Should India take on Pakistan in the international sporting arena?
BCCI boss Anurag Thakur doesn’t believe so.
The BJP leader, while ruling out resumption of cricketing ties with the rogue neighbour after the latest attacks from across the border at Uri, said:
“Keeping in mind that the government has adopted a new strategy to isolate Pakistan and in view of the public sentiment in the country, we request ICC not to put India and Pakistan in the same pool of the multi-nation tournaments. If the two countries reach the semi-finals and have to clash at that time, it is another situation which can’t be avoided.”
The statement above reeks of political opportunism while ignoring commercial considerations and the future success of ICC tournaments.
While it’s no one’s case that Pakistan is a sponsor of terrorism, to ask the ICC or any other sporting body to accommodate the Indian government’s views would be setting a bad precedent—if accepted.
What happens if Bangladesh or Afghanistan make similar demands? Will the ICC oblige?
What about other sporting events such as the Olympics or World Championships? Are Indian sports persons to refuse to take on Pakistani athletes in group encounters but not in knockout rounds?
Can the US decline to play North Korea or Iran in international competitions?
India last toured their north-west neighbours in a full-fledged series in 2004. The last bilateral series occurred in 2012 with the visitors drawing the T20 series and clinching the ODIs.
India are grouped with Pakistan for the 2017 Champions Trophy.
ICC President Dave Richardson said:
“No doubt we want to try to put India versus Pakistan in our event. Its hugely important from an ICC point of view. Its massive around the world and the fans have come to expect it as well. Its fantastic for the tournament because it gives it a massive kick.”
It’s unlikely that the ICC will oblige Thakur by moving India out of the group. If the BCCI insists on making a political statement in the cricketing world, Team India might have to forfeit their game against their arch-rivals.
The men’s team are the only ones affected. The women’s side are slated to play Pakistan in a bilateral series. Should the tour be called off, their ODI ratings will be affected that may reduce their chances for automatic qualification for next year’s World Cup.
Thakur’s statement was greeted with disdain across the border.
Mohammad Yousuf said:
“I just don’t understand what he wants to say. For the last eight years India has avoided playing us in a proper bilateral series even when relations were better.”
“The ICC keeps on saying it will not tolerate politics or government interference in member boards and the BCCI President is making political statements. Either he speak as a BJP leader or BCCI head.”
An unnamed Pakistan Cricket Board official said:
“It is an out and out political statement from the President of the BCCI. We are disappointed as we have been trying hard for a long time now to normalize cricket ties with India and we have always believed in keeping sports and politics apart.”
In another news report, sources within the PCB revealed that they do not take Thakur’s tirades seriously.
“If they really don’t want to play Pakistan at all would they be willing to forfeit the match against us in next year’s Champions Trophy. No changes can be made now so what is the purpose of such statements except to play to the galleries.
…But for public consumption he (Thakur) gives different statements.”
Were the UN to declare Pakistan a sponsor of terror and impose sanctions, then it’s possible that sporting bodies across the world could declare it ‘persona non grata’, much like South Africa was for its heinous policy of apartheid.
But until then, it’s downright foolish to expect to be able to avoid Pakistan in multilateral contests.
At the same time, to simply claim that sports and politics shouldn’t mix is being naïve in this age of realpolitik.
Sports is a metaphor for war without weapons or bloodshed.
It is also a vehicle for peace such as when the Pakistani premier visited India for the crucial quarter-final encounter during the 2011 World Cup paving the way for resuming cricketing ties even if it was short-lived.
The issue at hand is complex. Simplistic statements from the BCCI chief muddy the waters especially when he must and should know better.
Chris Gayle never learns or so it seems.
The macho West Indian star first made the front pages this year for his infamous ‘Don’t blush, baby’ line to Mel McLaughlin in an on-field interview at the Big Bash League (BBL) in Australia.
Gayle escaped with a warning and a stiff fine of AUSD 10,000.
But the smarts just wouldn’t end.
The Jamaican enjoyed rubbing it in naming his newly-born daughter—with partner Tasha—Blush.
Why draw her in into his mess, Chris? 20 years down the line, would your daughter like to be reminded of the circumstances around which she was named so? Go figure.
Trouble goes around in threes.
