Cricket, a welcome distraction for players
In the current climate --- and we are not talking of the rain --- a cricket match, even the most important one of the Indian T20 league, could seem as appropriate as the emperor's new clothes.
Alternately, it could be an opportunity for the game to show the world that it is bigger than the individuals who play and run it. There are, after all, two sides to even the most vexing problem.
Amid all the intrigue, whispers of whether they have lost the moral right to compete and the news that “an honorary member of the team” may have bet on their games, rain cancelled Chennai Super Kings' scheduled training session. That means Sunday evening is the only time they would step out of the gilded cage the teams' hotel now is.
To the public at large, it could seem the players have become five-star prisoners of their own device. Tracking every breath they take may be impossible but every move they make is being scrutinised. And it is not just for the Kings.
“There is an ACSU (Anti-Corruption Surveillance Unit) officer on the floor the team is staying. Players, coaches and even officials have to inform him if they want to step out of the hotel, tell him where they are going and why," said a Mumbai Indians official requesting anonymity. Calls on the room phone are being monitored and we know by now who tracks cricketers' mobiles.
Skipper MS Dhoni skipped the final-eve media conference and the media were told any questions not related to Sunday's final would lead to the session being terminated. This after an official advisory early on Saturday stating Dhoni and Rohit Sharma would be present. Eventually, the media got to hear from two New Zealanders and one Australian.
After apologising for Dhoni's absence --- CSK's jewel in the crown, according to Stephen Fleming --- the CSK coach read out a statement that said "as difficult as it is, all of our focus is on preparing for the final tomorrow."
Cricket suddenly seems a welcome distraction for some of its biggest stars, the closed confines of a stadium the only place they can really be themselves. "There can be distraction with a lot of stuff going around," said Michael Hussey. The Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) has said the final's been sold out. If it doesn't rain, the Eden can create an atmosphere matched by few grounds in the world.
John Wright knows that. "We want to win our first title here," said the Mumbai Indians coach. Sachin Tendulkar may not play any part in it though Wright said a final call would be taken before the game.
“The boys are excited to put all the controversies behind and express ourselves. It's a fitting finale really… one amazing catch, one boundary saved could make the difference. Mumbai Indians are a brilliant side and we are proud of what we have achieved so far," said Hussey, the only player officially presented to the media on Saturday.
“This tournament needs a great final. After all that has happened, as long as we get a good game of cricket, irrespective of whoever wins, hopefully cricket will come out winning." No one could have put it better than Rahul Dravid.