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Stop This Monkey Business...

I am penning down my thoughts on the eve of the Harbhajan Hearing...

The Indian board has categorically stated two things – firstly that its not too happy with using the additional evidence from the stump cam and mic, in this hearing, secondly it would be calling off the tour (read the one off Twenty20 match and the Tri-Nation One day International series) if Bhajji is charged with racial abuse.

I am not too sure if either of these two issues is in the interest of the game…. Before anyone raises the issue let me clarify that I am an Indian and a proud one at that.

Coming to the usage of fresh evidence, firstly the fulcrum of this case (appeal) is the fact that Bhajji is innocent. The BCCI seems to accept that unquestionably, even Tendulkar vouches to that effect. If that is the case and we are a hundred percent sure that Bhajji did not utter the "M" word, why should we back off from any additional evidence? We should in fact unearth as much evidence as possible and make them available to the person hearing the appeal… and in case we are objecting to these fresh evidences being used, then we are by our own act, accepting that there is a possibility that Bhajji might have in fact used a word construed as racial against Symmo.

Another line of argument seems to suggest that we Indians do not consider the usage of the word Monkey as a racial abuse. Well that argument does not hold water in any case as, we cannot go around spitting in public places, say in Singapore and ask for not being penalized as spitting in public places in most parts of India is not considered a punishable offense. Whether Harbhajan used the word is a different question altogether, but to argue that he did not know that it is a word that has racial connotations is a feeble line of defense.

Coming to the issue of pulling out of the tour in case Bhajji is indicted, well the less said the better. It is like saying we will attend the trial and we sincerely hope it’s a fair one; however we will not accept a verdict if it goes against us. Then why go to the trial in the first place? Isn’t this intimidation? Isn’t this a very deplorable case of using one’s financial clout in the game? Isn’t this exactly what many Indians resent, say in case of how America imposes itself on rest of the World, politically and militarily? A better alternative is to skip the trial and the tour…. Or else what is the message we are sending out? This for all reasons will be a case based mostly on circumstantial evidence and to me it appears that if Bhajji is cleared for lack of evidence we will happily accept it and probably celebrate the fact that ICC has been fair (may be even press charges against Mike Procter) and in case Bhajji is proven guilty, we will get on to the streets deploring how ICC is biased against non-whites!!!

Well let me reiterate that this is not a case of Indian pride, nor is it a case of the sub continental teams versus the rest of the cricket world, or by any stretch of imagination a case of colored people versus the whites as many experts would like us to believe. Just because an Indian ran a car with explosives into an airport in London, all Indians do not become terrorists… in case there is conclusive evidence against Bhajji in this case, just because an Indian racially abused a black man on the sports field, all Indians do not become racists… On one hand we are the same people who stone the family of our cricketers, burn their effigies, damage their personal property when the team loses a tournament or series for cricketing reasons and on the other we are ready to go to any lengths to support a player of the team, even if he is proven guilty on sportsmanship issues…

Of course as an ardent Indian fan, I do wish and hope that Bhajji has not used the word and that he gets cleared in the hearing held tomorrow … however if he has, I would not want him to go Scot-free just because he happens to play for the richest and most influential board in the world of cricket… if that happens we as a nation will be bringing in greater disrespect to the gentleman’s game than anything else in the recent past has….

"Select"ive Amnesia

Several years ago I started typing out my views on an opinion portal; the first of them was about Cricket. So I guess it would be a natural that I start with a post on Cricket, while I start off typing out my blog which has been on my to-do list for lot longer than the time span between India’s last win at Australia and the current one….

The latest in the series of issues that seems to be rocking the Indian team is that of the team selection for the Tri- Nation One Day Tournament. Every one in this country has an opinion about it and not to be left behind I myself have several …. More than anything these views are about the views expressed about Indian Cricket in the last couple of weeks …

It might sound so strange, but I would rather be Sourav Ganguly, than the ordinary mortal who is typing this blog (which I am not sure how many, will even read). I say this because even though the past couple of years have not been great for him from the selection point of view, he is in my opinion a lucky guy… at least he has several people and organizations protesting on his behalf that he should be reinstated… I guess for a sportsman that’s a good place to be in rather than a situation where people and organizations start protesting asking for his sacking…..

