N Srinivasan (L) and Shashank Manohar © AFP
N Srinivasan (L) and Shashank Manohar © AFP

 

By Sanjeev Sarma

 

The Gautam Gambhir episode has been blown out of proportion by the India media. Is Gambhir responsible for continuing to play for KKR in spite of injury-related worries that carried the risk of not being able to captain the country in the upcoming series in the Caribbean?

 

The Indian media has, with its own serving of pickle, converted what would seem a procedural issue into a “country versus club” scenario. They spoke in horrified tones how the entire thing was manipulated so that Gambhir could continue leading Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) towards a possible win, ignoring the needs of the country. They said that KKR had released fitness reports to BCCI – obtained exclusively by them, of course! – just two hours before the crucial play-off. The crux of the story was how one of the best upcoming captains of the country could possibly be seen as a “traitor” – not so implicitly said by anyone – because he chose club over country.

 

Was Gambhir not playing for a BCCI-approved club and in a BCCI-approved tournament? Isn’t physical wear and tear part of a package that comes with any sportsman’s contract? Was KKR not right in expecting that the person they had paid highest also expected to captain their team to a win? I mean, why’d they pay so much if capability and expectations weren’t so high, right?

 

It is no hidden fact that India has had an overdose of cricket on its grounds. The World Cup has never ever seen so many viewers in stadia, on TV and on the Internet. India staying on till the finals and winning it, guaranteed eyeballs to all aspects of this game, akin to World Cup football. The IPL, coming close on the heels of this extremely exciting and emotional World Cup has, for obvious reasons, not managed to attract its due share of attention. Even if one considers the naturally declining scale of attractiveness to a concept spread across time, IPL4 has presumably not done too well to get a decent viewer share.

 

Juxtapose the two, and I smell the proverbial rat.

 

This entire episode blown into a thousand debates and huge hours of footage across channels, smells like a plant to me – much like stories floating around of the leading man and leading lady of a having an affair just before their film is released! Cut to cricket. An awesome spin to a fairly insipid tale, blown up to the extremely high human interest proportions of money versus patriotism – one of the oldest and most-heated points of arguments in any point of the world.

 

This media hitting of a negative incident, no doubt, spells good news for IPL, BCCI, Indian cricket and, most importantly, for KKR, the franchisee Gambhir plays for. It draws attention to the game from a purely street perspective, drawing in the common man on the road (who is anyways jealous of monies that cricketers make) to the self-righteous position of “made money, didn’t care about the country” scenario. The common man is talking now about the IPL and the players; how bad some are, because they chose to ignore the country in favor of money. Someone up there in the annals of cricket management has a good PR brain.

 

He/she believes, and rightly so, that bad news is better than no news.

(Sanjeev Sarma is an avid sports fan, and tracks cricket from an extremely arcane viewpoint of utopia. Not for him the stats and score sheets, for him the passion, roar, business, involvement and emotion of cricket across the spectrum where stages are set at world as well as galli cricket level)