FOUNDATION FOR INDO-TURKIC STUDIES
Tel/Fax ; 0040213163021 Amb (Rtd) K Gajendra Singh
Emails; Gajendrak@hotmail.com Flat No 5, 3rd Floor
KGSingh@Yahoo.com 9, Sos Cotroceni,
Web site. Bucharest (Romania)
www.tarafits.com 18 April, 2007.
India and the Cricket World Cup
Cocktail of Gladiators & Moolah with Racial Overtones
by K. Gajendra Singh Boloji.com , Chowk.com 18 April, 2007
"The last positive thing England did for cricket was invent it." Ian Chappell.
"My definition of a foreigner is someone who does not understand cricket." Anthony Couch.
"The people of India -- they are the ones whose attention, enthusiasm and love and support drive the great game, and business, of cricket in this country, and around the world." Greg Chappell.
Although in audience reach Cricket World Cup does not match football but in passions, racial overtones , money making and cheating it is like a heady sports cocktail, brewed since Greek Olympic games and Roman gladiator combats.
In the current 2007 World Cup, the stunning exit of India and Pakistan left passionate billion and half followers of the game in the subcontinent in a daze and disgust triggering Tsunami like disaster for the commercial operators nurturing and feeding on the game. It was as if Germany and Brazil were ousted by India and Pakistan in football World Cup preliminaries.
"Cup loses fizz as big teams fall " wrote Scyld Berry in Sunday Telegraph adding "Nobody is going to watch the advertisements designed for the hundreds of millions of Indian viewers aspiring to a mobile phone, a motorbike, a fizzy drink or a refrigerator."
Ever since cricket was transformed by Australian TV entrepreneur Kerry Packer from organized loafing by clad- in-white fools, wherein even five 6-day long Test matches many times produced no victors, into a day long pulsating combats by multi colored gladiators in former British colonies and a few other centers, this repetitive spectacle has morphed into a cash cow for marketers of white goods, consumer items, TV channels and advertising giants.
Including non-resident Indians from the poorest to the rich, India now contributes 70% of the game's revenue, the pie everyone wants a slice off.
Following the corporatisation of cricket in the era of consumerism , the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) ,the apex organizing body netted annual revenues of Rs 500 crores.( $1 million= Rs 4.4 Crores ) Last year, it sold telecasting rights for Rs 2,750 crores! Air Sahara sponsorship rights for four years at a price tag of around 300 crores, Nike became Indian cricket's official kit sponsor for five years by spending a cool Rs 196.66 crores. The TV rights with Nimbus got Rs 2,714 crores. Indian Government Doordarshan channel made another Rs 160 crores.
The International Cricket Council (ICC) sold broadcasting rights for the current and the next World Cup for an even higher $1.1 billion (Rs 4,950 crores). Sony Entertainment Television sold advertising at Rs 5 lakhs for each 10-second spot, raking in an estimated Rs 350 crores to Rs 400 crores. But all these mega deals have almost been washed away in Caribbean waters. The sponsors are now wary of long term agreements. After all it is business, people are not watching cricket . Disgusted a council of 20 villages in the Indian state of Haryana banned watching cricket.
Dwarfing this is the money invested in betting , which is illegal in India. Called satta it takes place on the sly, made easier with internet and cell phones (which also helped nab match fixers and the corrupt players.) Estimates of betting in India vary from US$5 billion a year to as high as $40 billion. An India Pakistan match can exceed $250 million. For the World Cup, with 51 matches the estimates were up to $4 billion.
Now take India's star players. Sachin Tendulkar, Saurav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid make Rs 12 crores to 20 crores a year for endorsing products ranging from biscuits, shoes, cosmetics, cars to life insurance. Ganguly charges an annual fee of close to Rs 1.5 crore per endorsement. Even newcomers like Mahendra Singh Dhoni become multimillionaires overnight. But after the Caribbean debacle, for a match recently in Baroda, top Indian cricket stars were booed.
So you can imagine the losses all around. Instead of the 'scheduled' India- Pakistan encounter on 15 April, from south Asians, who did not cancel their reservations and turned up, Indians supported Ireland and Pakistanis Bangladesh. Ireland won.
West Indies' exit midway dampened even local interest. On its eight islands where the matches are being staged, the financial investments in infrastructure are being rendered in fructuous and could perhaps temporarily halt the game's march as a spectator sport to new centers, which the expected revenues would have funded. Bangladesh, the new boys on the block, who stunned fancied India and later even beat South Africa, bring exuberance and enthusiasm but little money in endorsements or to the games common kitty.
