Showing posts with label Sachin Tendulkar. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sachin Tendulkar. Show all posts

Friday, June 27, 2014

Cricket, 464 yrs; Demise of a Gentleman’s Sport


Born: 1550 (approx.) in Surrey, England
Died: 26th June, 2014 in Melbourne, Australia

On a sunny afternoon of June 26, 2014, the great sport of Cricket passed away after a long battle with corrupt administrators. In her last hours she was surrounded by the three men responsible for her demise: Narayanaswami Srinivasan, Giles Clarke and Wally Edwards, as well as extended family from the various governing bodies. The families, whose avarice led to their selling out without so much as putting up a fight to save the sport that they had sworn to uphold, protect and serve.

Cricket is said to have had her beginnings in the town of Guildford, Surrey in England, as early as 1550*; thought to have been originally conceived as a game for young children. From these humble beginnings she grew into a great global sport often referred to as a Gentleman’s game. The same sport that has now been consumed by three corrupt old men who stand against all that she once represented: fair play, integrity, honour and chivalry.

In India, the current mecca of cricket, she held greater sway than religion and was one of the few things that united the entire country. Indians cricketers are held in higher esteem than Bollywood stars and Gods. Cricket pitches were the only places where caste, religion, language, education and wealth never mattered. Such was once the power of cricket and that is why her demise should concern us all, greatly.

Her rich and storied life includes Articles of Agreement being written as early as 1727* to guide the conduct of matches between teams. The first recorded women’s county match was played in 1811* between Surrey and Hampshire at Ball's Pond in London, England in what was still otherwise completely a man’s world. Over the centuries cricket has produced legendary figures from the likes of WG Grace, Sir Donald Bradman and Sir Garfield Sobers to modern day heroes who have been great ambassadors of the sport, both on and off the field, like Brian Lara, Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar. These men inspired generations of young impressionable minds to strive for greatness through integrity, dignity and the ethics of hard work. (*sources: ESPN cricket and Wikipedia)

Today, a few wealthy men have hijacked our great love and turned it into their personal fiefdom. One where a ruthless, unethical few will now be able bend the rules with complete impunity to enable their thirst for power and single-minded pursuit of money. Cricket, who once nurtured the souls of the young, all over the world, will now feed the hunger of three corrupt boards at the expense of the sport and all her adoring fans.

In lieu of flowers, comments and support may be offered at Save Cricket in India

Friday, April 4, 2014

Open Letter to Narayanaswami Srinivasan, former president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI)


“As he was valiant, I honour him. But as he was ambitious, I slew him.”
William Shakespeare 

Dear Mr. Srinivasan,

The tragedy in this saga is the fact that the sport that you were meant to champion and steward has been the greatest victim of your hubris. We realise that money can buy many things; votes, support from local, regional and even international cricketing boards but what you have never understood is that it cannot buy you the one thing you covet most – respect. 

Granted money also buys you the illusion of power, and make no mistake that it is nothing more than an illusion, because it is based entirely on surrounding yourself with spineless sycophants who will march to your tune, follow your orders and fill you with hot air – as long as you keep lining their greedy and sweaty palms and not a moment longer. You see it is only your money that these people respect, and not you. If this type of power is all you seek, then I feel sorry that you will never know what it feels like to truly earn the respect of people, based on your deeds and your actions; the only real and lasting respect in this life.

The respect to which I refer could have been earned by building a true legacy for the BCCI, by furthering the cause of cricket and doing right by it. This honour is earned by putting your country and our sport first. It is an honour reserved for men who are willing take on the greatest mandate the BCCI has ever had in its history, and use it to put India and Indian cricket on the world stage. For years global cricket was dominated by a small minority of overlords in England and Australia because they had the financial muscle to call all the shots. Even though it was the contribution of many other teams and boards that enabled the growth of cricket, the power structure remained unchanged. 

