Former Indian selector Dilip Vengsarkar © AFP
Former Indian selector Dilip Vengsarkar © AFP

 

By Vidooshak

 

There has never been a better time to be an Indian cricketer. Annual contracts, a variety of formats to choose from and a board that’s as capitalist (profit oriented) as they come. We have come a long way from an era where player power was meant to be squished with court cases. Dilip Vengsarkar couldn’t write a column to generate a few extra bucks to ensure that his future was more secure.

 

The number of elite Indian cricketers has gone from four in my early days of watching cricket to at least 20 now. Sunil Gavaskar, Kapil Dev, Vengsarkar and Gundappa Viswanath were the only superstars then. Compare that to today’s situation where India can easily field at least two superb ODI teams. The number of opportunities for cricketers to show their wares has increased a thousand fold. Any domestic cricketer today who is a reasonable performer can expect recognition and visibility. Had poor KP Bhaskar played in this era, would he have been ignored?

 

I’m amused by several people’s concern for players and rush to judgment on the BCCI‘s stance. Here’s how I see it. The cricketers are professional performers. Their income depends on how well they perform. Their performance depends on how healthy they keep themselves. So watching their health is key to their income. Watching their health is in their own hands. If they need rest, they need to get it. It’s survival of the fittest. Almost Darwinian.

 

The BCCI’s job is to put a show together with a team. I think they are doing a wonderful job. In an era where Amitabh Bachchan was the only superstar, it was difficult for other actors to find work. Today, anyone can be part of a successful film. Cricket, too, has evolved like that. The days when cccccalone could draw crowds are almost gone. When Tendulkar retires, people will come to watch India play. There is a vested interest for BCCI in this and it’s a good one.

 

The BCCI is a club of capitalists who have realized that “expanding the pie” is the best way to make more money than restricting the boundaries. More formats, more games, more money for players, attract more pleasing performers, more, more, more…This has led to more superstars, more ways to attract crowds and hence more opportunities for a Joginder Singh or Manpreet Gony to even be mentioned in a newspaper in the same breath as Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

 

The BCCI and its selection committee have shown it’s commitment to merit. So, Gautam Gambhir got injured. Anyone can tell you that he could have rested had he wanted to. He could have rested for a few games if not for the entire IPL. Granted that the IPL followed too quickly after the World Cup. Keep in mind that Virender Sehwag didn’t play many ODIs in the lead up to the World Cup. He had ample opportunity to get himself fixed. His love of the game, money and country all could have played a part in his decision. But it was his decision alone and he’s reaping the results of it. I don’t think it’s necessarily bad.

 

Gambhir’s case is a little more troubling because it shows some immaturity on his part in not knowing his limits. Dhoni rested himself from a Bangladesh tour several years ago. It showed his confidence and character. He didn’t want to let his team and himself down by his poor performance due to his fatigue.

 

Today, when we see the team to the West Indies, there were no surprises to those that follow cricket. Vijay walks in when one of the openers isn’t playing. Abhinav Mukund who has been prolific gets the nod. All the frontline bowlers are playing. No one will contest Subramniam Badrinath, Virat Kohli or Suresh Raina‘s selection. About the only debate is whether Rohit Sharma too should have been considered. The fans will follow India. They might miss Tendulkar if we lose, but if not, it’s going to be no big deal.

 

So the BCCI is correct. No one is forced to play one format or the other. It’s their desire for money and fame that lures the cricketers to choose one over the other. So players are being foolish by putting their health at risk. If they want to play for India, then there is a way for them to perform and get into the Indian team. Mukund’s example proves that. VVS Laxman can choose not to play Test cricket and play the IPL. But he will soon find out that no one will bid for him in the next auction because he isn’t a good fit. So he is better off sticking to the Test format and earn whatever he can out of that format.

 

If someone such as Ricky Ponting has a passion to play for the country, he can turn down the money offered by IPL and do so. I feel Tendulkar made a choice to play IPL because he plays for his home team. It allows him more time with his family than if he were touring. Plus he makes a ton of money. So it’s all win-win. He’s turned down the West Indies Test leg in addition to other things because it does not offer him these benefits. International players might turn down IPL for the same reasons. Play a home Test and ODI series instead of the IPL.

 

Several people feel that playing for country is better than club. I too believe that. But a professional cricketer doesn’t have to believe that. Every individual’s goals are different. We need to respect that and enjoy our chance to see them play.

 

(Vidooshak is a blogger @ Opinions on Cricket . He was drawn into cricket by Golandaaz as a schoolboy. His bluster overshadows his cricketing ability. He played as a wicket-keeper in a college team but was promptly dropped. The college selection committee had slightly higher standards than Pakistani selectors. He did reasonably well in tennis ball cricket until he was benched for a final game by the team that he captained. To say some of it was due to his opinions would be an understatement of sorts. Regardless, Vidooshak finds time to opinionate relentlessly and lives a vicarious life by watching cricket teams make obvious mistakes. Good news for Vidooshak is that someone always loses a cricket game, someone always gets belted and someone always flops. Vidooshak always looks for an alternative explanation and rarely agrees with mainstream consensus. Needless to say he has no friends, only ‘tolerators’! While not throwing his weight around, Vidooshak does not run marathons or draw pictures, but reads voraciously on all topics, volunteers at local failing schools, is an avid but average golfer and runs an Indian association in mid-west America)