Carrying the tag of a ‘hegemon’, as the United States of America knows all too well, can be a burden. But in the world of international cricket, the Board for Control of Cricket in India (BCCI) knows that with great power comes great responsibilities — not to mention, great powers of leverage and unblinkered aspirations. The truce called between the Indian side and its Australian counterpart on Monday would have made the lower lips of old India-Pakistan Track II diplomats quiver with emotion. As Anil Kumble and Ricky Ponting patched up with smiles that broke through the Perth sunshine, the cynics couldn’t help but think that there could be more to India dropping charges against Australian Brad Hogg as a “goodwill gesture” than met the sound bites. Apart from the high moral position that India now straddles, with the aspirations of some members of the Indian cricket establishment not confined to the BCCI well known, making a generous gesture that smacks of ‘internationalist’ fair play looks good for a future International Cricket Council takeover.
The flag-waving patriotism that came with Harbhajan Singh’s ‘ban’ — the ‘judgment’ has subsequently been deferred — refused to even consider the possibility of an Indian player being in the wrong. Such certitude, packaged as ‘standing up’ to the traditional race-tinged bias of White countries, doesn’t come without hegemonic credentials. And let no one be in doubt as to which nation is the top dog in the cricket business worldwide. While India’s uber-patriotic were keen that Kumble’s team return home after the genuine fracas of Sydney, there were wobbly noises heard in corporate houses in India that had put considerable money in advertising and endorsements as part of the series.
All this may be conspiracy theory and the cricket-lover in us certainly hopes it is. But there is nothing that says that taking a high moral position, as India has taken vis-a-vis ‘forgiving’ Hogg, and letting the games continue, without waging a war with the ICC for very pragmatic, aspirational as well as lucrative reasons, can’t both be helpful for the BCCI. After all, doling out the right mix of carrot and stick, humility and arrogance, rhetoric and realpolitik, makes for the model hegemon.