And there was surely a ‘threesome’ in store.
Chris Gayle pressed down on the accelerator—ignoring speed bumps— when interviewed by Times journalist Charlotte Edwardes where he talked about sex, female equality and homophobia.
Gayle told Edwardes that he had ‘a very, very big bat, the biggest in the wooooorld’ and whether she thought she “could lift it” and that she’d need both hands.
The Jamaican embarrassed her further by questioning whether she’s had any black men and been part of a threesome.
The interview touched on other aspects as well.
On women’s equality, Gayle said:
‘Women should please their man. When he comes home, food is on the table. Serious. You ask your husband what he likes and then you make it.’”
“Women should have equality and they do have equality. They have more than equality. Women can do what they want. Jamaican women are very vocal. They will let you know what time is it, for sure.’
“The culture I grew up in, gays were negative. But people can do whatever they want. You can’t tell someone how to live their life. It’s a free world.”
The timing of the interview could hardly have been more ‘fortuitous’.
Gayle is on the verge of releasing his autobiography, ‘”Six Machine” excerpts of which have been published (where else?) in the Times.
Reacting to Freddie Flintoff’s description of him as a “bit of a chop” after the McLaughlin incident, Gayle said:
“Freddie Flintstone, a young boy like you taking Viagra? Don’t lecture me. The only chop Freddie (Flintoff) knows is when he used to bowl short to me and I would chop him past backward point for four.”
Describing the McLaughlin fiasco, he added:
“Now T20 is different. It’s not Test cricket. It’s chilled and fun and let’s do things different. So when Mel asks me that question I stay in the T20 mind, and answer informal and fun. I meant it as a joke. I meant it as a little fun. I didn’t mean to be disrespectful and I didn’t mean it to be taken serious.
Channel 10’s commentary team could be heard laughing in the background … but someone above them clearly decided to step in, and a throwaway comment in a fun format escalates and blows up and within hours it has turned into a major international incident. “
The southpaw had even stronger words reserved for Ian Chappell.
“Ian Chappell, calling for me to banned worldwide, a man who was once convicted of unlawful assault in the West Indies for punching a cricket official. Ian Chappell, how can you ban the Universe Boss? You’d have to ban cricket itself.”
Former Australian opener Chris Rogers was one of his most vocal critics claiming that he set a bad example to his younger teammates.
Gayle responded thus calling him a bit of a “Roger Rabbit”.
“Chris Rogers, how can you claim that when it was you and me at the bar most nights? I’m not a snitch, but I’ve heard from your own mouth what you’ve done. Next time you want to open your mouth, maybe chew on a carrot instead.”
Is Chris Gayle in trouble yet again? Has he landed in deeper, hotter waters this time around?
His detractors would like to believe so.
This, however, does not prevent any other BBL side from signing him on.
While Somerset chief executive Guy Lavender admitted that he was disappointed with Gayle’s latest blowout, he added:
“But as I’ve said before, we found him to be fantastic the last time he was here, in terms of activities both on and off the pitch.
It’s a shame, because it detracts from his cricketing ability. The fact is, what he has said is inappropriate. But we haven’t had an opportunity to discuss [it] with him. I’m sure we will. But I don’t see it as grounds not to have him playing for us this summer.”
And in India, IPL chairman Rajiv Shukla is taking the matter seriously.
Talking to Times of India, he said:
“The players must behave themselves. We expect the players to adhere to a certain kind of behaviour when the tournament is on. The players should maintain the sanctity of the league. These kind of statements are totally uncalled for in public domain. I will take up this issue with the president and the secretary of the BCCI.”
BCCI’s secretary Ajay Shirke said:
“At this point, we’ll not look into it. We’re focused on completing the IPL, which has reached its final stages. What has happened in this case is between two foreign individuals. It is a personal matter between people who aren’t from India. At the same time, that doesn’t mean that we’ll ignore it. If a complaint is brought to us, we’ll act on it. If it develops into something more, we’ll look into it at an appropriate stage.”
Gayle , in his latest interview, believes that most of the criticism directed his way after the McLaughlin imbroglio was racially motivated.
