BCCI asked Srikkanth to dump seniors
Former cricket captain Kris Srikkanth reveals the Board offered him a divide-and-rule deal 18 years ago.Updated: Apr 10, 2007, 02:33 IST
I have kept quiet for 18 years but given the tumultuous events of the past few days, it is time I broke my silence. Because, like all of you — the fans who support the game, the media who act as watchdogs, the players anxiously wondering what lies ahead and the Indian cricket board — I care deeply about Indian cricket.
Indian cricket is in an eerily similar position to what it was on the eve of the Pakistan tour in 1989. For long, the issue of graded payments had been uneasily hanging in the air. Senior cricketers were insisting that this be implemented. In fact, just like now, the senior players and the BCCI appeared ranged on separate sides of a monetary divide. One that involved a lot of ego clashes and was threatening to affect the morale of the team.
Most senior cricketers had threatened not go to Pakistan unless the board accepted their terms and conditions. Interestingly, I would not have been particularly affected by the graded system as despite being captain, I was neither very senior nor very junior, and would not have benefited too much or lost too much.
And then, Raj Singh Dungarpur, the then powerful chairman of selectors, who was staying in the same hotel (Taj Palace in Delhi), called me to his room. He told me in no uncertain terms that if I abandoned my senior colleagues, he would give me a brand-new team, a second XI of sorts made up totally of youngsters, for the Pakistan tour. He said I would have the BCCI’s complete backing.
I refused. I was the representative of my players. At that moment, I wanted to do my best by them. I could not betray the people who I might have had differences with from time to time, but who were also the people I considered my mates.
Incidentally, the junior most cricketer at that time was Sachin Tendulkar. I remember telling him and another junior, Vivek Razdan, to relax. I told them not to worry, that they would not be involved in whatever happened, their careers would not be jeopardised.
Since I refused, Dungarpur was extremely upset but eventually the regular players went to Pakistan under protest, after announcing we would forfeit the tour fees. There, while I did not make many runs myself, we did very well as a team, not losing a series in Pakistan for the first time ever — a great achievement for India.
On my return, even as I was preparing to go to New Zealand in a week's time, came the news of my being dropped, not just from the captaincy but also the team. I realised that Raj Singh was very unhappy with me. That was literally the beginning of the end of my career.
I accept there were huge expectations from this World Cup thanks to the media (of which I am now a part), and fans do feel let down. Unfortunately, reality and expectations do not match in this case.
Still, I always believed that Indian cricket is what it is because of the public. We -- cricketers past, present and future -- are what we are only because of you, the public. But at the same time, I don't want any cricketer to suffer my fate.
This is now a time for all of us to get together, accept ground realities, make necessary cricketing solutions instead of pointing fingers at each other.
Quotes and suggestions get misunderstood and misquoted, adding to the confusion. And because of the competition in the media, things get blown out of proportion and the truth sometimes disappears. I am no saint and have been part of the muddle.
Just one thing here: players have a small shelf life. They sacrifice a lot to play cricket and need to earn as much as they can in that period of playing for life after the game.
But it's time we bury our differences, if any, sit across the table and reach a solution that can be win-win for everyone -- the players, the BCCI and the fans.
Indian cricket is bigger than anything else and we are what we are because of this game.