Then came an era of explosive economic growth in BRICs which helped open the floodgates of fan support in Asia. Along with the tide of fans came a tidal wave of advertisers and marketers falling over themselves to write large cheques to the BCCI for a small share of the billion plus Indian eyeballs and wallets. It is easy to discount another very important reason for this cricket frenzy and that is the men who wore the Indian blues with great élan on and off the field during the same time. I am talking not of our current young Turks who earn six figure paydays for IPL matches but of the men who played this sport because it was their passion; Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly, VVS Laxman, Sachin Tedulkar, Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh to name a few, can be credited with lifting India on their able shoulders; their dedication, integrity and hard work took Indian cricket to its zenith, thus giving the BCCI a mandate that a single cricket board will likely never again have. 

However, under your stewardship the BCCI chose to exercise this authority not by showcasing our largesse as a nation or by commanding the world’s respect based on our actions but by embarking on a small minded, medieval and myopic grab for power. Your BCCI focused all its efforts on gaining control over cricket’s governing body, the ICC, fought for more revenues (BCCI already has more money than they know what to do with), threatened meeker boards to submit to your whims and fancies, and bullied everyone into allowing you to be crowned Chair of ICC.

For years the BCCI opined about how poorly all the non-white teams were treated; about how the sub-continental boards were underrepresented and never given a voice. For years we complained about the fact that there were no TV cameras at the World Cup we went on to win, when India and Kapil Dev outplayed Zimbabwe, as it was not considered an important match for the ICC to waste precious resources on. Under your stewardship of the BCCI, India had a chance to shine by presenting ourselves as a beacon of fairness and integrity. We had a chance to lead by example and show the world that when the tables turned and we had the decree to lead, we did not spend our time trying to even old scores or by seeking revenge. But that we showed our one-time oppressors how everybody deserves to be treated - based on their contribution to the sport and not based on the colour of their skin or the thickness of their accent. 

We had a chance to demonstrate that we can take the high road, the path less traveled and carry even those who once exploited us, showing them a better way forward. You could have brought the minnows of cricket in from the cold and leveled the playing field forever. After accomplishing all this you would have likely won the ICC chair on merit and based on overwhelming support from every cricket board in the world. 

Then you could have focused the ICC’s energies along with the BCCI’s financial muscle on spreading cricket fever into the untapped meccas of football. From Europe to South America, you could have recruited the game’s greatest ambassadors and dispatched them to spread the cricketing gospel; through IPL style exhibitions games designed to light a spark in young impressionable minds the world over; at a time when many are losing faith in the religion of football based on their sports own recent scandals. 

This, Mr. Srinivasan, could have been your legacy for the BCCI, for Indian cricket and for India. And it is for squandering this opportunity that you owe your countrymen an apology before you go quietly into the night.

Yours Sincerely,
A Cricket Fan

READ Cricket's Obituary: Demise of a Gentleman’s Sport

Sunday, September 29, 2013

BCCI, Cricket and the Soul of India


“Sport has the power to change the world…it has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than government in breaking down racial barriers.” 
Nelson Mandela 

I am acutely aware that there are far more serious and weighty issues that plague our country. Not for a moment do I believe that poverty, hunger, education, healthcare or a myriad other problems measure in the same breath as the recent Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) corruption scandal. I also understand where my critics are coming from when they argue that we should not distract ourselves or spend time bothering about some rich corrupt private league of old men. They say that the harm they do is limited. This is largely true but here is the thing that makes everything that has transpired within the ranks of the BCCI so important: nothing unites our country like cricket. We have a many religions, dozens of languages and dialects. Our cuisines and climates are totally different, as is our dress code from east to west and north to south. Even our cinema is split between Bollywood, Tollywood and regional films. The ONLY thing that unites every Indian is the Indian Cricket team. The boys in blue are a great symbol of national unity and international pride. They help us fight proxy wars with Pakistan, on the pitch, and defeat racism in Australia by beating the hosts handily. They help us hold our heads up high on the world stage, time and again, based on their conduct both on and off the field. Cricket is the fabric of India and it is bigger than religion. We hold our cricketers in higher esteem than Bollywood superstars, doyens of industry and even Nobel Prize winners.

Every young boy has imagined becoming a Vijay Hazare or Nawab Pataudi to Sachin Tendulkar and M.S. Dhoni. Every boy has played cricket growing up and dreamed of representing his country. From the fields of every village to the back gully in every city in India you can hear the screams of a child’s delight; from Azad Maidan to Kanyakumari, only cricket is the great leveler. Any Indian with the skill, talent and determination used to be able to play for and represent India. Our cricket pitches were the only places where caste, religion, language, education and wealth did not matter. Such was the power of cricket, and that is why, what has transpired should matter to all of us. 

