When I was in Khalsa College, Amritsar, we had a professor who would often drill it into our system, "Financially speaking look at the person behind you and spiritually speaking, look at the person ahead of you". This has been the guiding light throughout my career. Some in my family have told me blatantly that I'm not ambitious enough --- I've taken that remark as a compliment.
I have never felt the need to look over my shoulder, nor anybody else's, for that matter. Not for me this 'rat race', because even if you win, you are still a rat! God Almighty, am I happy to be a human? You bet...
As I approach the twilight of my existence, it gives me great pleasure to pronounce that nothing, absolutely nothing, disturbs my sleep. It helps to be content with what you are and what you have.
So, the recent gesture by the BCCI working committee came as a pleasant surprise ---- nothing more, nothing less! At the same time I felt grateful, on behalf of all my former colleagues, to the BCCI for taking such a thoughtful decision. Many feel this could have come a lot earlier as the BCCI has been in good financial health for quite some time now. In fact, the BCCI was showing profits much before the dubious IPL came into being! Others maybe, but I'm not complaining.
Actually, the BCCI's incentive to affiliated associations every year runs into crores. Sadly, there is no method to check where all the financial help to state associations is going. This is where the administrative accountability of the BCCI comes under scrutiny. Not for nothing is the sports ministry asking the BCCI to fall in line as other sports federations.
RTI is a big issue and a massive test for the BCCI, which is, by many a mile, the best-run sports body in the country. So, why on earth this apprehension on the part of the BCCI to duck any query from the ministry? Yes, the IPL may have, unwittingly, landed the BCCI in a soup. Be that as it may, the BCCI has to come clean for the sake of being the most prosperous of all sports bodies.
Now, if I say I was not very keen to go to Madras (yes it is so much better than Chennai) to collect my cheque, it is simply because the occasion was during the event called the IPL final. Something inside me was revolting. But my kids convinced me it was my right to be there. They reckoned it might be misconstrued as conceit. My reservations also had a lot to do with the treatment meted out to Gursharan Singh, Surinder Khanna and Kirti Azad.
They were made scapegoats for holding a protest against the high-handedness of some of the local DDCA officials and also their 'dharna' was thought to be an affront to the BCCI and the IPL. Personally, I'm not very 'dharna-inclined'.
But I had promised Kirti I would be beside him. It so happened that a pressing family engagement prevented me from joining Kirti and others. And then I discovered, the DDCA president was instrumental in having the air-tickets of the protestors cancelled --- they were supposed to collect their rightful benefit cheques in Banglore and Pune.
It was awfully petty, I thought, of a senior BCCI official to have stooped so low. Obviously, the attempt was to shake up the Cricket Improvement Committee unity. Well, the initial attempt was to create panic, which might have worked briefly. But I'd like to assure Kirti via this column that no one can gag our independent voices. We are born free and, to give expression to our thoughts, is our fundamental right.
Much as I admire the BCCI's profound decision to help former Test and first-class cricketers, I'd like to add that this is not the moment to settle old scores. The BCCI has to be seen to be magnanimous to all former cricketers. Unconditionally, if I may add. Kapil Dev (he seems to be putting up a brave front!), Kiran More, Dilip Vengsarkar, G Vishwanath, Syed Kirmani, Jimmy Amarnath and, of course, Delhi's own Kirti Azad deserve all honours as the rest of us. I'm confident, and hopeful, that the BCCI will rise to the occasion.
The BCCI's move to honour the widows of former Test stars will be written in golden letters when this chapter of Indian cricket is recorded. Mrs Neena Sardesai and Mrs Nirupma Mankad did a great job presenting their case. I'd like to doff my hat to both of them. We cricketers can learn a lot from these ladies regarding staying united!
Finally, I may be allowed to express my annoyance with the BCCI working committee. Because of their rigid stance on the so-called slabs, my erstwhile colleague Erapalli Prasanna fell short by one Test and lost out on a neat Rs. 15 lakh. This is where the BCCI could have been a little more logical --- after all, we were known as the 'spin quartet', weren't we?
Not long ago, we were all given the Col CK Nayudu award at the same time --- collectively, not separately. Also, if we care to look at their respective bowling figures in Tests --- Pras has 189 wickets in 49 Tests, while Venkat has 156 in 57 Tests --- we'll have a fairly good idea of their awesome contribution to Indian cricket.
So, this was one case, which did not require the 'slabbing' formula. It was a simple case of commonsense prevailing over everything else.
The BCCI still has time to rectify it and, one hopes, nobody in the working committee will sit on a pedestal.