Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Don't shoot the messenger

I was looking forward to this English summer for a long long time. An Indian tour is always a special event in England but this time India arrived in England as world champions and as the number one team in test match cricket. Everyone in England was looking forward to the test summer. Watch India play well in England, read the English press go gaga over them, listen to Aggers and Boycott on TMS were some of the things that I was looking forward to.

Alas that was not to be. Everything that had to go wrong has gone wrong for India on this tour. India have been terrible on this tour and have been ridiculed by all and sundry. Aggers and Boycott have often wondered on TMS whether this really was the Indian team or was it Bangladesh in disguise. My summer was totally spoiled, at the end of the series I could barely listen to TMS or read the British Papers.

There have been many reasons for this debacle. Lack of preparation certainly, lack of fitness certainly but fatigue? I don’t buy that. How can Gambhir be fatigued? He was coming back after a two month break. How can Tendulkar be tired? He missed the West Indies tour and went on a holiday. How can Lakshman and Dravid be tired. They hardly played any cricket after January. How can Zaheer and Sreesanth be tired. Only three cricketers could be excused for reasons of fatigue- Dhoni, Harbhajan and Raina. They were playing non stop cricket and had absolutely no break. The majority of the team were unfit, unprepared and largely unprofessional.

Ideally the BCCI should have a review for this tour and try to rectify the reasons for this debacle. But instead of doing that, the BCCI is involved in trying to ensure that they do not come under the RTI and trying to set up discussions with the English Cricket Board with respect to Naseer Hussain’s comments on the Indian fielders. The entire exercise I should say is needless.

Hussain along with Michael Atherton is perhaps the finest commentator going around. He is definitely one of my favorites. He has the right to express his opinion. Perhaps it was offensive, perhaps it was strong, and perhaps it should not have been said. But he said it in a context. We use various terms for cricketers of different types. Khadoos, slow pokes, plodders, scooter, are terms used very often by different commentators. If we start getting offended by all the terms used we well as might stop listening to any cricket commentary.

I think we are as a country growing increasingly insensitive and intolerant. This was aptly reflected during the Anna Hazare movement. People who did not agree with Hazare’s ideas were considered traitors, corrupt and what not. The basis of any democracy is the fundamental right to express one’s own opinion. If you want the right to express an opinion, you have an obligation to respect someone’s opinion as well.

In cricket particularly, the Indian media has had a tendency to project someone’s opinions and then create needless controversy’s about them. Every individual covering the game has a right to state what he feels. If we disagree with that, we should stop listening to that individual rather than projecting and debating those comments.

And what about the comments that we in India make. A few years ago Star News ran a show called ‘Match ka Mujrim’ in which at the end of each show an Indian cricketer was declared a ‘Mujrim’. Was that not offensive? Saurav Ganguly called Michael Vaughn mad a few days back after certain comments made by the former England captain. Was that not offensive? During the whole Mike Dennesse episode, the Indian media used a whole lot of adjectives to describe Dennesse. Was that not offensive.

If we are frank, we should admit that the Indian fielding on this tour has been an embarrassment. It was terrible to watch them at certain times during the test series. As suggested by some critics our anger should not be at Hussain but at the fact that our team has possibly some of the worst fielders ever. Let us not shoot the messenger please.

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