Thursday, May 08, 2008

A COSTLY SLAP (OR HOW TO LOSE RS. 3 CR IN A JIFFY!)

Recently, a cricket crazy nation, (and a crazy Board for Control for Cricket in India) went overboard to ‘protect’ a certain member of the BCCI team, Mr. H. Singh, against the ‘tirades’ of certain members of the Australian cricket team. The media was gung ho about the whole thing – they had some ‘stuff’ that they could milk all through the day for weeks to come. The whole country stood by the ‘pious’ Mr. H. Singh, conveniently sweeping all his misdeeds of the past under the carpet so to say, the BCCI going to the extent of threatening to call of its team’s tour of Australia.

A few months prior to these incidents, a certain Mr. S. Shanth, once again a member of the BCCI cricket team was proving to the world, that Indian cricketers are no pushovers. To the cheers of cricket crazy fans (and some rabid commentators) he was teaching the opposition a lesson or two on sledging; where as to moderates such as me, he was just being obnoxious for the sake of being so!

Sledging has been around as long as the game of cricket has been around. The Brits would have treated cricket as a gentleman’s game; but in the subcontinent it was far from it. There have been instances where opposition teams have fought pitched battles with wickets & bats doubling up as arms and ammunitions. Team members have been bludgeoned; some losing their lives – even the umpires have not been spared.

But when it came to these two ‘gentlemen’ we supported them with gusto, (in what I thought were antics.) Anybody who did not do risked being called unpatriotic. (I have tried in vain to explain that ones love, or lack of it, for cricket and the cricketers does not define patriotism).

Then there was a slap - Mr. H Singh’s response to Mr. S Shanth’s local sledging!

Mr. S Shanth wept with the media capturing it and setting it as the numero uno headline of the day for many days to come!

Next day Mr. S Shanth maintained in front of the national media that it was a misplaced handshake, shrugged the whole thing off insisting that it was a personal thing and that Mr. H Singh was like an elder brother & so on. But he took care to mention to his state media that it was not a slap but a slugfest! (I imagine with the raising of eyebrows, lungis too were raised in God’s own country!)

What followed was the brand of comedy only BCCI can dish out. Mr. H Singh found himself poorer by 3 cr for the slap & Mr. S Shanth was given a mild warning. Mr. H Singh is now the villain of the piece. Taking refuge some where in Punjab, the ‘bad boy’ of Indian cricket must be wondering what went wrong?

What went wrong indeed? For this I turned to the cricket aficionado in my office, my very dependable Mr. Lawrence. (If one was to consider me as Bertie Wooster, then Lawrence would be Jeeves!)

In his deep voice I was treated to a threadbare analysis of the incident and its aftermath. The truth is plain and simple – When Mr. H Singh was at ‘it’ in Australia the BCCI and the country stood by him (though everyone who follows the game knows that H Singh can be obnoxious) showing a misplaced solidarity. But when he showed his true colours on home soil, he was abandoned, branded a pariah and banished for sometime – all this for making the BCCI and the mere mortal, die-hard, cricket fans look like fools!

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