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Getting off very lightly

columns Updated: Aug 10, 2013 23:42 IST
Karan Thapar

I am not a fan of cricket and, to be honest, I don’t watch the game either. It bores me. In fact, when I have to do programmes on either the performance of the team or the politics of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) I rely heavily on the brief I’m given by my producers and researchers. On such issues I’m literally their spokesman!

However, one fact I have to accept is that cricket has special status in India. Whether you equate it with religion might be debatable but for hundreds of millions cricket is more than a game or entertainment, it’s a national obsession. Outside India, it’s almost the first thing people mention when they speak of India. So, regardless of my dislike of the game, cricket seems inseparable from my country.

Of late, however, cricket has become a national embarrassment. First came the unforgiveable shenanigans of the Indian Premier League and the BCCI. I don’t want to repeat what they have done but we can all recall the humiliation they cast upon us. Bookies, players, principals and owners, not to mention minor celebrities, are under investigation for some form or other of corruption or impropriety. What’s worse is it seems all of them, except Asad Rauf, are Indian.

Now, on top of all of that, comes the treatment of Parvez Rasool. This young Kashmiri was selected as part of the team to play 5 one day internationals in Zimbabwe. Even if it was entirely because of his talent, the selectors, the manager and the captain must have been aware of the impact this had on Kashmir. Equally certainly, they would have known of the emotional influence it would have on Kashmir’s relationship with the rest of India. As Sherlock Holmes would have put it, all of this is elementary.

Yet in the end Rasool was not given a chance to play. Not even after India was leading 4-0. He was the only player taken to Zimbabwe who never got a chance to bat or bowl.

Frankly, that’s not just inexplicable, even incomprehensible, but actually unforgiveable. Let me explain why.

In recent times we’ve become used to thinking of cricket as an instrument of diplomacy or a bridge between India and Pakistan. The BCCI knows that, so too the selectors, the manager, the captain and the players. So, in this instance, did they not realise that cricket would also act as a bridge between Kashmir and the rest of the country? Did they not know that to take Rasool to Zimbabwe but not play him even once would be humiliation not just for him but for the whole state?

What would it have cost the management and the captain to act more thoughtfully and sensitively rather than care solely and singularly about a 5-0 sweep? This was a chance to unite Kashmiri sentiment with mainstream India. Instead, we’ve added to the separation. This was a chance to field with pride India’s first national cricketer from Kashmir. And guess what? We blew it!

From a national perspective playing Rasool, even if the final outcome ended up 4-1, was far more important than returning from Zimbabwe with a 5-0 score.

Let me add I’ve read Virat Kohli’s explanation and, frankly, I’m not impressed. He claims he didn’t want to take “any game lightly”. But he ended up taking India and its far bigger concerns very lightly.

This was irresponsible behaviour. Frankly, the rest of us shouldn’t take it lightly.
Views expressed by the author are personal