“Successful black men are struggling because people do things to put them down. I would say this anywhere in the world, in any sporting arena, right now in 2016: racism is still the case for a black man. Trust me. They just want to get a little sniff of the dirt. They find out some shit and they want to sink you. It’s reality. You have to deal with that as a successful black man.”
Racism has always been an issue in sport.
Henry Gayle was born in a Kingston slum and used cricket as his vehicle to become one of the world’s most beloved and entertaining sportsmen.
Writing for the Guardian, Andy Bull says:
“In the last year the Zimbabwean Test cricketer Mark Vermeulen was banned by his board after he referred to black Zimbabweans as ‘apes’ on social media, while Vermeulen’s old team-mate Prosper Utseya accused that same board of racism in their running of the sport. And several Pakistani players have spoken out about racism in English county cricket, in the wake of the offence committed by Craig Overton. These issues are always there, bubbling under. But it’s rare for a star player to address them directly, as Gayle has just done.
Gayle was talking about something more insidious, about attitudes ‘off the field’, especially, he seems to be saying, among the media. And some aspects of our coverage should make us uncomfortable. As Peter Oborne pointed out in his book Wounded Tiger, the Pakistani team is often subjected to the most ludicrous stereotyping, which has stretched as far as the suggestions, widespread at the time, that certain members of their 2007 World Cup team may have had a hand in the death of their coach Bob Woolmer. Innuendos always swirl when they play poorly, quicker to gather around them than their competitors, though cheating, and fixing, are universal problems.”
Racism is not restricted to the Western hemisphere.
Foreign cheerleaders in the IPL have complained several times about the treatment and slurs they are subjected to by Indian men.
In 2008, British dancers Ellesha Newton and Sherinne Anderson were prevented from performing during a Kings XI Punjab game.
“An organiser pulled us away. He said the people here don’t want to see dark people. The ‘n’ word was used and they said they only wanted beautiful white girls. We were crying. I could understand if it were the crowd but they were very receptive. This kind of thing has never happened to us – not in Europe, not here, nowhere. “
There have not been any black cheerleaders in any edition of the IPL since.
An unnamed cheerleader in a free-wheeling chat on Reddit’s Ask Me Anything (AMA) had this to say:
“I hate the racism. Why is my team made up of 99% white girls? Why do Indians feel it’s ok to dress white girls up in skimpy outfits but they won’t let their fellow Indian women do it? It’s messed up.
I’ve asked my managers [about why no Indian girls as cheerleaders] and they don’t know. I’ll keep asking around, though, because I’m curious too. They could probably just get good dancers and train them; there’s no shortage of those.”
Chris Gayle adds in his autobiography that some people consider him “lazy“.
“People think that [my] attitude towards the game stink. That’s how it come across: lazy.”
If Gayle’s indolent, his record proves otherwise.
He has played 103 Test matches in 14 years, scored two triple centuries and is arguably the best T20 batsman in the world.
But playing the race card in this seemingly complicated mess only addles the issue.
Racial discrimination is not the only kind that exists. Women everywhere face sexual biases on a daily basis. To claim that one is better or worse than the other sidesteps the issues raised by Gayle’s nonchalance towards the ramifications of his ‘jokey‘ sideshows.
Discrimination of any kind is to be frowned upon.
To clear things up, one would probably hark back to the rustic retorts Indian women (and defenders of their modesty) dish out to eve-teasers and molesters, “Tere maa, behn or beti nahin hai kya? (Don’t you have a mother, sister or daughter?) How would you feel if someone dealt with them in the same way?”
No racism about it—just a question of right behavior in a public space.
That, Chris Gayle, is the crux of the matter. Not anything else, not anything more.
What he said:
“[Carlos] Brathwaite came and asked me for my shirt at the end, which was pretty strange, looking back on it. You’ve just whacked me and now you want a shirt? I didn’t really need to ask him [for his]. Can’t imagine what I’d use it for. A duvet maybe?”
Ben Stokes gives up his shirt as well to Carlos Brathwaite besides four hits out of bounds.
What he really meant:
“What?!!! You’ve clubbed me for four sixes in a row in a World Cup final and you want the shirt of my back too???!!!”
What he definitely didn’t:
“ Was that a not so subliminal message from Carlos to switch to another sport like soccer, perhaps?”
