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The cry of the cricket-crazy nation
The cricket-crazy nation is at its worst, with even the men in khadi joining the “go back” mass anti-Chappell refrain. For the country, Chappell is the next Simon and Ganguly the waiting saviour. A nation gone nuts over cricket.
IT SEEMS NOT much has changed since India attained independence – then it was a British, now it’s an Aussie. The resemblance between then and now is that on both occasions, Indians were desperate to show the door to one man who they thought was responsible for hurting the Indian pride. In 1942, when the British formed a commission under Sir John Simon to work out the governance modalities, Indians didn’t waste a single day to protest against the commission, and specifically Simon, because the commission that was constituted didn’t have a single Indian on board. The moment he landed on the Indian soil, Simon faced protests in various forms – black flags, burnt effigies, blockades and the like.
 
In 2006, the same scene repeated itself, but on a much smaller scale. It just took two worst Indian defeats in the history of the game to make people come out on the roads and protest vehemently against the laid-back attitude of the players and the experimental ways of the coach, Greg Chappell. People in many parts of the country came out on the streets with black flags and burnt effigies of the coach, displaying placards saying, “Chappell, go back”.
 
Greg and controversy
The Indians not only got a foreign coach last year, but also got his friend, controversy, along with him. It seems Chappell and controversy are best of pals since neither of them want to leave each other. Ever since Guru Greg took over the reigns of the Indian team, he has been embroiled in controversies we have lost count of. To begin with, his appointment was stormy, as many in the BCCI were opposed to his induction. It was only on the intervention of the then captain, Saurav Ganguly, that got Chappell in. Having his name cleared, the next stumbling block was his remuneration. Again, Greg and BCCI were on the negotiating table, each threatening to walk away without an agreement. But, even that was sorted out.
 
Having got the job and on his first assignment, there couldn’t be a worst start than the one Greg had. Ganguly and Greg reportedly had an argument in the dressing room in which Greg suggested Ganguly to step down since he was not in the best of form and even the team wasn’t doing too well under him. As per the norm, dressing room conversations are meant to be where it belongs – the dressing room. But in an effort to score brownie points over Greg, Saurav spell the beans and the Saurav–Greg spat was all out in the open. What followed later is common knowledge – the most successful Indian captain was shorn of captaincy but somehow retained his place in the team.
 
The dust had not even settled when Greg got embroiled in another strange incident. When the team was leaving the ground and boarding a luxury bus for reaching their hotel after playing a match at Kolkata’s Eden Garden, mediapersons subjected Greg to some hard questioning, mostly related to Ganguly and his sacking. Uncomfortable with the questions and the media – and to spoil the scene further were Ganguly-backers who were shouting pro-Ganguly slogans – lost his temper and showed his middle finger to the crowd outside from the window. Later, when media tried to get clarification from him, he retracted by saying that he was only showing his injured finger to a journalist who was insisting on it.
 
Cricket & politics: Old bond 
Cricket and politicians have an uncanny bond between them which dates back to the days of the British Raj. Even then the Britishers would play international cricket and more often than not, it were the Viceroys, the Generals and the Queen who would call the shots in the game. The captain and the Board were mere show pieces before the fun and the joy of the governing officials. Modern-day India is not much different from the erstwhile British Raj. Every now then we have politicians, cutting across party lines, expressing their views on matters relating to Indian cricket. Whether it’s about the captain, the coach, the teams spectacular wins or its dismal losses, our politicos are always on the fore front in letting the media and the nation know that they are too concerned about the health of the game.
 
Two consecutive losses in a bad fashion and the newspapers were filled with quotable quotes from our politicos, each expressing their concern over the way our team is being trounced in the ongoing series against the Proteas. But, this time round, they all had a specific target – ‘coach Greg Chappell’. The poor chap, who was already vilified by the media and the people, now had another breed of humans baying for his blood – the politicos. A few of them demanded the immediate sacking of the coach while others restrained themselves from going that far and were content in criticizing the team and asking them to take their job seriously as it was a matter of pride for the nation.
 
If we look at the cricketing boards of the states in our country, most of them have politicians at their helm of affairs. And, this is not a new trend but has been the norm since time immemorial. To begin with, the BCCI has Sharad Pawar as its president. He is a Union Minister, the Bihar Cricket Board has Lalu Yadav as its president and even he happens to be a Union Minister. Going North, the Delhi Board is headed by Arun Jaitley, who is a Rajya Sabha MP, the J & K Cricket Board is headed by Farooq Abdullah, who is also a Rajya Sabha MP and former chief minister of J&K. The list goes on…
 
When there are politicians from all parties raising a hue and cry about the game, then how can our Maharashtra tiger be left behind? It’s a known fact that Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray has always opposed India playing Pakistan on our home soil for apparent reasons of cross-border terrorism and Pakistan’s hostile attitude towards India. On two occasions in the past, his Shiv Sainiks have gone ahead and dug up the pitches. In ’91, they had dug up the Wankhede cricket grounds’ pitch in Mumbai just before the India–Pakistan match and again in’99, the Sainiks poured diesel oil on the Ferozshah Kotla pitch in Delhi. The trend has simply continued and the Shiv Sainiks are the first to oppose whenever an India-akistan encounter is to take place. They have even gone ahead and said that India shouldn’t play Pakistan even at neutral venues.
 
Dada’s comeback
The only good that has come out of the ongoing losing spree of the Indian side against the mighty Proteas and the much-acclaimed opposition to Guru Greg’s experimental ways is that Saurav Ganguly aka Dada has found a berth in the Indian side after remaining out for 10 months. The Indian team losing badly and Dada scoring runs in the domestic fixtures paved  the way for his comeback. In the last encounter in the Duleep Trophy game, Dada scored a splendid 118 and took two wickets and even his start to the new season, that is, the Ranji Trophy and his approach in the game against Punjab has been very positive. He scored 43 in one of the innings and took two wickets in the match, leading his Bengal side to victory in their first encounter of the season. All Dada needs to do is play well in the remaining five games of the season and he would secure his place in the side. Of course, the Indian team is always ready to help him by playing badly! It’s Dada’s day – again.




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