While the Indian team concentrates on its task to win the last Champions Trophy tournament ever, the BCCI and its merry men are making a mockery of the game back at home. With new investigations cropping up every day, almost strategically planned in a careful manner so as not to disturb the ongoing ICC tournament, the Indian Premier League is fighting for survival. Team owners are declaring themselves as mere enthusiasts with no say in management affairs, after consistently been seen in team dugouts at their stadiums over the years. Names of players involved are being withheld for fear of a backlash, after lesser known cricketers have already been packed away behind bars. Rajasthan Royals, the team that started it all, are under the scanner once again- thanks to the not so subtle activities of their most glamorous and airheaded celebrity team owners. While this will not go a long way in shaking the pillars of belief of most Indian cricket fans, all it takes is a revelation of one famous playing face. This could destroy India’s current promising Champions Trophy campaign and could catapult the cricketing world back to the dark times of 2000.
What was common during Cronjegate and through the years, right upto Asif and Aamer to Sreesanth and co.’s illegal involvement in spot-fixing activities, is the silence of Indian senior cricketers still playing the game.
While it is easy to applaud Dravid’s statements about truth and honesty when the scandal broke out, it is also important to understand that he has retired from international cricket and is not on the BCCI payroll anymore. Not for now, atleast. He can afford to speak his mind, and it was not something he always did when his country was pierced at its heart a decade ago during the Azhar-Jadeja-Mongia revelations.
He, and many others like him, kept a straight face and did their job- while the world crumbled around them. Fair enough, but a single word from Dravid could have gone a long way in assuring panic-ridden Indian fans to not doubt the game enough to be cynical at every overstepping no-ball or dropped catch.
Our smirks could have been a little less wider had demi-God Sachin Tendulkar bothered to give his opinion way back in 2000, or even now, at the twilight of his career with his own teammates allegedly fixing games around him in the same locker room over the years. It is indeed hard to believe that none of the golden generation of respected and senior cricketers like Sachin, Ganguly, Dravid, Laxman and Kumble were unaware of approaches and practices happening around them- with many young generations being shuffled in and out of the side around them. Even if that was possible, and it somehow slipped under the tunnel-vision radar of Kumble and Dravid- the only time they ever opened their mouths was when their own game was threatened with less serious incidents.
Monkeygate, Sydney 2008, even the ball-tampering charges that included Tendulkar, and most famously, the stone-pelting during the 2003 World Cup by angry fans demanding a better performance- these were incidents that somehow forced these same cricketers to give public-service-announcements and pleas, assuring their fans that they have things under control. And more often than not, as far as the game and its spirit was concerned, they did have things under control. They backed their pleas with actions that made most of their nation proud- and even made them forget their deafening silence during cricket’s most trying times.
Dhoni’s poker face at a recent conference before the Champions Trophy has been lampooned and made light of in many social media forums- but it pretty much symbolized the attitude of better-safe-than-sorry senior cricketers, that care too much about what happens on the field. And while doing that, and shutting out everything off the field including news and rumours of their own personal lives and other low blows by the media, they seem to have turned a blind eye to an issue that required a superhero cape of atleast one of them. Tendulkar has been the biggest culprit, never once addressing the issue- almost fooling fans into believing that he was too focused to care about these things. That is near impossible, after having played in different Indian teams for 23 years.
While his allergy to controversy is understandable, he is also required to understand that his role-model behavior off the field is not limited to good values and discipline only. Once in a while, it requires the right words, the power of which he has never used- words that can undo a decade of cynicism and hurt, words that can even inspire stray cricketers like Sreesanth and the rest into believing that maybe Sachin paaji stood for more than being just a great batsman- he was a man that stood for justice, whatever the cost.
If he was indeed such a great role model, as claimed by every young cricketer who has played with him, why would these same cricketers be thinking about petty spot-fixing opportunities and faster ways to end their careers- when they have Gods amongst them, that stand for the very opposite?
The same goes for the others that supposedly healed and entire generation of fandom with their contrasting aggressions and great partnerships.
After scoring one of the 100 centuries, or chasing down 1 of the record 16 ODI chases in succession, Sachin and Dravid only thanked their teammates and expressed their joy at winning. At being Champions. At inspiring cricketers. They played and they lost and they won- but only on the field. They stayed away from controversies off it, and convinced the nation that pride comes before a fall.
And while they did that, game after game, Indian cricket was losing. Because the last shred of their capes remained in the attic.