What he said:
“When the moment is important, Ravi Shastri is the last one to back away. So if you’re asking if my hat is in the ring, it is in there. Maybe three hats!”
Ravi Shastri’s tenure as Team India director has ended. He and his team— Sanjay Bangar, Bharat Arun and R Sridhar—have done a creditable job following Duncan Fletcher’s departure.
When asked if he’d be up for the job of the new team coach, the former left-arm spinner and right-hand bat responded:
“I have had a discussion much earlier with the Board on as to where things should go, and how. At the end of the day, they are my employers. They are the ones who are going to make the decision. So whatever I have grasped in these 18 months, I have let them know.
See, it is a very challenging job. It has been a very enjoyable job. It is a very important moment in Indian cricket.When the moment is important, Ravi Shastri is the last one to back away. So if you’re asking if my hat is in the ring, it is in there. Maybe three hats!”
Talking about Team India’s performance, Shastri is against change for its own sake.
“Look at our performances in the last 18 months. We are ranked 2, 2 and 1 in the three formats. And that can’t happen if you have people within the system who are not interested in the game. If, by any chance, it was the other way around, you would have heard from me straight.”
“I want to cut across barriers and come straight to the point, which is communication and trust. For me, that was the first nail I had to put in. I always believed they were a terrific side. They were low on confidence and they were probably not approaching the game in the right way, the way it should be played when you consider the talent they have.
Those were the two areas you had to focus on, and you kept things simple. You said, let’s hit those areas first, let’s get the trust, let’s get the communication going. Let’s get the work ethic better, where there’s no shortcut. It might take time, it might take three to four months before we are back to winning ways. And then you know things will fall in place. But what I saw was a transformation that was quite immediate. I didn’t expect that. But then again, it’s why I jumped in, because I knew there was huge talent there.”
What he really meant:
“I’m all for continuing as team coach. My record speaks for myself. And I’m always up for the challenge. It’s certainly something I enjoy doing more than commentating!”
What he definitely didn’t:
“Speaking of myself in the third person, now, that’s something I never did on the microphone. And I’m all for three hats: Commentator, Manager and Team Coach. To hell with conflict of interest , I’m Superman!”
What he said:
“”That was amazing man, I wish I could use some expletives on TV to really express how much of a top knock that was.”
West Indies’ final over hero in the T20 World Cup final, Carlos Brathwaite , is all praise for his senior partner Marlon Samuels who held the innings together with a stellar 85 off 66 balls.
“It’s us against the world and someone needed to take responsibility. And today Marlon Samuels after a slow start took responsibility and played a fantastic knock. That was amazing man, I wish I could use some expletives on TV to really express how much of a top knock that was. He did it in 2010, and I knew if Samuels was there in the end, he’ll bring us home in 2016. It was a matter of when and not if.”
The 27-year-old backed his skipper Darren Sammy’s emotional outburst against the West Indian Cricket Board (WICB) saying:
“Most of the nations have more resources than we do, but we have natural talent. It has been said we don’t have brains, that we don’t harness our talent, that we do things off the field that contribute to poor on-field success. But I just want to say being around these guys, that everything we do on and off the field is for the betterment of West Indies, not just the team but also cricket and the region in general.”
On the final over against England’s Ben Stokes:
“It was a little nerve-wracking to be honest, I just tried to stay focused, use my cue words, watch the ball and take some pressure off Marlon. It would have been too hard to give him a single and expect him to do it all. I just had to bite the bullet and try to get a couple of boundaries, which fortunately I did, give God thanks for bringing it home for the people in West Indies.
After the third six I just backed myself, go hard, if it goes in the air I knew Marlon would finish it but I knew I had to be there as close to the end as possible. We continued to back ourselves, back our strength and our strength is hitting boundaries. Once we knew it was manageable we knew we could do it.
I just want say a special mention to everyone in Sargeant’s Village, my family, my friends and especially to Mr Errol Edey, the master bat-maker from the Caribbean.He made this special beauty for me to use in the World Cup and he told me, ‘Carlos, go out there and smash ’em’. Erroll, I did, and now we are world champions.”
What he really meant:
“I’m rendered speechless by the sense of occasion. Would expletives do instead?”
