scandal-mongering mercenary. This is fun. Let's just assassinate the quiet Kiwi's character, deface his reputation, accuse him of leaking nuclear secrets to the Americans while we're at it, and then, if we find some free time between knee-jerk responses, maybe we'll read his book Indian Summers and decide if he actually deserved all this vitriol.
You know why Wright wrote that horrible, offensive stuff which most haven't read but will still assure you is horrible and offensive? Because he wants to sell books and make money (people can actually make money writing cricket books in India?) And, the former selectors who made these charges know this how? Because they are oracles who can read Wright's mind?
Is this rhetoric not as distasteful as the one the selectors are accusing Wright of? It's almost as if they think Wright ensured this particular chapter was leaked to the press. Ah, where would we be without the conspiracy theory?
Or wait, maybe Wright wrote all this because ... . he's umm, well, err, white? I mean, a foreigner, you know an outsider, who doesn't know the culture of Indian cricket (which means what, burying the truth?) and wants to exploit us poor Indians. Which makes you wonder who has the chip on their shoulder, him or us?
Fact is, throughout his reign as Indian coach, Wright showed a sincerity and humility and restraint that was edifying. The man's no buddy of mine, and his monkish vows of silence used to annoy me, but he showed fine judgment and a notable control of ego in ensuring the focus was always on the team not on him. You could get to like a man like that.
Anyway, this alleged sin of John's, what was it? Had he scorned Sourav, made match-fixing claims? Not quite. No, he's written that the Indian selection system is flawed. This is controversial? If there's an Indian journalist who hasn't taken a swing at the selection system, raise a lonely hand, and then explain why you haven't. We can do it, but a coach of the national team, who has seen and suffered it first hand, can't?
Did Wright name selectors? Twice in that chapter. He complimented Sanjay Jagdale, and in another instance pointed out how Pronob Roy was hounded in Bengal for failing to prevent Sourav's axing. Nowhere are there personal attacks, and so why exactly are some selectors being so defensive? Lost in all this is the irony that two selectors apparently asked Wright to write a book.
We can learn from Wright, we can disagree with him, instead we belittle him? But that's how it is these days. Recently a former cricketer was offered a lucrative job as an expert by a TV company, but only if he agreed to criticise Ganguly. This is the level of debate we've arrived at. Where the possible wisdom of a man's book is irrelevant, what matters is what scandal we can sniff out.
Issues have become immaterial in Indian cricket, ideas are extraneous, reason is out. Personal attacks are in.
A few weeks ago, Sanjay Manjrekar, one of cricket's most captivating columnists, wrote a stimulating piece on Sachin Tendulkar and his ageing body and how it may be affecting his thought processes. It was a compelling twist to a worn subject, one certainly worth informed debate.
Manjrekar did not appear to be criticising Tendulkar, merely attempting to comprehend a great batsman caught in some final struggle. But these days the merit or legitimacy of an argument is secondary to the controversy that can be whipped up around it. So Manjrekar was seen as bashing Tendulkar, as suggesting he was afraid to fail, as insinuating he had faked injuries. It got to the point where I began to wonder if I'd read a different article.
Debating the value of what Manjrekar said is evidently tedious; guessing why Manjrekar said it, is clearly more fun. Perhaps he doesn't like Tendulkar, perhaps he holds a grudge? Now every time a comment is passed, the motive of the commenter is being called into question. It is all quite unseemly.
Former players leapt to Tendulkar's defence (we presume they'd read the entire article and were not reacting to excerpts out of context, which is an old and dismaying tactic), and there was an underlying suggestion that Tendulkar is some cricketing pope who is beyond questioning.
This writer has long admired Tendulkar, and has often defended him from the bleatings of assorted bloggers, but certainly he is not above scrutiny. That Tendulkar later rebuked Manjrekar was unfortunate, for if anything cricketers should be advocating honest, reasoned discussion rather than playing into the hands of the hysterical in the media.