If Dhoni killed T20 Cup, all of us are co-accused in murder

Because IPL is a cash cow, nothing will change in the governance of cricket that will prevent a repeat next year

bvrao

BV Rao | May 13, 2010


If Dhoni killed our T20 World Cup chances, we are all accomplices
If Dhoni killed our T20 World Cup chances, we are all accomplices

Suddenly there is no cricketer worth being reviled than Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Here are some morning headlines, hours after the national calamity (of the T20 World Cup exit):

AajTak: Mahi ne machayi tabaahi; Kis kaam ke bade khiladi; Team India ne katayi naak; Bagaawat ki bu-siyasat ki bu (Mahi has destroyed us; What use these big guns; Team India has shamed us; Signs of a revolt, signs of dirty politics).

IBN7: Flop ho gaye captain cool; Yeh kya kiya Dhoni (Captain Cool has flopped; What have you done Dhoni).

India TV: Dhikkar hain, dhikkar hain, dhikkar hain….; Bas naam ke dhurandar; Inhe sharm bhi nahi aati. (Shame on you, shame on you, shame on you…, World-beaters just in name; These guys have no shame)

Star News: Shok Ho! (as opposed to Jai Ho, the name of their show, ‘shok’ is grief)

Their English cousins were gentler in the headlining, but Times Now and Headlines Today were in as savage a mood as the Hindi channels. While HLT dismissed Dhoni’s apology to the nation (“we don’t need your apology Dhoni”), Times Now suspected “if he looked sorry enough” while apologising. And that was just the beginning of their tirade.

We know our channels only too well to be surprised by their over-the-top headlining and frenzied anchoring. They have to individually feel the pain and grief of each one of those one billion fans (who did the census, I want to know!) and reflect their collective anger on national TV, so we understand. Our channels take any defeat badly but cricket defeats are especially personal. Not only are the endless hours of hype wasted, the channels are shortchanged on easy content by a few days. Criminal dereliction of national duty on the cricketers’ part, I must say.

One look at the war cries on TV will help you figure out what I am referring to. Here are some names of the T20 World Cup shows:
IBN7: Maha Yuddh (Great War, IBN7)
India TV: Vijayee Bhavah (Victory be yours)
Aaj Tak: Bees Ka Boss (Boss of T20)
Star News: Jai Ho!
CNN IBN: Mission T20.

That’s not all. Headlines Today had to abort their “Mission World Domination” and Times Now is upset with the violation of a simple order: Bring back the Cup!

Having done so much ground-laying, I don’t know if the channels were angry with Dhoni because he looked stupid or he made them look stupid for not countenancing defeat even once. Even then, we must concede them the right to a post-mortem. The problem is what they have done with that post-mortem.

It does not take hard boiled experts to figure out that Dhoni goofed and goofed big. While giving Dhoni what he got, no channel, not even NDTV 24x7 and CNN IBN which were not shrill in Dhoni’s condemnation, expand the scope of their inquiry to include the BCCI and a certain Lalit Modi.

Every channel raised the “too much cricket” question, but mostly to paper over it or to mock at coach Gary Kirsten’s fatigue-and-niggles theory. And that was easily done. Rajiv Shukla, a BCCI vice-president, was at hand. Without saying much he insinuated that the fatigue theory was a load of you-know-what, and that the BCCI had already told players they could opt out at will because there was a “huge talent pool”. Channels are generally grateful for the byte, so they don’t ask too many questions when a willing subject grants them 10 seconds of audio-gold.

All the channels did their own version of Mr Shukla’s byte but not one reporter asked him a few crucial questions:
1. Sir, what talent pool are we talking about? You couldn’t find a replacement for Sehwag to last four innings…
2. For argument’s sake, if Zaheer, Dhoni and Yuvraj had asked to sit out of the World Cup, would they have been allowed? And who would you have replaced them with from that rich talent pool?
3. Is it not the BCCI’s job to ensure that the best team, in the best shape, represents the country in tournaments of pride?

These questions were necessary to probe the depth of the BCCI’s argument or, actually, to expose the hollowness of Mr Shukla’s nonchalance.