What he definitely didn’t:
“Hey, Virat, can you teach me a few of those choicest Punjabi and Hindi abuses, my maan?”
Harsha Bhogle is being missed.
That’s what tweeting followers and the man himself would have us believe.
It’s true, I guess.
While Bhogle is always entertaining, always suave, always smooth and always different from former players turned microphone wielders, the IPL is not where he has the best impact.
It’s bizarre but while he’s missed, he’s not. There are just too many things to distract television viewers.
The BCCI, in all its wisdom, dropped Bhogle and the other wise man of Indian cricket, Sunny Gavaskar from its list of approved commentators.
While there’s been an uproar about Bhogle’s sacking , there’s been nothing said about Gavaskar’s exit. Probably because the great man was earning more—much more—than any of the other commentators and it could be explained away as a cost-cutting measure.
Bhogle’s absence, however, has the conspiracy theorists out in full force.
Bhogle got on the wrong side of Amitabh Bachchan whose tweet questioning the nationalistic credentials of Indian commentators was enthusiastically endorsed by Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
And Bhogle’s comments during India games have ired the Indian dressing room.
It’s strange, really.
These speculations would have been more believable had N Srinivasan still been heading the BCCI. Dhoni was purportedly his blue-eyed boy.
But those days are past or aren’t they?
And why is it that the BCCI still decides who should commentate on India games?
Can their ‘employees’ really provide unbiased views about their paymasters? That’s hardly credible much as Ravi Shastri and his ilk might protest otherwise.
It would be best if broadcasters were to select and pay cricket experts themselves.
Why have cricket boards have any say in the matter?
Viewers, too, shouldn’t have to second-guess the experts.
The water shortage in the state of Maharashtra will not affect the IPL or that’s what the High Court states. But the drought hit citizens of Latur will be wondering how water could be utilized for grounds and pitches but they have to rely on out-of-state water trains that arrive late.
The IPL is a socio-economic activity and provides employment to people. Hence, it should not be stopped.
The BCCI must exercise corporate social responsibility and monies from ticket sales must be made available to suffering victims. Simultaneously it must try and make its stadia more ‘green‘ utilizing sustainable practices such as water harvesting and treating. It would go a long way towards making cricket fans and players feel more responsive to social needs.
The Mumbai High Court delivered an historic verdict that all May IPL games in Maharashtra are to be shifted out-of-state.
The BCCI seem completely blind-sided by the decision of the judges.
Such a scenario was probably never envisaged by the cricketing body.
Arguments that non-potable water would be used to hose pitches and contributions by state franchises and the BCCI to the Chief Minister’s relief fund should be adequate recompense and response to Latur farmers’ grief and pain melted no ice.
While it’s no one’s case that the judgement will actually resolve the acute water shortage problem in the state, the public interest litigation drew national and international attention to the plight of ignored peasants in the country’s most developed state.
The real heroes of this story are not the BCCI, the players, the franchises but the litigator—Loksatta Movement—and the judiciary.
The dying farmers of Latur needed to be heard and the Loksatta Movement became their voice.
Others such as Sunil Gavaskar and Rahul Dravid may disagree calling the IPL a “soft target” against which the ire of aggrieved or suffering parties is directed.
Public opinion that the government and the BCCI whose executive committee consists of leading politicians such as Sharad Pawar and Anuraag Thakur cutting across party lines care very little for societal problems was at the crux of the suit brought to the notice of the bench.
Ironically, the esteemed judges were more aware than the BCCI—who runs the IPL like a corporate entity—that molding perception plays a huge role in handling a ‘crisis‘.
While not quite a crisis for the BCCI, the IPL management team can draw a leaf from crisis management texts to avoid such onerous situations in the future. Scanning the horizon for perceived threats must also be an integral part of scenario analysis and forward planning.
What he said:
“Maybe I have a real face and he doesn’t.”
Marlon Samuels was not a gracious winner despite his match-winning knock in the World T20 final at Kolkata against England.
The volatile West Indian was quick to let loose a volley at his long-time bete-noire Shane Warne dedicating his man-of-the-match award to the Australian spin king turned commentator.
The duo have a history of clashes dating back to the second edition of the Big Bash league.
