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Stumped stars

The IPL has created flawed superstars. But the BCCI is too busy making money to notice the decline, says Gulu Ezekiel.

india Updated: Oct 08, 2009 01:47 IST

Does the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) care for Indian cricket? More pertinently, should it care for Indian cricket?

Not according to its senior counsel and advocate KK Venugopal, who, five years ago in the Supreme Court, made a statement that shocked cricketers and cricket fans throughout the country when he said, “If India plays England, it is a match played by the official team of BCCI and not the official team of India…We do not even fly the national flag nor do we use any national emblem in the activities of the Board." Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and the rest play for the official team of the BCCI, Venugopal went on to add, and not the official team of India.

A group of former ‘India’ players expressed their sense of outrage and hurt in a joint letter to the BCCI president. They claimed they had always felt honoured to represent the country and were now distressed by the Board’s stand. One is not aware if the Board bothered to respond to them.

The International Cricket Council (ICC) has recently introduced the playing of the national anthem before each match in their tournaments including the Champions Trophy in South Africa. The sight and sound of foreigners beautifully rendering ‘Jana Gana Mana’ with the ‘Indian’ team proudly standing to attention was one of the few highlights of another disappointing tournament for our cricket fans.

Perhaps it is time for the BCCI to inform the ICC that India’s national anthem should not be played before their matches and the BCCI could pay a handsome fee to AR Rahman for the use of ‘Jai Ho’ instead of ‘Jana Gana Mana’. Or else the Indian government may be forced to intercede on this matter considering the BCCI’s stated legal stand.

The inaugural Champions League, to be played between the top 12 Twenty20 teams from around the world (excluding Pakistan, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe) is the latest bogus tournament that the BCCI has cooked up to fill its coffers.

Last month it introduced the Corporate Cup — more or less a 50-over version of the Indian Premier League (IPL) — which had little or no impact on the public and the media.

The BCCI/Indian team’s performance in ICC tournaments after 2003 — excluding the inaugural World T20 in South Africa in 2007 that it won — has been abysmal. But is the BCCI really bothered as long as it rakes in the billions, and officials, agents, sponsors and select players line their pockets?

IPL tsar Lalit Modi had recently said on a TV channel that the League had produced “the greatest cricket display in the history of the game”. Yet both team coach Gary Kirsten and captain M.S. Dhoni have stated that the IPL is nothing but a low-grade domestic tournament and should not be the basis of selection for international cricket.

Here is a question for the BCCI and cricket fans: can you name one Indian cricketer in the last two seasons who has excelled in the IPL and then gone on to make a mark in international cricket? The answer is plain and simple: not a single one. But the coach and captain whose opinion should count — and not Modi’s — have promptly been gagged by the Board. The truth, after all, hurts.

What the IPL has succeeded in doing is create a new generation of half-baked players with faulty techniques who strut around like superstars based on their dubious performances in the IPL.

This year in South Africa, Manish Pandey became the first Indian player to score a century in the IPL. He is nowhere in the ‘national’ reckoning. But in a recent interview he glibly explained how he has attained celebrity status due to that century -- and proudly stated how he now wears tight shirts with buttons open, low-waist jeans, and spikes his hair.

Last year after the first IPL season, Dhoni skipped the Test series in Sri Lanka that immediately followed, citing fatigue. Would the BCCI or any of the IPL franchises allow such leeway to one of its star players if he wished to skip an IPL or Champions League tournament on the same grounds? For that matter, would any player dare risk such a move, considering the huge loss of earnings that would entail?

Yet the ‘Indian’ team now has to grapple with its top players missing out on international cricket due to injuries picked up in the IPL. And the Board, the IPL management — and its band of embedded journalists — desperately initiate ‘Operation Cover-up’ whenever this occurs.

The Champions League begins today, two days after the Champions Trophy ended. Next year’s World Twenty20 begins five days after the end of IPL Season III. This despite Kirsten’s plea to give more time for rest and recuperation. The BCCI has not slotted a single Twenty20 international for ‘their’ team between the last World Twenty20 held in June and the next in April-May 2010. They believe IPL III is preparation enough.

The captain and coach disagree. But then, who cares for ‘Indian’ cricket? Certainly not the BCCI.

The views expressed by the author are personal.