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Not All Quiet On The Domestic Front
Cricket Set Up In India Set Up For A New Look
By S Zeyaur Rahman

All that glitters is not gold. But all that flutters on our TV screens is. Celebrities are household names because there is a medium to take their names to each and every household. So much so that they are in a sense, an integral part of our houses.

These are the floating figures on the television. Because they are the ones performing, they are the ones delivering, they are the ones in the middle of action. People are so obsessed with the figures catching their attention that they forget the institutions that make such dramas possible. Who cares of the story behind the curtains as long as the show on the stage is good enough?    

What could promise more drama than cricket to Indian tastes and hence the tremendous following that the game has in India. But very few of us care to take note of the organization that makes it possible to love and enjoy the game. The Board for Cricket Control in India might be the richest cricket body in the world, but is really poor in terms people showing concern for it. An average cricket fan would be ready to go to any extent for his idols, but for BCCI, he could not care less.  

The past month has been a case of over activism on the part of the normally laid back BCCI. Some very important decisions have been taken which will no doubt have a long lasting impact on the future of the game in India. And it is no time to rest now because of the forth-coming annual meeting, which promises to have more than its normal share of activity.

The most important decision taken by the BCCI is in relation to the Ranji Trophy. The premiere domestic championship has long been languishing in the backwaters of time, hardly serving the purpose and of course not doing justice to its status as the premiere championship. Some radical step had long been called for and one can be happy that the Board at least took note of the situation. Whether the measures work or not is a different matter.

The two-tier system is an effective alternative in the sense that there is a fear of relegation. But one can contend the system on the ground that if fear can be the best possible motivator. Also the kind of hierarchy, which exists in terms of the quality of sides, one really wonders if there will be much for them to do. Punching bags will be punching bags, two tier or three tier is all the same. What chances do teams like Tripura, Jammu Kashmir, Goa etc have of ever entering into title contention? But for mediocre sides like Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan etc the system could really work. Practically speaking these teams will be competing for five slots only, because I do not imagine team like Mumbai, Bengal, Delhi, Hyderabad ever getting out of the elite group.

Even greater is the significance of making it compulsory for the top players to appear for their home sides. I am afraid that I can take that only with a pinch of salt. The attitude of our players as well as the board is responsible for the sorry state of affairs. The first class record of our cricket stars is rather poor when compared to their test records. More than the records, our top cricketers have not played half the number of domestic matches when compared to their international records. It might sound harsh to deny them the well-deserved rest after unending series of matches. But it also leads to a loss of significance and respect for domestic cricket. The Board itself knows that it will not be in a position to compel the regulars to turn out for their sides. Each one of them will be given reprieve on one ground or the other. Then why make rules if one does not have the clout to see them implemented.

Another important decision is the introduction of the contract system for the regular players. It does appear a strategy to keep the players away from the match fixers. I am not sure if the ploy will be successful because there is too much easy money involved in match fixing. But the contract will provide some kind professional and economic security to the players. (Here one has to assume that our cricket stars do need economic security). The biggest advantage will be on the fitness front. With a decent some ensured, players will find it less attractive to hide their small injuries for the fear of losing money or place in the side. Voluntary abdications on the grounds of injury will be more frequent and more sensible as well.

Now to the non-cricketing affairs and at the moment there are far too many of them. At the moment the board is surrounded by too many potentially embarrassing issues. The tiff with the government on the issue of the ties with Pakistan is too public to be comfortable. And the board has done yet another mistake by accepting the invitation to feature in a tri series in Bangladesh, the third team being Pakistan. It is anybody's guess if the team will be able to make it. Or may be the board officials have too much faith in the change of heart of the powers that be.      

The issue of income tax is all set to snow ball into a major problem. No one doubts that the board will be able to look after itself despite the taxes, but no one denies the fact that the things will not be the same after the taxes. Ten crores a year is too big a sum to remain unaffected. The matter is under consideration and one will have to wait to see the results.

