A host of articles some connected and some not- got me to think and revisit some of my earlier opinions on these and related matters.If not for anything else,it would get me to scribble some more and maybe,none the worse for it.
Ashish Magotra has balls to show, especially, when speaking lies and fakery is almost universal.In the sacking of Manjrekar, nay, completion of engagement of contractual obligations with the BCCI for commentating with a “world-class team” he has with an almost English wit and reticence,tried calling spade a spade.With a great eye to see the invisible he interprets with an unsparing mind and rues the inevitable but inexorable descent of the corporatised BCCI into a small clique of sycophants,lackeys and yes men. Alas ! another promise gone wasted.
This journey, however,sure as hell – has a mind and design of its own -a method in the madness.It is common knowledge that BCCI was fast becoming the new Alladin’s cave of goodies where mountebanks and professional bounty hunters,cheesy management gurus,professional gamblers, two-bit bookies,failed stock-brokers and legal disasters, disguised as cricketers, were making a bee-line for the quick buck or to run plenty scams in time.Suitably,BCCI on its part, had managed to reverse the banal colonial logic,venality and greed of the “Goras” with its very native, glitzy makeover : neo-imperialistic-sport-economics of a new El Dorado where the cricketing-sun-never-sets.
The BCCI did a palace coup of sorts sometime in October last year to usher in Saurav and his new team unopposed.Giving it almost three months to settle down and set the new ball rolling as also to set the speculative forecasting to rest Pradeep came out shooting without silencers sometime in the month of January this year naming names.This was on the baffling doings of the most adorable Saurav. (Incidentally,Pradeep Magazine is a respected senior sports writer who dares to challenge established value systems and helped match fixing to be shamed and condemned nationally).Ashish,pleasingly, continues from where he left off. He helps bringing to the notice of the cricket cognoscenti or those simply interested, after,another couple of months of how at the BCCI, business as usual is the new constant. Magotra has a job to do and a family to look after.Yet,like a small clutch of committed and brave journalists is fighting the good fight, while at it.Therefore,the individuals and institutions who are the decently-clad monsters in this evil spectacle are identified and not left to our gossipy imagination anymore than you would wish to.
If cricket had mutated and been redacted to commercial extravaganzas of IPL’s and their various clones ;Test Cricket, but, a ritualised deity to be periodically worshipped and consecrated in which the profiteers drew up its wretched Sutras, the road to perdition was, as yet ,hidden behind the smokescreen of Lodha Committee’s radical rulings to clean up the filthy stables of organised corruption in the BCCI committed through the gilded pathways of the IPL.Into this problematic comes our darling Saurav who by common understanding gave a self – confidence to Indian cricket -eminently rare. Almost arriving in the back of a match – fixing scandal and Sachin developing cold feet where leading was concerned Saurav stood tall in principle and practice to take India out of this corrupt hole.No stranger to controversy he took to cricket administration like duck to water.Blessed by Dalmia,wooed by CPI (M),encouraged by Mamata Saurav effectively held his counsel and warded off these advances while being the proverbial “Bhadralok”.He headed Cricket Association of Bengal and always looked higher and further towards Mumbai and BCCI as an ambitious man.Nominated by the Supreme Court to be in the Committee for Administrators it is instructive to remember here that he successfully teamed up with the likes of a Tendulkar and Laxman with Kumble as coach to keep Vinod Rai happy with the arrangement.Until the Kohli-Sashtri combine upstaged this rather fraternal foursome.(Remember a far-sighted or a weak balled Ramachandra Guha had fled the Cuckoo’s Nest quite early.)When a lot of seniors were crying foul at the Kumble (mis)handling including Gavaskar,the shrewd Saurav very early sensed the changing winds and decided to re-set his sails for safety first and speed next.He vigorously defended Kohli’s acts of ommission and commission both on and off the field and smartly skirted his personal differences with Sashtri as coach.In part this could be his own less patronised philosophy of captain in command always (l’affaire Greg Chappel).In time he vocally also opposed the conflict of interest issue to establish common cause with a lot of former cricketers to which he was an involved party too.
It is perhaps a matter of conjecture that he correctly surmised of the power and authority of a Dhoni or Kohli came from the political upper echelons rather than the BCCI.He must have also surmised that Vinod Rai was a limited tool with a specific agenda employed to clear certain annoying impediments or persons in the way of the renewed exercise of complete.That Cricket was very much a proven business model for money to be made was never lost upon these grab and appropriate political party in power.The palpable entry of political jingoism in the shape of an emblematic glove,camouflage caps in a Test Match and black bands worn by all test players as a token of respect on the demise of a Central Minister and former head of DDCA were confirmations of unseemly political penetrations into the very heart of this very popular game.