As Greg Chappell rightly commented it is the people of India who drive the game and the business in India and the world. If the Americans had learnt cricket before they threw out the British colonists, it would have become another ball game altogether. Yes, the Yanks do play, but a simpler and less sophisticated version of cricket and call it baseball.
Cricket fever affects even political life in India. Politicians are wary of cricket matches being played during election time. Attendance at election rallies simply dwindles. But the problem has been resolved by installing huge TV screens at venues to attract voters. Some years ago Bharatiya Janata Party leader L K Advani on a tour of India found little audience because of a cricket tournament. Advani's rath (a specially designed bus with state-of-the-art comforts and technology) was quickly fitted with TV screens to telecast the matches live. Viola ! In trooped the crowds.
The world controlling organization Imperial Cricket Club founded in 1909, morphed into International Cricket Conference in 1989. It now has 97 members; 10 full Members that play official 5 day long Test matches, 32 Associate Members, and 55 Affiliate Members. But the control is still manipulated by the white man (or his proxy). But India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh now provide half the top teams and should become the decider region.
Even before the second world war, as US economic muscle grew, the international financial centre shifted from London to Wall Street, New York. Washington with 25% contributions to UN income bullies it to toe its line. The HQ of ICC has already moved away from London to Sharjah in UAE towards the sub-continent.
The unspoken simmering tensions between the whites, the former rulers, and brown-blacks, the subjects, erupted into an almost open split a few years ago in South Africa after white umpires and arbiters unduly penalized Indian, Pakistani and Sri Lankan players, while white players were let off lightly for infringing the rules. India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka have won the Cup once unlike the English, the New Zealanders and South Africans. West Indies twice and Australia thrice, the latter are the firm favorites for 2007.
A tragic element was added by the assassination of Pakistani coach Bob Woolmer, a white South African, soon after Pakistan's shock defeat by Ireland. Like other East West conflicts say in Iraq or Palestine , Western media hacks started coloring up the truth and accused Pakistan players by innuendos. Yes , there have been accidents and unsavory incidents. Umpires have been beaten up in the past sometimes, in the West Indies, when a local hero was given out. But an English eleven on a Pakistan tour, a few decades ago, took the cake. Unhappy with the Pakistani umpire's decisions, one evening it cornered him, smothered his head with a towel and bashed him up. Now only one of the umpires is local in bilateral games while neutrals stand for other games. The abrasive Australians while touring India with its media launch aggressive campaign against Indian umpires in the media. The gentle and timid Indians end up erring in their favor.
It was heartening that London's the Guardian, which is quite objective on Arab- Israel dispute, Iraq, and even Iran (not when British James Bonds intrude into Iranian waters), took a balanced approach to the Cup happenings. In "This innuendo about the Pakistan team is a disgrace ", Mike Marqese wrote on 26 March --that the reaction has more to do with stereotyping and hyperbole than the facts.
"It is a serious matter - as umpire Darrell Hair found out - to accuse a team, purely on the basis of supposition, of cheating to win a cricket match. It is an even more serious matter to accuse a team, or a player, of taking bribes to lose a match. But to accuse a player or a team of being involved in the death of their coach raises the stakes by several orders of magnitude." Hyperbole may be the bane of sports journalism but "The rush to judgment here is fuelled by that other bane of sports journalism, national stereotyping."
A quick verdict on Woolmer 's death would have taken away what ever attention remains from the Cup so it is as well that investigators are taking their own time.
BBC and MK
But trust Tony Blair's BBC, which gave only 2% time to the opposition viewpoint on the US-K led illegal war on Iraq with its objectivity when analyzed being the worst of the western channels i.e. CNN, ABC, DEF and others, to keep up the usual refrain.
In a piece titled" Is India's slip good for cricket? "on BBC website of 27 March, 2007, wrote one Mukul Kesvan (MK) [ Author of 'Men in White' - a book on cricket , what else] , that purging of Pakistan and India, the dysfunctional giants of South Asian cricket would act as a tonic to the Cup and make it a happier, less toxic tournament.
Continued MK "The arena-like excitement of ODIs was tailor-made for that great South Asian sport, chauvinism." "Defeat, especially at the hands of the old enemy, led to a suspension of cricketing relations (India stopped playing Pakistan in Sharjah after a sequence of defeats led to allegations of foul play) [The cheating etc is well established and the atmosphere generated only hate between Indian and Pakistani spectators –something West loves. But how Indian spectators clapped Pakistan's victory in Chennai and Pakistanis almost to a man stood up earlier cheering an Indian win, in hot spot Karachi, when the two resumed playing after many years in 2004.]