An unexpected controversy has emerged out of nowhere. That is the awarding of the exclusive advertisement rights to IMG. The petitioner, a firm Gayatri Arts has challenged that the IMG has been awarded the rights in flagrant violation of the norms and on dubious grounds. The Mumbai High Court ahs admitted the petition and the members associated with the deal would be anxiously waiting for the verdict.

It is the forth-coming presidential elections that walks away with the cake. If the built up to the Chennai meeting is any indication, one can expect fare amount fire works.

First of all the elections were totally uncalled for. As per the tradition (not as per rules) the current incumbent A C Muthiah had another year to go. The way he has handled the issues during the past two years, he deserved to be retained and complete his 'unfinished agenda'. But the Dalmiya lobby will have nothing of it and after weeks of speculation, the former ICC president has thrown his hat in the ring. Knowing Dalmiya and the kind of clout he has in the board one can expect an embarrassment for Muthiah, who at best was an outsider to the Board.

Churning processes are important and necessary for individuals as well as institutions. What gives the process of purgation a high moral stand are the intentions behind it. That is precisely what is lacking in the process here otherwise all of the moves are extremely welcome and would go a long way in changing the face of cricket in India.

Yet Another Spectre Looming Large On Cricket 
Drug Abuse Gives A New Outlook To Scandals
S Zeyaur Rehman

Out of the pan and into the fire. This is how one can describe the state of affairs in cricket, which is about to face a major drug abuse scandal, close on the heels of the match fixing controversy. The initial reports are ominous and potentially threatening. Days after the story broke out in an Indian magazine, known for sensational journalism, there were hushed up responses and discordant echoes from all corners of the globe. There were denials and disownings, confirmations and affirmations. All of which indicate that we have once again accidentally stepped on a mine. 

We must recount that the magazine, which has made the exposure, is Outlook, the same one which is credited with bringing the match fixing controversy to light seven years ago, with sensational disclosures. Although the magazine per se was not able to substantiate any of the charges and accusations that it made, turn of events later vindicated its stand. 

We must not forget that it was not Outlook but Delhi Police, which came up with concrete evidence on match fixing. Even that happened accidentally, as the Delhi Police was on the heels of a person wanted in FERA cases. As luck had it that gentleman was talking with Hansie Cronje and the investigations got a totally new dimension. Even that had not corroborated any of the allegations made by Outlook. It was Hansie who put Azhar in the dock. Jadeja, Prabhakar and Kapil Dev had a story of their own. Salim Malik, Shane Warne and Mark Waugh had nothing to do with it. In short I would even contest the claim that it was Outlook, which blew the lid over cricket darkest secret. 

Not only that Outlook is known to make very spicy headlines and great sales. Credibility is different matter altogether. I do not mean to say that one should refuse to believe in a story simply because it appears in Outlook. But the manner of presentation leaves enough room for doubt. The backbone of the story are the statements by former India Coach Anshuman Gaekwad. The very next day we have Gaekwad contradicting the magazine's claims, disowning his statements attributed to him and threatening to sue the magazine. To what extent should on believe the story when if at all one tries to trust the claims. 

Let us leave the brand of journalism of a particular magazine aside and analyse the situation. Drug abuse is a problem confronting every major sport and it will not be altogether surprising if it has infested cricket as well. But two things stand out while comparing the drug abuse problem in cricket vis-ŕ-vis other disciplines. First, cricket is not extremely demanding physically, when compared to athletics, boxing or even tennis and football. Which means that there is lesser need and by implication less chance of cricketers using drugs to boost their performance. Secondly, cricket is not an Olympic discipline and as of now ICC does not have any rules, guidelines or directives regarding drug use in the game. So technically speaking, any cricketer taking drug is not breaking any law because there is no law in the governing set up to stop him from doing so. 

