India's approved tour of South Africa puts CSA, BCCI and the game of cricket in bad light

N Srinivasan (left) and Haroon Lorgat have not seen eye-to-eye © PTI and Getty Images

By James Marsh
Neville Chamberlain is about as popular as salad here in the Czech Republic. In 1938, he signed off the Munich agreement whereby Britain agreed to cede control of the German populated but Czech-owned territory of Sudetenland as a sop to Adolf Hitler’s ambitions. In terms of effectiveness, this act of appeasement was about as useful as giving Pavarotti a biscuit in the hope of keeping him away from your prosciutto panini.

It remains to be seen if Cricket South Africa (CSA) offering up a blood sacrifice of Haroon Lorgat to N Srinivasan in exchange for allowing India’s tour of their nation to go ahead will prove as catastrophic for cricket as Chamberlain’s concession was for Europe, but any declaration of peace for our time because a truncated, woefully inadequate series has now been agreed should be greeted with the same cynicism, which is now retrospectively applied to the ex-British premier’s ham-fisted efforts at realpolitik.
It is, of course, offensive and disrespectful to compare either Srinivasan to the Fuhrer or cricket to a war. For starters, Hitler was eventually defeated and, even after the asteroid hits, Srinivasan will still be in position. He has survived the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2013 spot-fixing controversy, plots from within and legal challenges to hold on to office. Even his most vociferous critics must admire — albeit whilst perhaps retching a little — the manner in which he has clung on to power in the face of seemingly the most incriminating set of circumstances since Sweeney Todd left a bit of human ear poking out of one of his pies.

If this episode is not studied by students of politics and media in years to come it will be a travesty of academia. His manoeuvres have been astonishing to watch, a combination of Tony Soprano and John Huston’s industrialist in Chinatown, a political pummeling of his detractors and rivals, which makes Machiavelli look like a county councilor.
Throughout the whole on-off tour fandango, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has been nothing but resolute and never less than obtuse. There have been claims, based around the manner in which CSA announced the tour schedule without alleged sufficient consultation that the quibble was only about protocol, the BCCI positioning themselves as demure roses appalled that a scoundrel glanced lasciviously at their bare ankle. It is hard to grant this credulity given the insistence that Lorgat shouldn’t be involved in any of the negotiations and that his sidelining as a quid pro quo for the tour going ahead seems to have been a deal-breaker.
So now we have a tour and a peace as such, but it reflects poorly on CSA, the BCCI and cricket as a whole that it’s taken such a phoney war to achieve this uneasy truce. There’s no point being naive. The savvy BCCI have moved themselves into the position of being the courted financial powerhouse of the game and, as cricket is life, money inevitably talks. It’s just hard to get away from the conclusion that in this instance, what money is actually saying is that, in the pithy yet potent words of Soprano himself, if you don’t like it, “Go f#&k yourself.”

(James Marsh is a TEFL teacher based in the Czech Republic, although his real occupation is alienating those close to him by wallowing on statsguru. He blogs on cricket at Pavilion Opinions and can be found on Twitter at @PavilionOpinion)