“I woke up this morning with one thing on my mind. Shane Warne has been talking continuously and all I want to say is ‘this is for Shane Warne’. I answer with the bat, not the mic. I played a Test series in Australia (in January 2016) and Shane Warne has a problem with me. Don’t know why. I’ve never disrespected him. It seems that he has a lot inside him that needs to come out. I don’t appreciate the way he continues to talk about me and the things that he keeps doing.”
The facial jibe was a reference to Warne having admitted to using Botox in the past.
What he really meant:
“It’s my turn to face the mike. Warney, can you stand the music?”
What he definitely didn’t:
“I’d really like a bearded and moustachioed Warne, wouldn’t you?”
England take on the West Indies tonight in Kolkata in the sixth edition of the T20 World Cup.
Neither team is a stranger to the pressures of a final; both have emerged victors in the shortest format of the game.
Joe Root and Chris Gayle will be the cynosure of all eyes.
They are key players for their respective sides.
But finals have an uncanny knack of producing unlikely heroes.
The biggest stars have to perform to the greatest expectations.
Can they? Will they?
Some simply choke under the weight of expectations. Remember Ronaldo in the World Cup final in France in 1998 and his mysterious illness? It could well have been him and not Zinedine Zidane holding up the trophy. (Ronaldo did make amends in 2002. And it was Zidane who got the boot for his infamously provoked headbutt in 2006.Still not a Suarez.)
That’s not the point of this exercise.
It’s simply that cricket is a team sport and that it takes eleven players to get the side across the line.
The better side is simply the one that can keep it together more consistently and more often than other sides.
Those are the teams that make it through a tournament and emerge victorious.
Will it be Eoin Morgan’s England? Or will it be lovable Darren Sammy’s musketeers?
I really don’t know and I really don’t care.
For once, in this tournament I can be neutral and simply say, “Let the fireworks begin.”
The Indian media appears miffed with MS Dhoni’s antics with an Australian journalist who had the ‘insolence’ to ask him the dreaded ‘R’ question.
From the video, it’s obvious the talismanic skipper took the loss to Windies to heart and felt that joking around would take out some of the sting.
The ploy backfired and how.
Suveen Sinha for Hindustan Times wrote:
“When did retirement become about fitness, or even ability? Many cricket players left the game with a triumphant show in their last game. The most recent example is New Zealand’s Brendon McCullum. But for the most telling instance, look no further than Sunil Gavaskar.
Gavaskar’s last Test innings, in which he scored 96 in a losing cause against Pakistan on a snake pit of a pitch, was a true masterclass — a great affair with batting perfection, unlike the brief T20 flings that get talked up these days.
Till the end Gavaskar embodied unthinkable ability, temperament, concentration, technique, and understanding of the pitch, bowling, and match situation. Hell, he even mastered the one-day game at the end of his career, a format he abhorred in the beginning. Yet he kept his date with retirement.”
Vedam Jaishankar for FirstPost responded thus:
“Dhoni mistakenly believed that journalists had to react like fans to every situation. He probably did not realise that fans are expected to be fanatical and most forgiving of the follies of their heroes. Their love and hero-worship could withstand the most horrendous of mistakes or transgressions. Unfortunately that is not how a professional journalist works. He is expected to be a lot more detached, objective and even critical where required. Now that’s the grey area ‘heroes’ don’t understand.”
Samuel Ferris, the offending reporter, was much more circumspect in his description of the incident.
“For the record, I never asked if he was going to retire, just how keen he was to play on. I’m not trying to retire one of the greats.
I even prefaced it with ‘You’ve achieved pretty much everything in cricket’ to soften the blow and try to make me not look like some blood-thirsty mosquito looking for a headline (which I most definitely was).
Then he smiles and asks if I can repeat it. Great, I mumbled. I pony up again and ask, and instead of an answer I get an invitation.
An invitation to come join him on stage. At first I politely decline, but he insists.
Who am I to turn down India’s greatest-ever captain?
I’m welcomed with a warm embrace, a sympathetic arm around my shoulder and a crisp white smile, the same smile I’ve seen on a dozen commercials featuring Dhoni on Indian television selling a vast range of products.”
We all know what happened next.
All said, the question won’t go away until Team India starts winning again or Dhoni actually quits.