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Cricket Australia-like shake-up in BCCI well nigh impossible

In Australia players are conditioned to play in a certain way, taught and trained to ‘win at all costs’. This education is handed down by seniors to juniors and reinforced by coaches, parents and administrators.

cricket Updated: Nov 07, 2018 17:24 IST
Cricket Australia,BCCI,IPL
India head coach Ravi Shastri and Virat Kohli during nets.(Action Images via Reuters)

Does India have a ‘cricket culture’ ?

Heads rolled in Cricket Australia after a cultural review but chances of a similar upheaval in India are slim. Indian cricket is resilient and as the mighty Supreme Court discovered, the BCCI is not easy to shake or stir. And, more importantly, India does not have a cricket “culture” to speak of.

It’s true cricket generates cash, BCCI is astonishingly rich, IPL is huge and top players are national celebrities. It is also true that cricket’s popular support makes many feel it is a ‘religion’ that binds India and reinforces its secular character. None of this adds up to a ‘cricket culture’ that describes Indian cricket or captures its essence.

Is cricket important in India?

Yes, but the notion of cricket as a ‘religion’ is a charming but misleading myth. There is little to suggest that fans hold Indian cricket sacred or respect its values of fairplay, respect and integrity. Nor is anyone really outraged if cricket is assaulted by corruption, crises and scams.

READ: Steve Smith, David Warner bans could be lifted, says Cricket Australia CEO

India loves cricketers more than cricket, it is bhakti where individuals are placed higher than the game. In the pantheon of cricket, all-time greats have permanent membership and others temporary access cards based on current form. Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar is the ‘God’ and Gavaskar/Kapil Dev/ Ganguly/Dravid/Dhoni have prominent positions as does Virat Kohli today.

In Australia players are conditioned to play in a certain way, taught and trained to ‘win at all costs’. This education is handed down by seniors to juniors and reinforced by coaches, parents and administrators.

This always front-foot attitude, and its accompanying values form the core of Australia’s ‘cricket culture’. With social approval and the backing of the cricket establishment anything else was unacceptable. But now, post the review, there is need to hit the pause button and rethink.

THE CAPTAIN’S WAY

Cricket’s position in India is entirely different. There is no ‘Indian way’ of cricket, no baggage of history, no expectation or pressure to conform to any accepted behaviour. Traditionally, Indian cricket was known for its famous spinners, a spin-to-win strategy and weakness against pace. But that has changed; spin is not our only weapon now and no batsmen retreats to square leg.

Unlike the rigid, handed-down cricketing style of Australia (and its more polite version in South Africa), Indian cricket changes according to the captain who decides policy and strategy, and the team aligns itself to his vision. Successive captains starting with Tiger Pataudi imposed their personality on Indian cricket and the aggressive intent of Kohli’s team is one more example of this long-standing tradition.

READ: ‘See ball, hit ball’, New Zealand duo belt 43 runs off single over - Watch

Strangely, the BCCI remains uninvolved in projecting an image of Indian cricket, setting goals, charting a road map or expressing an opinion on its cricket culture. Such matters don’t figure on the agenda of board meetings.

All countries play cricket in their special way and this ‘cultural’ variety is what makes cricket special. Fans love the Windies’ flair, Pakistan’s annoying but bewitching inconsistency and England’s proper, maybe boring, cricketing style.

Yet, while celebrating diversity, there are important lessons for India from Australia’s cultural review.

Cricket Australia was criticised for its ‘arrogant’ attitude, held responsible for putting players in a ‘gilded bubble’ and treating them as ‘commercial commodities’. Sponsors complained that their relationship was only ‘transactional’. Come to think of it, this sounds so much like BCCI!

(The author is a veteran sports administrator. Views are personal)

First Published: Nov 07, 2018 17:22 IST