Neither of these two arguments hold much water in the present scenario. Thanks to one-day cricket, big money and attention, the face of the game has changed rapidly in the past few years. Cricket is competitive like never before. So the implication 'there is greater need and chance of cricketers using drugs'. Cricketers need busts of energy (supplied during drink intervals), need to recover soon so that they do not miss out many opportunities etc. Gaekwad has mentioned specific drugs used by specific cricketers to meet specific needs and demands. Some of them need for muscles, some need for bones, some needs for recovery. As far as Cortisone goes, nobody denied using it, as it was duly prescribed by doctors. In any case a sophisticated drug has to be prescribed and administered by a doctor. 

Which brings us to the second point i.e. the absence of any proper rules and guidelines on the issue. The ICC is waking up and has directed its incumbent Chief to draw a detailed report on the prevalence of drug abuse in cricket. Even Sir Paul Condon, heading the anti corruption unit and its investigations made a passing reference to it in his report. Australia, England and South Africa have been following strict drug regimen and it has resulted in a 19-month suspension for a fast bowler recently. 

Ethically speaking, one cannot get away with the loophole in the ICC laws. Some things are fundamentally wrong even if there are no laws forbidding it. Nobody is going to justify the use of drugs as a fair means of getting unfair advantage over competitors simply because there is no law against it. That would be naive indeed. Equally ridiculous is Gaekewad's egalitarian solution that very player should be injected with drugs so that there is some kind of level playing field. One could not get to hear a more revolutionary idea. 

Gaekwad has spoken at a very wrong time and it has done permanent damage to the cause, which he is supposedly espousing, that is if he is trying to clean the game of the evil. The beginning has been on a very sour note. It will either open a new can of worms or because of the initial confusion nobody will take it seriously and the problem will persist. This is indeed sad for the game, which has just emerged out of the long dark shadows of match fixing. It may not be able to take another severe blow to its credibility. 

The problem has another dimension. Like all other cricket evils, this time too it is rooted in the subcontinent. The BCCI should not wait for the crisis to balloon or to blow over and before the ICC comes up with a policy on it, we should do something about it in an independent capacity. That is very necessary for the future of the game in the subcontinent. One cannot take the love and faith of the spectators for granted. Who knows that the people may finally be fed up with the numerous controversies plaguing the game and may ultimately shift their loyalties?


Nice Guys Finish Last
The Indian Vice captain: Rahul Dravid  
Srinivas Rao

Be it real life or the unpredictable world of cricket, this saying has always proved to be correct. Who else can serve as a better example Mr. Nice Guy and the Vice-Captain of Indian Cricket team, RAHUL DRAVID. Dravid has been performing wonderfully well ever since he made his debut. But the each time he has been out performed and trusted to the back stage instead of basking in the limelight. Dravid has played a major role in the resurgence of the current team. Now, he is a very important and senior member of the team. But the consistency with which he has been pipped at the post is simply amazing.  

Just by looking back at some of his crucial match-winning, match-saving and gallant knocks, we can safely decipher that even though he has come out of his own shadows and become more aggressive, most of his innings are overshadowed by some other innings played either by his teammate or an opponent in the same match. In the process, he doesn’t always get the credit he really deserves.

We take a look at some of his better knocks. Let’s start off with his debut innings at Lords. He made 95 in that innings. It was a remarkable knock for a debutant as he was playing most of the time with the tail enders. India went on to draw that match. But, his innings was overshadowed by the other debutant who made a majestic 136. His failure to convert 95 into a century and the fact that the other debutant did that took away the sheen out of his knock.

Then, we can talk of his gallant knock of 107 against Pakistan in 1997 in the Independence cup. That was his first one-day century. Though, India lost that match by 35 runs chasing a mammoth target of 328, they were on course as long as he was at the crease. Again his innings were overshadowed by a masterly world record score of 194 by Saeed Anwar. Even if India had won that match, Dravid would not have got the credit as such a magnificent knock it was played by Anwar.