Ganguly watched silently all of it and perhaps was also sending enough indications of his apolitical pedigree awaiting baptism with the right party.Particularly when the new East India Company of Independent India with its HQ’S in Delhi is looking for an entry and a popular face to lead it’s charge in Bengal elections sometime next year. It was also during this subterranean turbulence, whose seismic shocks were yet to surface, the ruling party was quietly winning over most of the cricketers who enthusiastically befriended them.Perhaps, even enrolled themselves.BJP was ideologically systematic and professionally organised in its overtures made.Discreet but focussed while other parties in the past were weak-willed.
Now the CAB President is Dalmia ‘s son and the Secretary is Snehasish Ganguly :Saurav’s elder brother.When Shah’s son was anointed as Secretary of BCCI and the former’s not so unknown connections virtually turned the tables on a Srinivasan or Patel to get Saurav elected President some just shook their heads in disbelief,very few talked of an underhand deal while most cheered away saying that the Bong had undone the historical limitations of a culture and language.
Quick on the uptake Saurav was not a one to waste time.The Apex Council which was meant to oversee the working of the BCCI and composed of five main office bearers,two player representatives,a CAG and Board nominee was swiftly reduced to a rubber stamp in the very first General Body Meeting with enough amendments brought in to the existing constitution to empower the office bearers in total disregard to the basic purpose of the Lodha Reforms.In fact,the autonomy of the Selection Committee itself stands compromised with the unwelcome presence of the Board President and Secretary.So much so it has been further debilitated with the induction of less than competent replacements from different zones. Saurav advertises and exhorts participation of the pubic in Fantasy Cricket Leagues to suggest the Final Eleven and win prizes.That he even chooses to nominate his own First Eleven unabashedly punter-like and does not believe it to be a conduit for possible gambling is quite another matter.Serious “conflict of interest” issues stands pooh-poohed by Saurav himself.Much less as a matter of law.Would it be too much to have expected a cricketer of his stature, who is likely to have had several engagements and contracts running, to have fulfilled them, before taking on the reponsibilities of the Board so as to not be exposed subsequetly to the embarassing questions raised on ethics and integrity? It is true that the conflict of interest issue being yet unresolved and kept in suspended animation has enabled many famous cricketers like Kumble, Dravid, Gavaskar,Sehwag,Laxman and even Gautam Gambhir with many others to continue wearing many hats and enjoy its attendant benefits.That Saurav continues to thrall millions of Bengalis in a popular TV serial and commentate or give expert comments in cricket matches even today, well is a tired obvious.We also see now the doubts about Saurav’s limited innings as the President also set to rest with the official extension granted through the highest Court. He is reported to be working very hard to take control of the International Cricket Committee(ICC) once again and guess who is planned to be there? Brijesh Patel ! The jury is out for the T20 World Cup money spinner, scheduled for 2021 in India, quite the challenge for Saurav and Jayant Shah for different reasons as also just the year when the former would be needed for the Bengal Elections too.
The Bengali is generally an Indian only as an afterthought for he is that unique species undiscovered by Darwin and therefore this windfall of widespread attention is also equally special.But like everything Bengali this too comes with its fair share of contradictions.There used to be a time like most Bengalis and less cricket lovers clapped in kiddish glee when Saurav used to knock a blow or two on a Sunny Gavaskar or a Manjrekar.Even a Sashtri for they represented the authoritative might of Mumbai.It was said that a Bengali Brahman would much rather beg than do business as paraphrased from Ray’s “Jana Aranya”.Money was sin ever since the Jagat Seths invited the English and Lord Clive,bribed them,aligned with the Mir Jafars to sink one of the last bastions of resistance in Siraj-ud-dowlah -the Nawab of Bengal.And, most eerily, I recall today almost as providential what Greg had to speak of Saurav and most disrespectfully almost a decade plus years before – that it was his greed and not competence that kept him playing cricket.Gagging and shutting off prying questions and to accommodate amenable people is the latest of his questionable virtues.Or is it the new hubris?
This ambiguity can be traced historically to a large number of Bengalis while being obedient clerks (read babus)under the English, a sizeable did not think twice about chucking a bomb or two at the same Gora Sahibs or languish in their youthful prime in the dark interiors of the Cellular jail forever.The double – faced Bengali is secretly wishing Saurav and the BJP would make a great team for Bengal while the vacillating Babu in him scares about the future of their fiery Didi.The radical Bengalis who preferred death to letting down the Cause are on vacation.Bengal and the Bengali most definitely also resides in Ganguly, too.
So will Saurav set all of this aside as idle banter and instead choose to be the quintessential Mumbaikar, professionally and commercially savvy – principles making way for flexibility?But,to say that he will withstand the definite interference and interventions of the Big Two and continue being his own man would be madly Bengali in form but seriously lacking in substance.Until then,the Bengali icon is bound to be in the crosshairs of such and more sustained critical questioning in the future.Funnily, in its answers or denouement will the reputation and character of the Janus-faced Bengali as a community is likely to be determined .