"The rise of the bookie and the phenomenon of match-fixing which nearly destroyed cricket's credibility as a competitive sport, was a by-product of the new South Asian audience for one-day cricket. – "The corruption that bookies have brought to the game has had foreign recruits like the late South African captain, Hansie Cronje, but it remains a sub-continental blight.
" And these bookies, these villains are South Asian - located in India and Pakistan for the most part, countries where the criminalization of betting has driven the betting 'industry' underground.--Cricket will buckle under the weight of the sullen, thin-skinned nationalism that Indian and Pakistani fans bring to the game and it can certainly do without the bookie-driven corruption that feeds off this perverse enthusiasm."
Of course MK 's book, advertised above will sell to even whites if written in a similar vein and BBC is delighted a brown man is trashing South Asians. He would even be invited to well paid seminars in the West . But MK is either being to BBC what Tony Blair is to George Bush or exposing his ignorance about the world of sports in which West dominates or tries to by hook and mostly by crook. Sports and arena combats remain vehicles of chauvinism and nationalism since the days of ancient Geek Olympics and Roman gladiator games.
On England's loss to New Zealand, commented Simon Hattenstone, "In September 2005 Andrew Flintoff was a national hero. England had won the Ashes and Freddie went on the lash for 32 hours. How we cheered when he told David Gower, the morning after the night before but not yet halfway through his epic bender, "To be honest with you, David, I'm struggling. I've not been to bed yet and the eyes behind these glasses tell a thousand stories."
"We celebrated with him, we laughed at the story that he urinated in the garden at No10, we marveled he was still upright as he walked off the bus, the word "twat" scrawled on his head.
"Eighteen months and one Ashes whitewash on, Flintoff is a national disgrace. After spending the night drinking following World Cup defeat by New Zealand, "borrowing" a pedalo (now known as a Fredalo) for a jape, capsizing and nearly drowning, he has been relieved of the vice-captaincy and outed by the management team as a serial drinker with a problem. Am I the only one confused? What are the rules - you can only drink when you're winning?"
After the match fixing scandals exploded, top Indian cricketers like Azharuddin , Ajay Jadeja and others were banned from playing, In 1994 Salim Malik was accused of attempted bribery by Shane Warne and Mark Waugh but they themselves accepted payment from bookies for providing information, an incident which was downplayed by Australian authorities. South Africans are wary of letting some of its stars investigated in India.
Does MK watch proletarian but immensely more popular football game. He has perhaps not heard of English football fans, the hooligans, any day much worse than the Indian fans .They acquired notoriety across the continent and gave nightmares on match evenings to European police till they were tackled on a war footing by combined EU forces. Teams and venues where fans indulged in hooliganism, were punished. The Turks in Istanbul were ready when fans of an English club came over to play, injuring and even killing some of them.
English footballer Beckham, past his prime, is still hero worshipped at home, even when he was benched by his Spanish Football Club, which bought this brand, shelling out tens of millions of Euros. Now the 'Bend like Beckham ' brand will play football, where else but in USA , the mother of all brand names, where the game is called soccer.
As for money, match fixing and corruption, the dictator- coaches (Compared to English coach Ferguson and others, poor Greg Chapell is but a lamb and Wright only a kid when dealing with the Indian matador cricketers .Or Woolmer was allegedly slapped by Shohaib Akhtar), not only football but most games like boxing, tennis, cycling, athletics et al are brimming over. But so much money is involved that no one dare expose the corrosive truth. A few revelations only indicate the tip of the tip of the iceberg.
Some controversy was added when Sunil Gavaskar rightly criticized the uncouth behavior of Australian cricketers who now are at the top in both the Test cricket and ODIs. West Indies ruled cricket for a decade black washing the Australians time and again but they remained gentlemen players. Unfortunately the Australians have reduced the game to fisher men brawls or miners quarrels. While Sunil's example of Australian cricketer David Hookes who was killed in a brawl outside a nightclub was unfortunate, for which Sunil, the gentleman, soon apologized but whole of Australia came down on him heavily.
Recently after the Australians had won and received the Champions Cup in Mumbai, India from BCCI President Sharad Pawar, a senior Minister in the Indian Government, they pushed him off for a photo op, in full public view, causing great consternation and anger in India .Would Australian footballers imitate their abrasive and foul mouthed cricket champions in bruising and abusive play in Istanbul if their level got that advanced.