Another knock played by Dravid was the one played at Johannesburg in the Standard Bank final in 1997. He made 84. It was such a superb knock. In fact, he smote Allan Donald for a six over long on during the course of his knock. After getting a mouthful from Donald, he pulled him over mid-wicket for a one bounce four. It was a superb exhibition of batsmanship by Dravid. He matched stroke for stroke with Sachin Tendulkar. But, alas, India lost the match by a whisker, which took away the credit due to him.

We can also talk of the back-to-back centuries he made in the World cup 1999. In a must win match against Kenya, he made 107 runs and along with Sachin Tendulkar, he shared a world record partnership of 237 runs for the 3rd wicket. But again, his innings were overshadowed by a gem of a knock played by an emotional Sachin Tendulkar who joined the team back after attending his father’s funeral. Sachin made a superb 140 not out. India won that match and kept them on course for a berth in super-six. Then came the match at Taunton against Sri Lanka. Put in to bat, India wanted to put pressure on the opponents by putting up a big total. But, India was under pressure straightaway, losing Ramesh cheaply. In came Dravid and he blasted the bowlers to all parts of the ground. He along with Saurav Ganguly, took the match away from the Lankans by putting on a World record 318 for the second wicket. Dravid made a huge contribution of 145, but again, his knock was overshadowed by Ganguly’s! 183 the highest score by an Indian. .

We have another knock made by Dravid which was overshadowed again by Sachin. That was against New Zealand in 1999. India won the toss and batted first. Dravid and Tendulkar put on a record 331 for the 2nd wicket. Dravid made 153 and Tendulkar made 186* highest score by an Indian. India made a mammoth 376 and won the match easily. Again his knock helped his team win, but did not get the credit it deserved.

And how can we forget the very recent Kolkota Test against the Aussies. India was down but not out. They had a glimmer of a hope for them. They were asked to follow-on after being 274 runs behind. In the 2nd innings also, they were some 30 odd runs behind when Dravid walked in. At the end of the 3rd day, India was still 20 runs behind with 6 wickets remaining and they had Dravid and Laxman at the crease. So determined were the two that they did not lose a wicket the whole day, a remarkable achievement. They put India in such a position whereby they could not only save the match but think of winning, an impossible thing to think of on 3rd day. The rest as they say is history. India won the match by a handful. Here, Dravid made a commanding 180 and his other partner Laxman made a huge 281, highest by an Indian in tests. So, again his contribution though helped his team win, but could not win much deserved accolades for him. The knock he played in the series decider at Chennai had a stamp of class and authority written all over it. He made 81, but the way he made it was very impressive. He again smote Gillespie, the fastest bowler in the Aussie line-up over long on for a six. It was a classy knock, but was overshadowed by a calm knock of 126 by Tendulkar. India won the match by a whisker. Though, everybody may remember the knock made by Sachin, nobody gives a thought to the importance of Dravid’s knock.

It is indeed puzzling that the certainty with which Rahul Dravid gets pushed back after playing wonderfully well. That is not limited to the performances in specific matches. Taking a look at his career will reveal the same. He has a great record against all teams. In fact he excels in an area which has long been considered the Achilles’ heel of Indian batsmen. His overseas record is second only to Gavaskar. In fact he has played better away than at home. But we hardly have taken our eyes away from the other luminaries in the team, forgetting the man who has struggled silently to give a launching pad to his colleagues.

That is the story of the man called ‘Rahul Dravid’. He revels the challenges and most of the time comes out with flying colours. He seems to get going very well in partnerships. He is a very steady batsman in the current Indian line-up. A batsman India cannot do away with. Everybody remembers the contributions made by Sachin, Saurav, Laxman etc., but nobody cares about the importance of Dravid and his innings. Everybody wants to be the first to criticize this man. He is a great player, and the team knows his importance. He enjoys his responsibility and is doing very well for the team. Anyhow, no matter how good he plays, and no matter how many times he helps his team win, as destiny has its say, “NICE MEN ALWAYS FINISH LAST”. But, I sincerely hope that from now on this nice man of Indian Cricket will never finish last and his innings get the much deserved credit and accolades.

 


























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