Indian cricket has many facets and this week a few of them revealed themselves, in all their beauty and ugliness. In a faraway land, where the Indian team will show the world whether or not they still belong to top echelons, Rahul Dravid spoke like no Indian cricketer ever has.
Asked to deliver the Bradman Oration lecture, he underlined what is so inspiring about cricket in India. It is just not about greed, money, television rights and a few pampered stars, but a symbol of cultural and social diversity that unifies on the cricket field as one entity. It is a melting pot, where dreams are seen and fulfilled.
Like a true lover of the sport, Dravid spoke with passion and feeling but did not mince words when it came to senseless commercialisation at the expense of its core - many would say, its soul - Test cricket. He appealed to the custodians of the game, and that would mean India more than any other country, to be sensitive to the needs of the fans and create a healthy balance so that the excesses done in the name of free market did not destroy the very edifice of the game.
He even went to the extent of telling his own colleagues to submit themselves to all sorts of troublesome scrutiny so that the suspicion of corruption hanging over the game is removed.
Nearer home, not a single word that Dravid was saying reflected in the aftermath of another Board meeting that showed the greedy and non-transparent way in which the game is run in the country.
First, a television deal was cancelled as the broadcaster was not paying the board on time, proving that cricket has perhaps been oversold in India. Then, Anil Kumble quit as the head of the National Cricket Academy because the board disagreed with his vision for the academy, which included an injury management system to be monitored by Infosys at a huge cost. Given his credentials, there should have been an outcry at Kumble being denied what he believed was right thing to do. But so mired are administrators in conflicts of interest, and that includes a few of our great players, even Kumble, that no one was sure how to react.
Finally, Sunil Gavaskar's spat with the Board over what he says is the non-payment of Rs. five crore promised to him to promote the IPL (he was getting more than a crore a year for being in the IPL governing council) showed how trade-offs are done by the administrators. To be fair to Gavaskar, he kept every word of his deal, as Lalit Modi has endorsed from London, by promoting the IPL with vigour and passion through his columns and on television channels. It is understandable why he must feel cheated.
Dravid's view of Indian cricket may be nuanced and profound, pragmatic at one level and idealistic at another; to be applauded and appreciated. But, clearly, it does not match with what is really happening at home.