But this kind of behavior is only to be expected from the Australians, including their politicians, diplomats and journalists. In fact the Australians glory in being boorish and uncivilized. Recently Prime Minister Howard criticized Obama ,an Afro-American Democratic presidential candidate, and injected racial overtones. An Australian newspaper commented that Howard would normally cross the road to insult a political opponent but this time he crossed a continent. He was properly dealt with by Obama which in cricket parlance would mean hit for a six.
It is said that English captain Sir Wally Hammond would avoid shaking the Australians by hand, with some persons implying because of his distaste for Australia being a former Penal colony.
To eliminate coarse and unbecoming behavior many sport associations have taken stringent measures, specially in Tennis . Swearing, shouting even hitting the ground with the racket, called racket abuse, is penalized. Such measures must be introduced so that the gentleman's game of cricket does not descend to a wrestling arena for exchanging abuses.
The Greek victory over Persians at Marathon in 490 BC, which the colonial and neo-liberal historians claim the first of the West over East, is now rubbed in as the Marathon race in Olympic games. Is it not a celebration of racism? What if an Iranian won it. Now a days athletes from Ethiopia and Kenya dominate it. How about naming some equestrian event as Manzikert Cup to celebrate Turkish horsemen victory over the Byzantine cavalry in 1071 near lake Van, which took the Turks right up to gates of Vienna?
There is an old cricket story about Sir Ranjit Sinhji (Ranji), a petty Indian Prince of Kathiawar, who invented the leg glance and played for England. After he had executed an elegant leg glance against arch enemy Australia, an English Lord remarked proudly-'one of our own Princes'. Ranji was out the next ball ."Dirty nigger", exploded His Lordship. The English are jolly good sportsmen when winning but not when losing. The national Indian cricket championship honors Ranji who some claim did not even deign to don Indian colors.
The football players from impoverished Africa, physically fitter and hungry for wealth and fame, now dominate many Clubs in Europe and national teams. Look at the French, the English and the Dutch teams color compositions. But racism, which has surfaced afresh in European society after the demise of secular and egalitarian communist and socialist block is becoming a cancer in Europe. Many teams have been warned after their supporters indulged in racist chants and actions. Of course racism is not chauvinism. As for south Asian chauvinism, what is Western nationalism but official racist chauvinism?
Doping of athletes
Doping or administration of drugs to enhance athletic or other performances is an ancient practice. Roman gladiators used stimulants such as strychnine to pump themselves up for a battle. Some skeletons when examined confirmed this. In modern times the word appeared in the early 1900s. Doping is done through gene therapy i.e. by inserting genes into a cell which instruct the body to produce large amounts of a hormone, protein, or other natural substance that enhance performance. With the hope that these doping drugs would not be detected.
There have been complaints of doping of cricketers. Drunkenness with allied activities among British cricketers are well documented and reported with glee and envy in English tabloids. Before the current cup two Pakistan fast bowlers Rawalpindi Express Shoaib Akhtar and Mohamad Asif were withdrawn at the last moment. They had flunked the dope tests but were then cleared. Australian leg spinner Shane Warne was banned only for a year, when his mother administered him performance enhancing drug (always blame the poor mother) and not two or three, otherwise how could he have established the record of highest number of wickets. Sri Lanka spinner Muralitharn, who is likely to overhaul it was harassed and no balled by Australian umpires and not others to make life more difficult for him.
There are numerous examples of doping in recent history from other sports, specially athletics. Sprinter Marion Jones of USA, who won five Olympic gold medals, allegedly used drugs. Once the testing methods improved and someone blew the whistle on dope makers, her performance slipped dramatically. And of many others. Boxer Jason Giambi of New York says he turned to steroids beginning in 2001. Ken Caminiti, once an 'Outstanding Player' insisted half the players in baseball shared his steroid weakness, he died at 41 of a cocaine overdose.
Of course Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson, who lowered the old 100-meter mark at the 1988 Olympics, was found using illicit testosterone. But Carl Lewis, his rival and supposedly Mr. Clean and a loud one for two decades, had reportedly failed drug tests before the '88 Olympics (the charges came only after his retirement).
And of course the ever popular Diego Maradona from the slums of Argentina - the Pele of the generation- was expelled from the 1994 World Cup after testing positive for too many drugs to count. Apart from American Tour de France star Lance Armstrong since 1999, Richard Virenque of France, Italy's Marco Pantani (dead) of a drug overdose last winter) and, most recently, Tyler Hamilton of the United States have all tested positive for steroids or blood-enhancing EPO.