The conduct of the current BCCI President, N. Srinivasan, with his refusal to step aside, or even apologize is abhorrent. Mr. Srinivasan is also the owner one of the most successful franchises in the Indian Premier League (IPL) – the Chennai Super Kings. This fact alone should have been sufficient ground to disqualify him from holding the post of President of BCCI (he is also President of the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association). His son-in-law, Gurunath Meiyappan (the CEO of Chennai Super Kings), has been charged in an illegal betting and match fixing investigation. Naturally, this should make Mr. Srinivasan’s position even more untenable and one would expect him to have tendered his resignation. Instead he has dug in his heels, unabashedly proclaimed himself King and openly challenged anyone to oust him. He has deftly removed anyone on the board who might have stood up to him or opposed him and clearly seems to have the rest of the board in his pocket. It is quite clear that Mr. Srinivasan has been absolutely corrupted by his absolute power over the wealthiest cricket board in the world. He cares nothing for the sport he was once selected to steward. I wonder if he even remembers that the BBCI logo is derived from the emblem of the Order of the Star of India; India's highest order of chivalry during the British Raj.

This is about much more than a few corrupt old men. It is about the demise of a national sport, and with it the shattering of the dreams of every child, in every village and city gully in India. This is why we need to raise our voices and ensure that we give cricket back to the children of India. It is about restoring honour, responsibility, and integrity to the game we all loved and respected. We need to tell the BCCI that their conduct, even as non-elected representatives of Indian cricket, is incredibly important in preserving this sport’s and our nations, reputation. We must demand that these men are worthy of upholding the historic principles and values of cricket, and that they are able to discharge their duties with humility, integrity and honour, always putting the good of the game ahead of their own personal ambitions. It seems the men of the BCCI have forgotten their purpose. So drunk on power have they become that they believe they can operate with complete impunity and function in an opaque manner with zero external scrutiny or governance. A few wealthy men have hijacked our great love and turned it into their personal fiefdom.  

If cricket is India’s soul then the BCCI have morally bankrupted it. It is time to remind the BCCI who they are here to serve; the game of cricket. Only we can rejuvenate India’s soul - by raising our voices in protest and expressing our indignation, and we must because that is the only way we will give back the dream to every child in India.


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Saturday, April 2, 2011

Of Defiance and Fairytales: 2011 ICC Cricket World Cup

"Sachin Tendulkar has carried Indian cricket on his shoulders for 21 years. So it was fitting that we carried him on our shoulders after this win…"
Virat Kohli

Unlike my fellow billion plus countrymen I got my perfect fairytale ending to the 2011 cricket World cup. My fairytale was not contingent on the Little Master getting his 100th International century, but on MS Dhoni rightfully taking the mantle from Sachin Tendulkar as India’s next great cricketer to enter the pantheons of cricket history. I am sure if you ask Tendulkar, he will say that this personal milestone is inconsequential and pales in significance to his being able to finally hold the only trophy he has coveted but did not have on his mantle or on his twenty-one year long list of superlative achievements.

In many ways this was the perfect World cup, not just because India won on home soil or that it was the first for a host nation to ever accomplish this feat. It was just a perfect world cup all around in my view. Even the losing teams were able to walk away with their heads held high. First, India vanquished the last title holders, Australia, in the quarter-finals. One did not feel bad for this team in so much as one felt sad for the way his countrymen had started to treat the Captain, Ricky Ponting. It was as if Australia had forgotten how many years they have dominated every form of the game under him, including winning 3 consecutive World cup trophies. However, Ponting scored the century of his life to single-handedly lift his team out of trouble and save the reigning World champions the ignominy of a humiliating defeat. So while Australia exited the tournament, being vanquished by the favourite, Ponting got to silence his critics and walk away with the last laugh, head held high.

