Barely a week goes by in the cricket world and already my humble blog is ancient news. Shaun Tait declares himself depressed; Scott Styris realizes that cricket in New Zealand is a national myth; Adam Gilchrist calls its quits (ironically, so that he can make even more money in “retirement”), Harbhajan Singh gets a waiver at the house of justice, and India dump their all-star Test lineup for a bunch of novices barely out of school.
I’ll have to address all those things at some point, but the biggest news for me is that this IPL venture might actually take place. Economics and math have never been my strong subjects, and goodness knows how badly I fared during interviews with consulting firms last year, but how on earth did the BCCI make nearly a billion dollars doing absolutely nothing? When I hear now that certain Australian players may not be able to play because of some sponsorship fracas, I have to ask myself whether Mukesh Ambani and Shah Rukh Khan read all the fine print before they put down hundreds of millions of their own dollars?
But never mind their money; they have lots of it, and I don’t care what they do with it. My problem is with the BCCI: again and again, we are reminded of India’s financial clout in the cricketing world. It’s not really a high standard, seeing as how the South African, Sri Lankan, New Zealand and the West Indian boards are all broke, but still: a billion dollars isn’t something to laugh at. The question that no one has asked, however, is what the BCCI will do with this money. It always amazes me that the Indian press and viewing public are happy to sit back and watch matches, and go out and protest and burn random things if results do not go their way, without ever asking themselves if the system has failed the game.
We saw it during the Australia Test series: India should never have played the Melbourne match without adequate practice, and had they not lost that match in the typically supine way they did, the series would have read 1-1, or even 2-1 in their favor.
Even more than that is the type of cricket facilities that distinguish Australia from India. During the Sri Lankan series, one of the Australian commentators noted that any cricket fan can go to Cricket Australia’s website and look for local clubs to put their children into for training or just fun practice. That would be absolutely unheard of in India — not only do millions of poor fans have to make do with street pitches and poor quality maidans, but coaches and umpires are in remarkably short supply (the latter category being particularly embarrassing, given how much Indian fans riled on and on about Steve Bucknor’s umpiring failures).
I just don’t understand it: a billion dollars comes in, but where does it go exactly? How is it that Sharad Pawar, a minister for agriculture in the central government, also get to head such a large and important organization on the side? They say that when Dalmiya, his predecessor, was finally ousted, the police wagons began circling and rumors of hidden cash stashes began floating. But really, it wouldn’t surprise me everybody, at every cog in this system, has taken his or her own bite out of the game. And much more than Harbhajan’s verdict or Symonds’ taunts, this is a real national shame.