Reminds one of many western politicians and media, with CIA chief claiming a 'slam dunk' proof of Iraq buying Uranium from Niger, weapons of mass destruction and Iraq's linkage with Al Qaeda, as the causes belli for attacking Iraq. All turned out to be lies and spins. USA remains a super power in manipulating world sports and inventing better masking of drugs than Canada, so Lewis gained over Johnson. Soviet Union and the East block nations did well in sports and games and were often accused by the Western media of doping. But after the Fall of the Berlin Wall, athletes and sportspersons from those nations are doing very well, with Russia producing an array of female star tennis players, some very attractive ones too. Impoverished US Blacks do well in athletics and sports (and music) because of better physique (and sense of rhythm) and also because these are the only fields left open to them.
The list of doping is long and endless. It is like a cat and mouse game, with big powers helping out their athletes and players. I am convinced that majority of sportsmen and women use drugs.
India's Loss to Bangladesh and the Third battle of Panipat
The loss to Bangladesh raised as much storm as the stunning defeat at Panipat in 1761 might have . If the team India was coached by Australian Greg Chappell then the fighting forces of Hindustan were trained by French artillery experts and were led by Maratha Chieftain Sadashiv Bhau, with Vitthal Vinchurkar and Damaji Gaikwad in toe .
The World Cup debacle took place under the leadership of Marathas again. BCCI is headed by Maratha chieftain Sharad Pawar with another Maratha Dilip Vengsarkar, the chief of selectors. Sachin Tendulkar, who once reminded the all time great Don Bradman of himself was an abysmal failure both against Bangladesh and Sri Lanka .
Tendulkar has averaged 12 against Australia in the last five matches, less than 25 in the last five matches against South Africa and 19 in the last five matches against Sri Lanka. He is tarnishing his own pristine record and image. No one now talks of him along with Ricky Ponting, Brian Lara or even Mohamad Yusuf of Pakistan.
Wrote New Zealand's Richard Hadlee, one of the greatest all rounders and selector; "Aching muscles, taking longer to get over injuries, lack of desire to train or practice, boredom when playing, lack of enjoyment, having achieved one's goals leaving nothing else to strive for and picking up a pay packet for the wrong reasons -- all these are sure indicators that it is time to call it quits."
Ian Chappell, Greg's, equally brilliant elder brother and cricket captain, but not beyond using underhand trick or bowling, also suggested that Tendulkar retire. Lara and Pakistan captain Inzzeman have retired from ODIs.
Like dissensions in Panipat, there were differences with the coach and among Indian players, with Bengali Saurav refusing to speed up scoring in team's interest. In Panipat, it was a battle lost by Marathas than won by Afghans. There were strategic blunders and internal bickering. The Panipat battle was won by young reserve Afghan troops of Ahmed Shah Abdali, as was the match by young enthusiastic Bangladesh lads.
But Indian players, like politicians, refuse to retire as there is so much money now, Ganguly being the example. And how the regionalism raises its head. When Ganguly was rightly outed from the team, the whole of Bengal batted for him, including politicians, even in the Parliament. If the politicians had a free hand they might even demand reservations based on caste quota.
Now a days millionaire Indian cricketers behave like matadors, not realizing that they are more like gladiators and failure means death and financial oblivion. Indian cricketers rarely surprise me.
But I was surprised that they were beaten by Bangladesh even though they had not done too well in tours of West Indies and South Africa or in the Champions' Trophy .The team had not jelled. Some of the players were trying to get into form against Sri Lanka at home. Injured earlier, Yuvraj Singh did not have enough match practice and ran himself out against Sri Lanka. It was also a mistake to put the future of Indian innings and the team by trying to get Viru Shewag into form against Bangladesh, which had beaten not only India earlier but even humbled the mighty Australia. Sri Lanka were in good nick .This put pressure on Shewag and on the other opener, Robin Uthappa, who could not be sure of his place and feel settled.
Shewag might have scored the first ever and only Indian triple Test century, but he relies purely on body balance and timing. Wealth from endorsements and age slow one down. Coach John Wright used to say that Sehwag was fearless but family responsibilities bring on anxiety. One wrong slice over the slips, a four or even a six in the past could now cost him and family tens of millions of rupees in lost endorsements.
Frankly, Dravid is not a great captain, certainly not at par with Ganguly. It was considered a great sacrifice on Dravid's part when he opted to open in Pakistan, when Ganguly's position was in doubt. It appeared basically a team ploy to keep Saurav out of the eleven. If only Saurav had justified his place in the team. But he would make an excellent non-playing captain.
