Former Indian cricketer Ravi Shastri’s speech at the fifth Dilip Sardesai Memorial Lecture at the Bombay Gymkhana was a clear cut case of him ignoring all that is wrong with Indian cricket and focusing only on the positives when things are not actually all that bright. It was really shocking to see him shower so much praise on the IPL, its organisers and some former and current BCCI presidents. In short, his speech had everything to please the Indian cricket board, but precious little to answer the various questions in Indian fans’ minds.
According to Shastri, Sharad Pawar is responsible for the grand success of the IPL, since it was he who gave Lalit Modi a free hand. Okay, even if we agree that Pawar and Modi are greatly responsible for the massive popularity of the IPL, what about the various controversies surrounding the league. Who is responsible for the mess? The same Modi that Shastri is referring to is now barred from the BCCI fold. In one of the biggest ironies of all time, Modi was found guilty of bid-rigging and arm-twisting by a BCCI panel on the same day that Shastri delivered his goody-goody lecture. Can it get any messier?
One cannot help but wonder how so many issues related to the scam-tainted IPL skipped Shastri’s mind, who is supposed to have a shrewd brain. Has there been any one season which has passed away without any controversy cropping up? There were the tax evasion allegations during the event held in South Africa in 2009. Further, little known players were banned from the sport for being part of corrupt activities in one season. There were concerns raised over the after-parties as well. Things came to a farce when this year’s event was played against the backdrop of the spot-fixing scandal; the matches had lost complete significance.
If on one hand, Shastri was so effusive in praise of the BCCI and men who run it, shouldn’t he have taken a balanced view and spoken out about some of the many issues facing Indian cricket? Shastri believes that N. Srinivasan is a great administrator in spite of the fact he is not willing to let go of power even after his son-in-law is involved in a legal tangle pertaining to the IPL betting saga. Apart from Chennai Super Kings, the owner of another former IPL champion Rajasthan Royals also found himself under a cloud. All these cannot be classified as plusses in Indian cricket.
If only Shastri could have taken some inspiration from Kumar Sangakkara, who had the guts to speak out against the Sri Lankan Cricket Board during a well-appreciated lecture some time back in spite of being contracted by the board. The most shocking of all observations made by Shastri was that he doesn’t believe politicians and sports don’t go hand in hand, which actually means he doesn’t mind politicians being part of sports administration. He couldn’t have got his timing more wrong considering sports persons are batting for politicians to stay away from sports administration in the wake of the Indian Olympic Association being banned by the international federation. All in all, Shastri’s speech was one that was miles away from reality.
--By A Cricket Analyst