Next India faced Pakistan, the black horse of this cup. The match was billed the “match of all matches” based on rivalry between these two teams and animosity between these nuclear armed nations, who have fought 3 wars. Pakistani fans are as passionate and jingoistic about their cricket as Indian fans. The backlash for players can be as severe as it is in India, from the press and fans. So it is pretty amazing to me that even though they lost to India in the semi-final, the Pakistan team managed to win the respect of every Indian.  Not just because of the heart and passion with which they played, but more so due to the actions of their captain, Shahid Afridi, who demonstrated on the greatest stage in the world that he is a true sportsman, a gentleman, a spirited opponent, a leader and great ambassador for the sport. I think his actions in defeat even managed to placate otherwise heartbroken Pakistani fans, many of who turned around and started to root for India in the final. Perhaps, it also had something to do with the olive branch India’s Prime Minster offered to his Pakistani counterpart by inviting him to watch the match, in what would be their first meeting and thaw in relations since the Bombay terror attacks on 26/11 derailed peace talks. At the end of the day all of us off the field, especially our leaders, need to remember that the most important thing about this sporting rivalry is not the violent days of partition, the extremist elements that support terrorism, the wars we have fought over territory or the other things that divide us but the fact there are many more things that unite our nations and people’s – much like our passion and fervor for cricket.

This brings us to April 2011. Another day that will no doubt now be etched in the same spot reserved in all Indian memories as 1983 was. The last time India won the World cup by shocking the world and beating the mighty West Indies. In fact, 1983 is so deeply imprinted in the nation’s memory that survey-takers in the 2011 Census were told to ask people who couldn't provide a birth date whether they were born before or after that last World Cup victory! So it was again today but this time India were the favorites’ from the start, perhaps a much greater burden to carry than the team in 1983 that was not even expected to make it past the qualifying rounds. A team that has been touted as the greatest in a few generations of Indian cricket, if not ever. A team that has already won the 20/20 World cup and reached no. 1 in the ICC rankings in test cricket by dominating the last few years. They were no. 2 in ODI rankings behind Australia coming into this World cup and had only one thing left to prove. In the end, this fairytale victory is a testament to Gary Kirsten who has coached India for the last four years and this was his last day. He has turned the potential we Indians have always said our teams have on paper and brought that to life in the field, in every department. It is equally a validation of Mahindra Singh Dhoni's fearless leadership. If Kirsten has helped the Indian squad realise their on-field potential, then it is Captain Cool who has made them believe in themselves in a way I have never seen with any Indian side before. Dhoni never looks rattled on the field, no matter how dire the situation. He never loses his cool and he never panics. This has clearly rubbed off on the boys, who seem to take the lead from Dhoni’s fearless and selfless leadership and his never say die attitude. In fact, it is the only ingredient I felt was missing for years from numerous great Indian sides. It was the same X factor that the Aussies had; that self-belief and attitude that a match is never lost, over or won until the last ball has been bowled.

We should spare a thought for the Sri Lankans, who were also looking for a fairytale send-off for one of the greatest spin bowlers the game has ever seen. Sadly, Murali’s farewell on the International stage was both wicketless and as part of the runner up team. However, it is also true that he is the only member who was part of Sri Lanka’s 1996 World cup winning squad that became the first team in history to bat second and still win, defeating the team that would dominate world cricket for the next decade; Australia. Murali got his send-off and honors in his home ground in Sri Lanka after they dispatched England with a 10 wicket annihilation. The team performed brilliantly and carried themselves with great élan in this World cup and was after all the underdogs. Again Sangakkara and his lads can walk away with their heads held high and proud of the fact that they are a young team with tremendous potential.

So I believe we all got our fairytale today in a number of different ways. Kirsten leaves with the knowledge that he shepherded his herd to the greatest triumph any coach can. Tendulkar can retire as the greatest cricketer ever, along with Sir Donald Bradman, and hold every record in the game until he dies, or much after. And Dhoni demonstrated today, to his many critics, that fearless leadership involves making decisions, some that turn out to be correct and some that go horribly wrong; that if one has the courage of one’s convictions, steely resolve, a never say die attitude and the coolness that would turn a cucumber green with envy, then it is possible to dream really big, carry the burden of 1.2 billion people on your shoulders and deliver…Jai Hind!