In many countries politicians happily become ordinary ministers after having been Prime Ministers, but not in caste ridden India. Saurav's return did cause some tensions. Sachin' elevation to Vice Captain was to keep him out if Dravid was disabled. When Saurav was penalized for 4 matches, he should have utilized the time to correct his flaws, which he had to do eventually. But as in Indian politics, a week is a long time.
In some ways Sachin is like Byon Borg of Tennis, an outstanding player but unable to handle personal matters and would face post retirement blues. On the cricket battlefield masses and sponsors want performance. Commitments and dedication alone won't do. There are thousands of young dedicated Indians waiting in the wings.
Some High tides in Indian cricket
In 1983 , I was posted at Bucharest and had gone out with my son Tinoo for lunch at the Japanese ambassador's villa on lakes Snagov. The other ambassadors were somewhat intrigued by my trying to get hold of a transistor, as there was no international crisis. Indian score of 183 depressed me. We came back home and before going for my siesta Tinoo wanted to listen to the scores. I said we would lose in any case, so why bother. He even said that there could be miracles but seeing my mood gave up . But I was woken up by the Pakistani Ambassador who congratulated me on the victory. I said why are you pulling my leg. Only when he insisted I tuned in and was absolutely delighted. In return in Amman in 1992, in spite of Pakistan 's indifferent form in the league matches, I had bet with the Ambassador for their winning the Cup and went over for celebrations with champagne.
After the 1983 World Cup triumph India won comfortably the champions Trophy in Australia. In January 1985 India was playing against Pakistan in Sharjah and before going to the airport to take a flight to Bucharest via Karachi I listened to the commentary in late Vijay Tripathi's room in PMO. It was an unflattering score of hundred something but there was hope. When the door of Indian Airlines opened at Karachi and I stepped out, from the ladders bottom below, my host Consul General G Parthasarathy said loudly, all out for 87.
The Indian team did surprise me during Australia's tour of India in 2003, especially in the turnaround test in Calcutta .With the cohesion and the momentum forged under Saurav, team India did very well in the tests series in Australia too, which I followed over the internet from Brussels. Saurav himself scored a brilliant century (nothing like that has followed since then) in the first Test when as usual India had almost collapsed. On the whole everyone rose to the occasion, specially in batting and did splendidly well. But for some doubtful umpiring decision to give a resounding farewell to Australian captain Steve Waugh we ought to have won. Saurav, with his strong personality transformed a regional Indian team into Saurav team. Still he was amiss in insisting on having Bengal mate Deepankar Dasgupta and mascot Parthiv Patel in the team.
The victorious matadors on return home, got married, made pots of money and basked in adulation. But the team was still hungry with new find Irfan Pathan and Balaji and carried on their momentum in the series in an overawed Pakistan. All that Pakistan coach Javed Miandad would do in ODIs, was to signal from the dressing room to the last Pakistan batsman to hit a six, which he once did in Sharjah. With their coffers full following the Indian visit, Pakistan could afford a foreign coach and did rather well except for the latest fiasco. It is from the money from Indian matches that Bangladesh could also afford a foreign coach.
When the team India returned home from Pakistan, the gladiators collected all the kudos, bachelors got married, put on weight and tried to live on their reputation. Under Chappell's coaching, the youngsters were enthused and the team did well but the old matadors would not be disciplined. The Zimbabwe visit resulted in a totally out of form Ganguly being rightly deprived of the captaincy. But it ignited Bengali nationalism in full. Zahir Khan went on a 'study tour 'of English counties and returned a better bowler. The team did well at home but in the last West Indies visit and since then the performance was uninspiring.
Money remains the motivation
With sustained economic growth and increasing wealth every one is coming over to India for a slice of the pie. Seeing religion like passion for cricket in India and sensing the despair over cricket defeat and potential for making hay by filling the void FIFA President Sepp Blatter on the first ever visit by a President said "We want to wake up the sleeping giant. In the 1960s, the national team was good, but India has probably lost its way." Western investors or the British on a weapons sale pitch always repeat this never failing mantra of a great power on a people hungry for greatness."
A few years ago, suddenly, the international fashion industry entered the bludgeoning Indian cosmetic market by selecting a few Indian beauties at international contests. As if Indian women suddenly became beautiful (One from Nigeria too, the largest and richest nation in Africa. It is another matter that the concept of beauty in Nigeria is for bosomy and bottomy ones). It was just an opportunity for fashion corporate interests to cash in.