You organise a bone-cruncher of an IPL up to a week before the team’s call for national duty and then you say it’s up to the players to decide which they want to miss, money or honour? Do you seriously think they would want to miss either?

Mr Shukla said IPL cannot be blamed and that was that, the gospel. The channels just let it pass. They were not even willing to shoot from the shoulders of Gary Kirsten. The national coach, not one to shoot his mouth off, risked his assignment with a retributive board to point fingers at Lalit Modi’s IPL (blasphemy!).

There were enough reasons to probe the coach’s line. It was no secret that the team did not have enough recovery time before the Cup. It was no secret that the coach had to regularly let the team skip training sessions. It was no secret that many of our top guns were carrying injuries. It was no secret that of all the international teams, ours had been on the road and the field the longest. It is no secret that Indians’ fitness levels being what they are, we need longer turnaround time.

The problem is, cricket is moving in a new direction and all our arguments and debates are getting outdated fast. The question is not anymore about how much cricket to play, whether to play for money or honour, etc. The success of IPL last year, and the encore this year, has settled that question. From next year, IPL is going to be two times over in one year. Other nations are planning their own versions of IPL and our stars will be playing there, too. This year’s “crammed” calendar would seem like a leisurely holiday,next year. And don’t even try to look beyond that. T20 will claim calendar space from the one-day game so future cricketers won’t be juggling multiple formats.

We, the fans, the board and the media, made IPL1 such a roaring success and set off an explosion in the world of sports marketing. Team Dhoni is T20 laboratory’s guinea pig generation, absolutely central to its evolution. No other generation will have to go through so much testing and so much change in such a short while. We want them in IPL, we want them in the World Cup and we want them for every other regular cricket engagement. And yet, we will refuse to acknowledge fatigue because well-paid cricketers should not complain even if everybody else is making the mega bucks by flogging them dead!

If it is true that Team Dhoni killed the aspirations of a nation, it is also equally true that all of us are co-conspirators to the murder. We all wrote a part of that script. What say? Shall we drop charges?

Sorry, I pulled a fast one on you

That was an article I wrote exactly one year ago when India was kicked out of the T20 World Cup 2009. From some of the references above to Lalit Modi and Gary Kirsten etc, some of you may have felt something amiss. I had written this for exchange4media.com. By reproducing the article here, it was not my intention to plagiarise myself but to underscore the point that in one year nothing has changed in the governance of cricket. And that nothing is likely to change. Year after year, if we are to play the T20 World Cup just days after the gruelling IPL, we might as well say bye bye to the cup. Last year it was coach Kirsten who raised the red flag, this year it was Dhoni himself. Nobody listened to Kirsten then, nobody will listen to Dhoni now (he'll be lucky if the BCCI does not take disciplinary action or even strip him of captaincy). It is likely that the headlines were differently worded (Times Now called it "Unforgivable! this year) but the subtext is the same: Nobody and nothing is wrong with our cricket other than the players. Even coach Kirsten has singled out only the players saying he was fitter than some of them. But nobody will ask the simple question: If the IPL party nights had no impact on the fitness of the players why was it that the first major announcement of the new IPL commissioner made was to scrap the parties from next season? The Board will deny fatigue, establishment experts such as Ravi Shastri who make big money out of the IPL will talk about technical incompetence (like that was not a problem all these years), and the media will happily buy into the theory and gore into the team because all of them have a  lot of money to make out of the IPL. Few will pay attention to voices such as Kirti Azad who calls the IPL a substandard tournament that makes us believe it is throwing up international talent by the dozens.
IPL has given us a sporting extravaganza that competes with the best in the world. That is a matter of pride. But the minders of cricket in India will never stop to ponder if it is producing cricketing quantity or quality . If it is producing local entertainers or international cricketers. So you can rest assured that nothing is going to change in the governance of cricket that will get us the T20 World Cup in hurry again.
Cut and keep today's articles. Keep recordings of the today's TV debates. Something tells me, you'll need them next year, too.

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