But someone, I would rather not be is Dilip Vengsarkar…. Selecting an Indian Cricket Team (or for that matter selection of any thing or anyone in this country, including the Prestigious Bharat Ratna) is as much a thankless job as it is controversial. More so with the advent of many so called (self titled) “your very own television channels”… I remember Sidhu and Jadeja (two people whose opinions I eagerly look forward to hearing, especially the latter) on a popular television show thrashing the selection committee for having taken a “backward step” by appointing a “stop gap” captain Anil Kumble for the Australia Series instead of handing over the responsibility to the “fearless brigade who represent the future of Indian Cricket” - read M.S. Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh!!!

While they never questioned Kumble’s qualifications for the job (I guess no one who understands Indian Cricket can ever do that) and even went on to suggest that it has come too late in his career… they were firmly of the opinion that BCCI and its panel has got it completely wrong. But after the Perth result, I watched in disbelief as Sidhu sat on the very same channel, glorifying Kumble, his qualities and his captaincy. In hindsight, of course I dread to imagine how some one as raw as Dhoni would have handled the Sydney Storm… Maybe he would have done better than what Kumble did but that’s a big “maybe” and as is the essence of one of the Siddhuisms, there is no place for probabilities and conjectures in life (read cricket)

Coming to Sydney test, immediately after the Bhajji Ban, the same Sidhu was on air thumping the Indian Pride this time asking the team to cancel the tour and return … this is not just a game it’s a question of every Indians dignity or something like that he said… On an other channel Sanjay Manjrekar was making a point that cancelling the tour might not be the best solution and staying on and beating the Aussies might be the best way to get even (I must admit, I did say to myself dream on Mr. Manjrekar….)

I am not against people being opinionated, I myself am. I am also not against people making an error in judgment and later having to change the same. Even I have done that several times. (The last line in the above paragraph is a good enough example). But what I am against is selective loss of memory. How on earth, can one thump is hands on the table and say “I told you so…” on some occasions and conveniently forget what one said on the other … We all makes mistakes, but I guess what helps us rise above others, is not about being spot on at all times, but the ability to accept that we weren’t right on some occasions…

One of the biggest curses (It comes with numerous blessings though) of being an Indian Cricketer is the blind adoration of the Indian Public… what happens with this kind of an emotional following, is that it can be counter productive in several cases. But to some extent, I can forgive the ordinary fan on the road, for being passionate than practical or prudent, but what is unfathomable is how can an ex-cricketer be like that? I am not suggesting that Sidhu changes his style, but being out spoken, witty and intelligent (qualities I admire in this man) is not the same as being utterly reckless in ones opinion and changing them as and when one pleases, without the slightest of remorse!

Am I a great fan of Vengsarkar, well I guess not even in his playing days did he hold a significant place in the list of my favourites. He was a stylish batsman, nothing more nothing less. In his avatar as the selector though, I guess he has far fewer admirers. But then as much as we hate him, don’t you think we need to admire the fact that it is this man, who with his team has prepared ground for the teams that reaped success in the away series in England, The Twenty20 Cup and the home series against Pakistan (All creditable achievements) and more importantly a team that could have entertained the thoughts of winning a series in Australia (if not for poor umpiring and poorer fourth innings batting skills at Sydney)….

So why is it that every time a team is announced, we all get on to roof tops and scream hoarse..? When the team does badly go back on to the roof top and say “I told you so…” and in those rare moments when the team triumphs, we forget the selectors..? What role does media and sports journalists have to do in this?

Talking about media I must mention here that journalism in India has significantly changed… though they keep harping about trying to bring you news rather than stories, they are just about doing the opposite. As long as there was not much competition amongst the news channels, they (the two or three that operated a couple of years ago) were pretty much doing a decent job. But of late they have been nothing more than reality based entertainment channels. How else could one justify the news ticker “Saif tattoos Kareeena on his ….” that kept rolling across the screen with amazing regularity on day when so much more was happening in the country…

Yes, one can easily justify this “Breaking News” and the tamasha that the nation witnessed when the Bachan and the Rai families united in wedlock as news that the masses crave for… the news channel owners can turn back and say you get what you deserve… but hey if that’s your philosophy of running a media channel then do not point fingers at Politicians for being populists (its their profession remember) or at movies that cross our self imposed morality codes… lets not take a moral high ground and point fingers at others who are doing a bad job, while we ourselves are chasing better TRPs under the garb of doing the public favours by broadcasting news that affects them….