India now has former Test cricketers from all over the world pouring into India at the drop of a hat, for well paid commentaries and writing columns, many ghost written by Indians. Just cashing on brand names. They have all come to love India, for its money. Mr Geoff Boycott, perhaps the most boring killjoy opening batsman, is often in India .To earn popularity he named Saurav, the Prince, but in his heydays would not even deign visiting India with MCC teams. Nowhere else were visiting cricketers treated better than in India even then, but for Mr Geoff Boycott, there was perhaps not enough moolah. To partake in the sudden popularity of MS Dhoni, even wily Commando Gen Musharraf dipped in by publicly admiring his long locks. But after his totally abysmal performance, public is now attacking his villa with a swimming pool et al.. As if Solomon has lost his locks.
A large number of young Indians, even from small towns, because of tremendous amount of money as rewards, are being attracted into cricket, with full support from their families, especially mothers. Thus spreading the net for selecting boys from larger numbers in a population of over one billion. The number of boys who have dedicated themselves to the hard task of fast bowlers is commendable and the results are there to see. At no time in the past was there such a glut of fast bowlers. In fact if one falters then twice that many youngsters are ready to fill the breach. But the problems are the immovable batsmen.
Indian diet and genes
In early 1990s in Ankara, I invited for lunch a young Indian Davis cup player, whose father was top world ranked player in another game and asked him why India did not do well in Tennis or other sports. He replied that perhaps there was something in the Western genes which made them superior physically. While waiting for some consular problem to be resolved, another Indian Davis cup player told me in Paris in 1970s why Vijay Amritraj, who was considered as good as Jimmy Connors and Byon Borg did not realize his potential. Because in spite of all the talent Amritraj was just not prepared to go through the grind of 10 hours practice day in and day out as most Westerners do.
It is said that Srinath, the best medium fast bowler after Kapil Dev was a vegetarian. When he asked for tips from a Pakistani veteran he was advised to first add chicken to his diet for strength and stamina if he wanted to be a fast bowler. Look at Indians' diet, the poor ones barely exist. Among the middle and rich classes the diet is not conducive to good health and stamina. Except for some 'outcasts' and tribals, and Rajputs, majority of the Indians have been vegetarians for millennia. Potatoes, chilies, tomatoes, were introduced by invaders. Protein rich Soya, healthy Sun flower oil are recent additions. Apart from wheat and rice, what did average Indian live on, useless protein less vegetables, lauki and tori and some beans and lentils for proteins, over centuries and centuries. The genetic results, physically dwarfed specimens are there for all to see. In games like Rugby we dare not even participate, not even our army teams, bastions of physical fitness.
The nuvo-riche with rich diets and not enough exercise are becoming prone to cardiac and other diseases. Before ample number of Indians can afford healthy food and acquire sporting habits , we must select people, who have lived on a meat diet of whatever kind and those living active hard lives. Kenyans from certain hilly areas are doing exceptionally well in middle and long distance runs .So are the Ethiopians. But we would have leaders of creamy layers thrusting their boys if coaching academies are established.
In Indian political tradition BCCI head Pawar announced 'drastic measures' to set things right , including committees. When things go wrong in a ministry or in district, in spite of the politicians being mostly responsible, the civil servants end up as scapegoats and are punished. The blame has been passed on to others by BCCI. Ajit Wadekar, under whose captaincy came first ever Indian cricket wins abroad in West Indies and England was right when he suggested that Pawar must resign.
But the myth of ministerial responsibility, if it were ever true, expired long ago. Indian sports authorities have been taken over by politicians (followed by policemen) and used for political and economic gains and have suffered. It is a sub-continental disease, politicians messing up sports, in Pakistan, it is the generals. For all his faults it was a businessman Dalmiya who by increasing cricket revenues attracted enormous talent for the game in India and strengthened BCCI's leverage against white dominated ICC.
Another major problem in India's culture and religion is stress on individuality. For example individual religious salvation unlike say in Islam, Buddhism or Sikh religion, where generally the emphasis is on community approach. Or in music where like in the West the orchestra never took roots. Another example is research papers produced by Indians. A survey of research articles some years ago showed joint authorship as follows: India ( 3.6%), UK (20.4%), USA (44%). Single authorship, India (65.50), USA (35.6%).Therefore, in team events, Indians do not do well. They might do quite well in individual games like Tennis or Badminton or individually in Cricket.
Speculative by nature Indians look for a miracle- a short-cut, hence the popularity of a chance game, like Cricket specially ODIs. Indian players become experts in drop shots in Tennis and Badminton or bowl deceptive googly. It is well established that if one works hard, 10-12 hours a day to build up stamina, strength, ability and mental resilience, after 8/10 years, one can reach World level in Tennis or Badminton but barring Krishnans and Amritraj brothers in Tennis and in Badminton, players and athletes of world standard rarely emerge from the Indian soil.
