Politicians hijack Twenty20 Cup
What is the first thing an Indian international cricketer would like to do after an exhausting but successful 79-day tour of Ireland and England, followed by a triumphant two-week World Twenty20 Cup tournament? He would like to head straight back home to his family.
But what if he arrives on a Wednesday morning and there is a gruelling 7-match one-day series in different corners of India and that too against the 50-over ODI world champs Australia, with the first tie being scheduled at Bangalore on Saturday? He might reluctantly proceed to India’s Garden City so as to recover from the jet lag and get ready for battle.
The last thing he might want to to do on arrival at the international airport is to go on a five-hour motorcade through different parts of Mumbai and to wade his way through crowds to receive a bonus cheque, especially if he knows that there is no time to spend with his family.
He could even wonder whether the tamasha being ostensibly organised on his behalf is actually meant to promote the image of various politicians, including the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) president who is also the head of the National Congress Party which is part of a coalition government in Maharashtra and India.
He might wonder why the route to the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai is plastered with posters of Mahendra Singh Dhoni holding up the World T20 Cup and standing next to the beaming Union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar. Plenty of food for thought in that!
Your worn-out cricketer could even react to the report that the Indian National Congress president has invited the team by wondering whether this means that he has to sacrifice on time with his family and cut down on match-practice by sneaking in a visit to Delhi so that he can be photographed with Sonia Gandhi.
He might remember or be told by former Indian cricketers that when Kapil Dev’s team won the 50-over World Cup in 1983 in England, they were invited for tea by the Prime Minister of the country and that the original Mrs Gandhi even coined a slogan that “India can do it”. That there were no elections due at that time made it all seem more a matter of patriotism than politics!
Your tired-out cricketer could, if he has the time and the inclination, even wonder at the difference a few months can make. He would remember that just six months ago, after being knocked out of the first round of the 50-over World Cup in the West Indies, he and his team-mates had to sneak into the country to escape from angry fans who were fed on a daily diet of media stories, pun intended that the shabby performance was due to infighting and an obsession with endorsements, all at the cost of the overall objective of winning for India!
Your worn-out cricketer could even wonder whether the largesse being showered on him by the CM of the state where he lives is motivated by an actual love of the game or by the political perception that now is the time to cash in on the public mood by wearing a sporting heart on the sleeve!