Sanjiv Goenka vs KL Rahul: LSG owner crosses the line of professionalism against one of Indian cricket's very best | Crickit

Sanjiv Goenka vs KL Rahul: LSG owner crosses the line of professionalism against one of Indian cricket's very best

May 09, 2024 02:25 PM IST

Whether Goenka has played sport at a reasonable representative level isn’t public knowledge. Perhaps he hasn’t because otherwise, he would have embraced empathy

The Indian Premier League has come a long way since 2008, when cricket was almost a sideshow. Franchise owners flush with having ‘bought’ some of the hottest properties in world cricket strutted around with scarcely concealed conceit, after-parties were the rage and players were treated like commodities simply because they had gone under the hammer.

Sanjiv Goenka during LSG's IPL 2024 match(PTI)
Sanjiv Goenka during LSG's IPL 2024 match(PTI)

Over time, the realisation dawned that the IPL’s success would hinge entirely on the quality of cricket. Consequently, several of the frills made a rapid and welcome exit. In the post-Lalit Modi era, cricket became the IPL’s USP – as it should always have been – and today, new meaning has been lent to the word ‘professionalism’.

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Yet, even in change, some things remain the same. Case in point – team owner Sanjiv Goenka’s public rant against KL Rahul, the captain of Lucknow Super Giants, in the wake of the ten-wicket hammering by a marauding Sunrisers Hyderabad.

One is not privy to what words, or language, Goenka used during his on-field ‘interaction’ with Rahul, who will complete ten years in international cricket in December and who has led the country in all three formats. The optics pointed to a spewing of venom by the franchise owner, clearly outraged at the ease with which Travis Head and Abhishek Sharma chased down a competitive total of 165 for four. To go down by ten wickets with an extraordinary 62 deliveries remaining must have been particularly humbling for Rahul and his lads. At a time when he should have offered a consolatory pat or at the very least held his horses, Goenka’s castigation – that’s what the gestures and the body language suggested – was both unedifying and ill-advised. Clearly, he wasn’t discussing dinner plans with the captain or with Justin Langer, the head coach?

Sport has assumed shades of a business, but it is far from business. One can assemble a cricket team consisting of the best players in the world, but that is no guarantee for success. If outcomes of games were to be decided solely on the basis of cheques doled out, it’s always the richest that will come out trumps. That reality is so far removed from this assumption was obvious in the first edition of the IPL when Rajasthan Royals, the least glamorous and most tight-stringed of the eight original sides, rode on the magic of Shane Warne to pocket the crown against all expectations.

Whether Goenka has played sport, any sport, at a reasonable representative level isn’t public knowledge. Perhaps he hasn’t, because otherwise, he would have embraced empathy and compassion in the immediacy of a horrendous shellacking that had left Rahul and his teammates gob-smacked. Washing dirty linen in public is hardly an endearing trait; to do so in the most public of spaces, with the omnipresent television camera trained unerringly and thousands of pairs of eyes in the stadium keenly following every gesture, smacks of apathy, if not arrogance.

To Rahul’s great credit, despite the provocation from the most unexpected quarter – ‘Hey, aren’t you supposed to me in my corner?’, he must have been thinking – he maintained his composure, stoically facing up to whatever was thrown at him. Rahul has tackled the best bowlers in the world and lorded over them on more than one occasion. He has negotiated wicked bouncers and pinpoint-accurate yorkers with aplomb, but this was a beamer; there was hardly anything friendly about the fire aimed in his direction but the skipper stayed calm, showcasing a maturity that should have shamed the older man frothing next to him.

It is possible that, in due course, snatches of what was said might make their way into public domain. It’s also possible that the spin doctors will spring into action and proclaim that there was no censure, that the noise at the stadium and the passion of the owner contributed to the ‘damaging’ optics. Not many will buy that, of course. Where does all this leave the franchise, which is still in with a chance of making it to the playoffs? What will the morale be like? And what of Rahul himself, a sensitive individual who has copped his fair share of criticism over the last several years but has always, always conducted himself with dignity?

If Goenka would have us believe that he is more disappointed than the 11 men on the park and the several others in the dugout whose professional pride must have been massively dented after the Head-Abhishek onslaught, maybe he should think again. And realise that a public takedown of anyone, let alone a senior and respected India international, is puerile, churlish, immature. A definite no-no.

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