Krishnans and Padukone were masters of the touch-game i.e. drop shots and deception. Deception is sanctioned even in divine manifestation. Rama hiding behind a tree to kill Bali or lies about the setting Sun to kill Jaydrath or false death of Aswathama (horse) in Mahabharata.
One cannot blame the Indian climate entirely, as some tend to do, since the climate of Indonesia, Thailand is no less innervating than of India, but Indonesians, Thais and Malaysians keep on producing one world champion after another in the game of their choice, Badminton. They beat Indians in most other sports too like football. Look at our abysmal record. Poverty cannot be the sole reason either. Why cannot we produce world-cup footballers as do the slums of Brazil, Argentina, and other nations in Latin America.
What really focuses and still fascinates the Indian mind is the 1983 win. Faced by a hostile West Indies attack India were dismissed for 183. But it was an astonishing catch by skipper Kapil Dev who sprinted back 20 yards to latch onto the skier from the marauding blade of the great Viv Richards. It turned the game around and the famed West Indies batting machine inexplicably failed by 43 runs. Earlier India got a real scare when it was five wickets down for just 17 runs on board against lowly Zimbabwe. But an inspired Kapil innings of 175 saved the day. On the way Australia thrashed India by over 180 runs. Great believers in Astrology, the masses believe that miracles would and could occur again.
Greg Chappell "if you want to be like Australia, you can't run your cricket like Zimbabwe."
For being a good coach you need other qualifications than just being good in that sport. Generally when India or Pakistan appoint retired stars as coaches, they owe allegiance to a region or are beholden to those who helped them in their career. They also have their favorites among the current crop of players. Politicians pressurize them. Generally they are unable to enforce discipline. Only a stern man like Greg can. If Kapil were made the coach, the players would say Bhraji ( elder brother ), let us drink beer- sheer and enjoy Murga (chicken). We will do the fielding practice tomorrow. They might take Sunil Gavaskar to Srikhand party or Bengali delicacies at Eden Gardens.
Caste system has penetrated all walks of life including the game, in a modified way. Top batsmen and bowlers would not improve their fielding as if they are high caste Brahmins and Kshatryas would not do Shudra's (untouchables) work. Hindustan had no revolution and remains profession –born- into oriented. Even in time of perils, only the warrior classes were expected to fight the enemies .The Indian society did not evolve that all take all responsibilities.
In politics, in many countries, say Turkey, politicians who have been Prime Ministers agree to become ministers in changing coalitions. Not In India. Once a Brahmin, the highest in hierarchy, always a Brahmin. The inappropriate Indian electoral system from a small island has only strengthened the pernicious caste system which along with regional and state loyalties has acquired a stranglehold in running of sports, both in training and selection. As in other matters Muslims suffer from similar caste prejudices in Pakistan, made worse by so called Ashraffs vs the converts. Former captains in Pakistani teams create problems there, made worse by Generals, who never shed their uniforms.
In classic Indian hockey we had a fixed 1,2,3 and 5 system, which the Western put paid to when more of them took to the game. In football positions are exchangeable. This of course demands fitness and stamina. In Indian cricket all rounders have come up more by chance than a belief in tying everything. In school days the students would be classed as sportsmen or scholars. You could not excel in both. Sports need intelligence and resilience apart from stamina and skill at higher levels. Without brains you can go up only up to a point. For decades top policemen in Punjab recruited barely literate youngsters as Assistant Sub-inspectors, put them to playing hockey only. They did well for themselves and India too, till Europeans and Australia took to the game seriously and applied their all round training skills, making Indian tricolor fly at hockey meets now a days a rare thing.
Only Foreign coaches have insisted on physical fitness, improved fielding and firmness in dealing with gladiators past their prime. Tendulkar is an exception being treated like God. In Australia with his recent poor performance he would have been shown the door as was Ganguly. In 1950s and 60s opening batsman Pankaj Roy was Bengals' permanent representative in the Indian XI. After 5 poor scores he would score a fifty and continue for another series. Ganguly's return created tensions. The methods introduced by Chappell were making some inroads into insidious south Asian disease. A foreign coach with strong personality is a must to overcome the disease.
K Gajendra Singh, Indian ambassador (retired), served as ambassador to Turkey and Azerbaijan from August 1992 to April 1996. Prior to that, he served terms as ambassador to Jordan, Romania and Senegal. He is currently chairman of the Foundation for Indo-Turkic Studies. Copy right with the author. E-mail: Gajendrak@hotmail.com