Gautam Gambhir’s injury has sparked the club vs country debate © Getty Images
Gautam Gambhir’s injury has sparked the club vs country debate © Getty Images

 

By Madan Mohan

 

Another day, another controversy, déjà vu. The Club vs Country debate has reared its ugly head again. And this time, the casualty is considerably costlier, in terms of image and perception, than Chris Gayle or Shaun Tait. What was Gautam Gambhir doing in the IPL if he was not 100% fit? That’s the question on the lips of several media mouthpieces. The hunt is on now and issues which were skirted or brushed aside are being hotly debated as I write.

 

So, what happened? As in most controversies, you have different versions of the episode depending on who you choose to listen to. Initial reports in the press seemed to suggest that the BCCI was unaware of the injury, but the board has since said it would issue a media release after the physio of the national team has assessed Gambhir’s fitness. More ominously, though, N Srinivasan has said Gambhir would be dropped from the squad if found unfit. What contours the word “drop” takes here will emerge with time as the Great Indian Political Game is about to ensue.

 

Kolkata Knight Riders team physio Andrew Leipus had written to the BCCI about Gambhir’s injury. What is not clear to me at this point is whether the BCCI was aware that Gambhir had complained of injury at the time of joining KKR in April. For, according to reports, he had sustained the injury during the World Cup and had neglected to intimate this to the physio then. This should become clearer in the next few days and what positions the team owner and the board take on this will decide what happens to the proverbial lamb to the slaughter.

 

Indeed, that the player in question is Gambhir would (finally!) raise alarm bells for he is one of the brightest hopes in recent years in all formats of the game. Purists may have slammed the choices made by Chris Gayle or Shaun Tait, but let it be said that in truth they were not entirely perturbed because the loss to Test cricket was not perceived to be so great.

 

But Gambhir is the man who ground out a draw with a tremendous knock in New Zealand and showed all the patience and determination worthy of a Test class act. He once again showed laudable application in Cape Town earlier this year in the India vs South Africa Test series. But he now stands to miss the tour to the West Indies and maybe even the tour to England. Reports don’t suggest yet that he would have to give England a miss, but he needs 6-8 weeks of rest, according to Leipus. You do the math.

 

It will doubtless be argued by some sections that the trip to West Indies is an insignificant one in any case and a waste of time. I fail to see how a domestic tournament, even one as glamorous as the IPL, is more significant than ODI fixtures against a Test nation, albeit one close to the bottom of the rankings. I do agree that it is a waste of time, as are most bilateral ODI fixtures these days, but not more so than the IPL.

 

Furthermore, he was to captain the side in the fixtures. He has already been marked out as a potential candidate for the ultimate job in cricket. That the immense responsibility of leading the side in fixtures to be played abroad was not reason enough to take a more prudent course of action is telling.

 

However, I will resist bashing and vilifying Gambhir, keeping in mind his track record to date as a player and especially one who has appeared to relish responsibility and battling hard for the team. Maybe some miscommunication has ensued and he aggravated his injury without fully appreciating the risks involved. It is convenient to quip, “Yeah, right!” but let’s give him the benefit of doubt for the time being, as the story develops. One does not want to have his foot in the mouth if Gambhir has a perfectly reasonable explanation to offer on the morrow, right?

 

If it emerges in the days to come, however, that Gambhir had been briefed appropriately of the risks involved of aggravating his injury in participating in the IPL matches and the time for which this would put him out of action and yet chose to press on, then cricket sure is passing through interesting times. If it emerges that pressure had been brought on him to play in the IPL come what may and the BCCI had decided to sleep over it for the time being in the larger interest of the IPL, well…

 

I shall hope for less eventful cricket happenings for the next few days. Off the field, that is.

 

(Madan Mohan, a 25-year old CA from Mumbai, is passionate about writing, music and cricket. Writing on cricket is like the icing on the cake.)