Wednesday, August 17, 2011

No comments, the BCCI is paying us!

(Written for Sahara Time)

News is that Sunil Gavaskar and Ravi Shastri are both BCCI stooges. News is that the BCCI pays them money and they mouth lines the BCCI wants them to.

And this is a revelation to you?! I mean, sure, you or I probably wouldn’t know all the facts, but did it never strike you that the two Mumbaikars can be nothing but BCCI propagandists? Despite hearing them on all the contentious issues over the years and realising that they are the only two major voices in Indian cricket who have never criticised the BCCI; they have defended the indefensible over the years, raised the pitch when all around them have gaped incredulously. Well, maybe you didn’t know that the BCCI was paying Gavaskar and Shastri, but did you not wonder how they could be saying what they do?

Okay, how about hard facts? Gavaskar and Shastri are both part of a number of BCCI committees, they were both part of the IPL Governing Council (Shastri still is) and they are the only two commentators who are not committed to any one broadcaster – they appear on every single channel if there’s an Indian interest in the proceedings. Is that possible under normal circumstances? Obviously it’s not. Now you know the truth. Though I would have thought that you’d suspect the truth anyway.

I had my first major suspicion back in 2001. Remember the Mike Denness controversy in South Africa when a combination of offences saw five Indian players being suspended by the match referee? It was Port Elizabeth, and the Indians were fighting hard to avoid going down in the series. There was some ‘excessive appealing’, though Denness’ ‘excessive’ might not have been so for another ref. There was most certainly a bit of rule-breaking from Sachin Tendulkar, when he was filmed digging his nails into the seam of the ball. He said he was cleaning the dirt, but it was against the law anyway. In any case, Denness suspended five Indian cricketers and, obviously, the BCCI swung into action, creating a situation where the next Test match was rendered ‘unofficial’.

As it happened, the press was invited to an unscheduled press conference, where Denness was brought in by an ICC official. It was announced that Denness would be present but not field any questions. Kind of bizarre, but that was the rule. And as the question-answer session panned out, came a booming voice: “Why is Mike Denness here if he won’t answer questions, we know what he looks like!” Oh sure, it was a cool thing to say. But Shastri was not there as a speaker or as a journalist, so why was he there? And he sure as hell wasn’t really asking a question.

Well, what he was doing, is making a statement. We probably didn’t understand it then, though we did find it rather strange. But now, in hindsight, it was clearly a BCCI line going out to the world.

Which is exactly what Shastri dished out – like a tracer bullet – when Nasser Hussain, justifiably, called the BCCI’s stance against the UDRS ‘disgraceful’. Oh well, you can argue against the use of the adjective, but not the sentiment. Enter Shastri: “England is jealous of India. People can’t stomach the fact that India are the number one team in the world and that the BCCI can organise such a great product like the Indian Premier League.”

Huh? What? What exactly is the connection?

Or, at the end of the tea break of the Trent Bridge Test when Ian Bell had been run out in bizarre fashion: “India have done the right thing by running Bell out; they have nothing to apologise for.” Till Shastri realised that the boos had changed to cheers as a result of some tea-time diplomacy between the two sides. The tone changed in the blink of an eyelid: “Dhoni has given a great example of how the game should be played,” Shastri boomed, no hint of embarrassment in his trained voice.

Remember, when it comes to BCCI ‘properties’ like Sachin Tendulkar and Mahendra Singh Dhoni, you will never hear a word of criticism from Shastri or Gavaskar. Never. At least not on air. Because the BCCI’s payment to the two doesn’t involve their newspaper columns. Shastri doesn’t bother changing track there either, but Gavaskar certainly does make an attempt to speak his mind in his columns even if he doesn’t do it on TV.

To conclude; it all comes down to the BCCI and its insecurities. All tyrants are by nature insecure because they know their rule can’t last forever. Winds must change. And so is the BCCI. Which is why it chooses to stunt the growth of cricket around the world, prevent its evolution. Put people in the right places to ensure that it’s the BCCI’s opinion that gets played out. Broadcasters are helpless, because their futures in the cricket arena depends entirely on the BCCI and the cricket the Indian team plays. Shastri and Gavaskar are just pawns in a much bigger game. A game that we can watch from the sidelines, booing or cheering if we choose. But at no stage can we actually enter the field of play and be part of the action.

Not unless the BCCI wants us to, of course.