Be visionaries, not sponsors’ puppets
When Ravi Shastri sanctified Lalit Modi by calling him the Moses of cricket, did he really mean what he was saying? Or was it the dazzle of glamour, money and the frenetic pace at which the IPL was conceived and executed that blew him over?
The usually understated Sunil Gavaskar, the perfect symbol of Test cricket's virtues, too shed his inhibitions and found the slugfest so thrilling that he did not mind becoming part of a shrill advertising campaign for various sponsors in the guise of a TV commentator. By his own admission, amnesia induced by the stunning success of the event struck Tiger Pataudi so swiftly that he lost his powers of judgment and let the czar of IPL do what he pleased.
None of us trusts the BCCI officials but we all expect three of our finest cricketers to protect the interests of the sport they have so well nourished by their heroic deeds on the playing field. When they speak, the public not only listens, it believes them. And when they betray that trust by becoming mouthpieces of what now is turning out to be a gigantic fraud, it hurts.
I can understand they are no financial wizards and would have not known if fraud was being committed in various deals. But by endorsing auctioning of cricket — be it strategic breaks or the IPL Night parties which, combined with the gruelling schedule of the event, may have left our team completely exhausted for the World Cup — they have let us down.
It is being said that the remuneration for being part of the Governing Council was so lucrative that anyone would have traded his conscience for promoting the product even at the cost of cricket and the players. So, why blame them more just because they happen to be players of repute? In a system which rewards sycophancy so that powerbrokers have a free run, it would be hard to stand up for what you believe in. It is easier to compromise and zoom ahead in life.
Since the Board did not punish anyone (apart from Modi) in the Governing Council, making a mockery of the collective responsibility principle, the three still survive.
Now this same triumvirate has been given the responsibility of dealing with the franchises for the conduct of IPL 4.
Do we still expect them to first think of cricketers and cricket and not of profit generation for the board? Unlikely so, but one would hope that they would be sufficiently embarrassed by what has happened so far and would want to atone for their lapses.
Let us not fool ourselves by believing that the only problem IPL has had is financial corruption. It is a brand which is here to stay and is still threatening the two other formats of cricket, especially Tests. The corporate takeover of cricket as a property may have got delayed by this scandal but the threat still remains.
It is here that messrs Gavaskar/Shastri/Pataudi can act as visionaries in trying to find a middle ground which would safeguard the interests of the sport, its various stakeholders and even the new fan base created by this glitzy new event.
After all that’s happened, it may be naive to expect the three to become the voice of the silent majority, but what else can one do apart from living in hope?