Sachin Tendulkar's historic 200th Test becomes casualty of insensitive power play by BCCI

Sports historian and writer Boria Majumdar feels in all this politics, the voice that is lost is that of the man, Sachin Tendulkar (above), himself © Getty Images

By Derek Abraham

Mumbai: Oct 5, 2013

Sports and politics will remain inextricably entwined. And as the clamour for the hosting rights for Sachin Tendulkar’s 200th Test match reaches fever pitch, one can’t overlook the ‘power play’ in the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) corridors. The dates for the two-match Test series against the West Indies are out (November 6-10 and November 14-18), but the venues aren’t.
 
If one were to go by the rulebook — the BCCI’s ‘rotational policy’ to be precise — then Bangalore and Ahmedabad are the rightful claimants. But the BCCI doesn’t always follow rules. ‘Adjustments’ can be and are made. Given that the series could be the maestro’s last on Indian soil, quite a few associations are staking a claim. An international fixture is the biggest money-spinner. And when the game in question is of monumental proportions, the stakes are high.
 
As for Tendulkar’s 200th, at least three other entities are interested in hosting the Test. While the Mumbai Cricket Association believes it’s the rightful claimant because “Sachin is a Mumbaikar and the Wankhede Stadium is his home ground,” the Cricket Club of India is also keen on staging the landmark game at its iconic Brabourne Stadium.
 
The aristocratic club is of the opinion that the MCA is no longer the sole claimant for international cricket in the city. The club is a voting member of the BCCI. In fact, it’s one of the founder members of the board. CCI president Sevanti Parekh has gone on record, saying, “Sachin spent his formative years here. Many years ago, we amended our constitution to allow him into our members’ arena. He was just a minor then. We will be more than happy to host his 200th Test match, but we are not vying or competing for it.”
 
Truth is Parekh needn’t vie for the big-ticket match. He might get it on a platter. N Srinivasan, the BCCI president, is not keen on awarding the match to Wankhede because Sharad Pawar, his arch-rival, is certain to win the MCA presidential election on October 18.
 
In fact, Srinivasan declared at the CCI’s 75th anniversary celebrations last year that “I can assure you I will convey with the strongest of recommendations to the working committee of the BCCI to explore ways and means of how it is possible to bring cricket back here in the form that you desire”. Srinivasan was awarded an honorary life membership at the same function.
 
The Cricket Association of Bengal has also thrown its hat into the ring. “We will go all out to gain hosting rights for Sachin’s 200th Test. Eden Gardens is the home of Indian cricket and no stadium in the country can accommodate 70,000 fans. This match deserves maximum turnout,” a CAB official had said recently.
 
On Friday, CAB president Jagmohan Dalmiya told: “During the 1987 World Cup, Kolkata was offered the final because the Eden could host 86,000 fans. I feel maximum number of Indians should get to watch Sachin’s 200th Test. I hope the BCCI accepts our request.” To which, an MCA official retorted, “Sachin played his first Test in Karachi in 1989 and scored his 100th international century in Dhaka last year. We want to host his landmark Test. Why is the CAB staking a claim? Sachin is a Mumbaikar; he is our player.”
 
Dalmiya, who was till recently, the caretaker president of the board, has fallen out of favour with Srinivasan. Why? Because he had requested Shashank Manohar, the former BCCI president, to contest against Srinivasan. The cement baron ensured Dalmiya and his cronies didn’t get any plum posts at the board’s AGM. And there’s no way he’d award Eden the match.
 
The Gujarat Cricket Association, whose turn it is to host one of the two matches, doesn’t want to give up the golden opportunity. “Motera has been blessed with some historic moments. Whether it was Kapil Dev’s career-best figures 9 for 83 or him surpassing Richard Hadlee’s record of 431 wickets or, for that matter, Tendulkar scoring his first double hundred, our stadium has played host to many a record-breaking feat. And who can forget Sunil Gavaskar’s 10,000th Test run. The GCA wishes to have one more record in its kitty,” said a top official who did not want to be named.
 
The GCA is headed by Narendra Modi and nobody would want to rub the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate the wrong way. “The BCCI’s tour, fixture and programme committee will meet soon. It is our turn to host a Test and we will fight for it. We know that a few associations are also vying for it, but we will not allow anyone to take away ‘our’ match. We should not miss the piece of cake if it is ours. And we aren’t doing anything unethical,” the official said.
 
Interestingly, the Karnataka Cricket Association, headed by Anil Kumble, doesn’t seem obsessed with the fixture. KSCA secretary Javagal Srinath told that the association is waiting for the BCCI to make an announcement. “I think we must ask Sachin where he wants to play his landmark Test. Who are we to take a call?” Srinath said.
 
Kumble and Srinath are close to Srinivasan, who had helped them overthrow Brijesh Patel from the KSCA. In other words, they run the KSCA with Srinivasan’s blessings.
 
Sports historian and writer Boria Majumdar said: “This Test is all about India’s greatest cricketer. No one has scaled this peak (200 Tests) and no one ever will. It is only natural that the man be asked where he wants to play this match. The only person who should have the agency to decide where he wants to play this game is Sachin himself. Unfortunately, in all this politics, the voice that is lost is that of the man himself,” says Majumdar, who is working on Tendulkar’s autobiography.
 
The MCA is believed to have written a detailed letter to the BCCI, explaining how it has been running cricket in the city. “The MCA is basically telling the BCCI that it runs the game in the city. And the Brabourne Stadium has benefited from the MCA’s practice of judicious distribution of matches. The Brabourne has hosted several ODI, Ranji and Duleep Trophy matches and even the 2009 India-Sri Lanka Test match,” a source said. Parekh, the CCI president, wouldn’t buy any of it. “We are just asking for our rightful share. Why does the MCA have an issue with the CCI asking for its fair share of matches as per the rotational policy?”

(The writer is Principal Correspondent at DNA, where the above article first appeared)