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Aussies defeats BCCI at Ahmedabad

Political manipulation and business interests tarnish cricket's legacy. Ahmedabad's unruly crowd, biased administration, and disrespect for legends highlight the decline of the gentlemen's game in India

Team India ‘lost’ the world cup. Winning or losing are part of the game but what happens when the game becomes part of the political propaganda and the audiences are not sports lovers or cinema lovers but fans who hate others. A Bania paper in Uttar Pradesh gave a headline for the final game as ‘dharmyudh’. The game of cricket is being used for political purposes. As cricket is a powerful business in the country and every one non-playing ‘captains’ of the game earn a much bigger sum than the players. 

There is not a single stadium in the name of any cricketing legend anywhere unlike the politicians and powerful leaders who might not have played cricket but dominated it. Bishan Singh Bedi opposed Feroz Shah Kotla ground in Delhi being named after Arun Jaitley but what happened. Bedi, the legend is thrown away from the game. Same thing happened again when legends like Kapil Dev and Mahendra Singh Dhoni, two world cup winning captains, were not being invited to watch the game in Ahmedabad. Why? Perhaps, because, the board and its political masters were certain of Indian victory and hence nobody ‘else’ should be there on the podium to ‘greet’ the Indian team except for the ‘Supreme Leaders’, who must have been practicing to ‘deliver’ the ‘winning speech’ for days. Unfortunately, that did not happen as Team India got defeated.

As a team, this is a superb team which lost the game but won the heart of the people but the real defeat is of the Board of Cricket Control in India which has converted it into a political game. It is not a game. It is purely business and politics. I lost interest in the game once I saw players being ‘auctioned’ and the format of the game being changed to favour the batsman. 

The biggest crisis of cricket was the demise of the West Indians’. They were unparalleled and a sheer joy to watch. 

In India, the biggest upturn in cricket came after the historic victory of 1983 under Kapil Dev at the Lords. I still remember the excitement and joy it brought in our lives. For days, we did not forget it. It was just the transistor age and many of us had not even had the luxury to watch it on TV. After that investors came in and cricket became a big game. Kapil Dev was the player who changed it and brought cricket to non-English speaking people of the country. He was not an intellectual like Bishan Bedi nor sophisticated like Sunil Gavaskar, who could fit anywhere according to the requirement. Kapil always spoke from the heart and that is why he has always been straight forward and stood up for the rights of the players. Years later, the other man who changed the dynamics of cricket in India was Mahendra Singh Dhoni, emerging in from a relatively smaller town/city. After Kapil Dev, it was under Dhoni that India won the world cup. That was the time when we were growing and the rules of the games were still great.

As the new dispensation in India came in 2014, the game of cricket also changed a lot. More money came in but it also wanted players to sing and dance to the tone of the board. India had already hosted several world cup tournaments in the past but I think this was the worst. And the reasons are clear. Rather than thinking about India, the whole focus of the board of the cricket control in India (BCCI) was Gujarat and Gujarati Asmita as if other cities and states don’t have it or deserve it. 

Whenever cricket is understood and history of cricket is written by any impartial person, the four to five cricket grounds always come to mind. The first and foremost remain Eden Gardens in Kolkata where players world over would love to play in front of a truly sports loving crowd. Have we seen how the first world cup win of Australia happened under Allan Border at Kolkata and how he was greeted by the stadium giving a standing ovation. Similarly, Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai, Cheapak in Chennai, Feroz Shah Kotla in Delhi and Karnataka Rajya cricket Stadium in Banglore had always been extremely welcoming to the international players and enjoyed the good game. After all, you go to watch a match to see a good game and not merely a win for your team.

In the last ten years, Gujarat has got unprecedented favour from every one. It got the maximum funding for ‘sports’ even when there is not even one player who could have gone to any international events like Asian Games, Olympics or elsewhere. States which have been sending players at the international events never get even half of the funds that Gujarat has got. Look at the world cup events. Ahmedabad was pampered so much that it was given the ‘prestigious’ match against Pakistan. Why? It is purely for monetary purposes because a match against Pakistan is still extremely a popular game in terms of business. 

The crowd at Ahmedabad have been boorish to say the least. They don’t come to watch a game but purely brought for a political purpose. Frankly speaking, Ahmedabad never deserved the important matches of the world cup. The World Cup final should have happened in Kolkata or Mumbai, the two cities with incredible cricketing history but then how do you expect a cricket administration which has not even bothered to invite the two giants of our Cricket history who brought us the World Cup and gave us tremendous joy, Kapil Dev and Mahendra Singh Dhoni to watch the match, to be fair towards other places for the purpose of World Cup Final. Can there be a bigger scandal than this as why was Ahmedabad given preference over Mumbai, Kolkata or Chennai leave aside Delhi? The crowd forgot that they were watching the final of an international event and needed to be polite and appreciate the game.

It was sad to see the crowd behaving in such a filthy street level manner. They had not come to watch a game but wanted to celebrate a victory. Obviously, every Indian would love to have a world cup victory but then at the end of the day it is a game and once the game is over, the opposite team needs to be applauded and acknowledged. The crowd at Ahmedabad left the stadium before the Australian captain could be handed over the World Cup Trophy. This is not merely disgraceful but simply outrageous but then when you convert people into mindless frenzied crowds then such international embarrassment is bound to happen. 

The Bania-Brahmin media in India has reduced us to a joke. It needs to educate people that it is a game and gamesmanship is the need of the hour. Respect players and enjoy the game. Winning and losing is not important but the prestige and honor of the country. This world cup, from the beginning had problems and it was looking like a tournament which was meant to make Indian win at all cost. The game was to be played by the players and the boards had a duty to provide space and environment. 

The richest board of the world, suffers from megalomania and remain highly biased and prejudiced. Any cricket lover in India would give Kolkata, Bombay, Bangalore, Chennai and Delhi stadiums and crowds far above rating than over pampered Ahmedabad. It is time the administrators of cricket and other sports bodies think beyond their narrow political interest. Remember, Indian cricket team played like a champion team though got defeated in the final but that is the part of the game but the real defeat happened to those who wanted to reap political profit from India’s victory. 

A country which ignore and disrespect its sporting icons for the sake of making the political masters happier will never be able to have sporting culture and sports persons of international class. Moreover, in cricket you might have the financial control, the other sports bodies too are watching your arrangements and a badly managed cricketing event might affect India’s chances to host other international events and tournaments. Stop political interference in sports bodies and allow sports persons and professional administrators to play a key role in it. The defeat at Ahmedabad is not of the Indian cricket but that of its political administrators who are lording over the body, minting money and destroying the gentlemen game. 

Vidya Bhushan Rawat

The author is an activist and is currently working on Impact of Ganga and its tributaries in the Himalayas and the plains of India

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