Of flying peanuts and conflicts of interest…


India is in pain again! Team India lost its way in the ICC WCT20 tournament. India exited the tournament with two wins in the preliminary stage and no wins in the Super-8 stage. If TV news-pundits are to be believed, the whole of India is burning with rage, anger and frustration.

I was not in India when India was crowned the #1 Test team in the world and so did not watch the chest-thumps and euphoria that that event generated. I was here on 1 April, when there was official confirmation from the ICC that India is indeed the #1 Test team in the world. That event went almost unnoticed because the IPL was on at that time. All eye balls were on IPL TRPs at that time! Back when India was re-confirmed as the top Test side in the world, coach Gary Kirsten, captain MS Dhoni and Team India were the toast of the town. Now they are both toast!

Back then, India had finally become world beaters! The media channels could not get enough of India’s stars. Today, “there is anger in India” (according to the media here) after the “humiliation” of the early exit from the ICC WCT20.

The pendulum has swung again. And how quickly!

Back then in April, the IPL frenzy seemed to distract everyone in India — especially the media. Suddenly it pitted Indians against Indians! A fan from Chennai was hailing the efforts of a burly-Australian or a wily-SriLankan or a cheeky-SouthAfrican and propping them as saviors against a strong Mumbai team or a stronger Bangalore team. Cricketers spent more time in the sky than on the ground. And when their feet were on the ground, they were either playing on the cricket field or on the dance floor at an IPL after-match party! Some cricketers even had to endure peanuts being flung at them — a new way of attracting attention from Bollywood hotties at these post-match IPL parties, it seemed!

Since then, all night clubs in Mumbai have had to endure peanut-fling pick-up-routines as a precursor to an actual fling! “Fling a peanut and score a one-night fling” is a new product that has been patented (or peanuted!). There is a scarcity of peanuts in Mumbai. Everyone is hell bent on flinging peanuts at each other as a way of attracting attention!

Jokes apart, these post-match IPL-parties seemed to be completely testosterone-charged and ended up draining the creative (and other) juices of the men who played the game!

Something was awry. But no one seemed to want to do anything about it especially as the coffers were getting filled up faster than the cash could be deposited in various bank accounts. If people did not want to be a part of the action they wanted the action! Almost everyone was conflicted and no one wanted to do anything about it.

Meanwhile, our senses were constantly being brutalized and attacked on TV and Twitter by a visionary Lisp. We also had to endure a colorful Sikh on TV who hated being interrupted and liked answering all questions even if they were not addressed at him! “You know, my friend” he would bellow in a manner that resembled long-distance phone conversations in the 1960s and 1970s when one needed to shout to be heard; one wondered why this man ever needed a microphone! He had certainly read the book on cheesy phrases and mindless one-liners! We had to tolerate scantily-clad noodle-straps and Bollywood stars who constantly attacked our senses on TV either with their juvenile cricket gyaan or a blatant plug for their forthcoming movie.

The cricket was good. Club-Vs-Club cricket was also intense. It was, according to Anil Kumble, so intense that it probably drained players when they reached the West Indies! Despite all the negative attention it has received lately, and despite noodle-straps, colorful Sikhs with no need for a microphone, cheesy one-liners, peanut-parties, lisps and hoopla, IPL-3 was good, in my view.

And then it all went pear shaped.

Lalit Modi was “twattered”. Sashi Tharoor was “done in”. The IPL Governing Council members distanced themselves and ran away as fast and as furiously as they could from the very coffers that they had managed — they only managed the coffers and not the game, in my view! Show cause notices were issued without the issuers having even a basic understanding of the word “show” or without anyone understanding either the “cause” or the “effect”!

Then, the final nail in the coffin was Team India’s disastrous performance in the WCT20 tournament.

Just as Team India was booking its airline tickets for their return home, BCCI announced the team that would represent India at the tri-nations T20 and ODI tournament in Zimbabwe involving Zimbabwe, India and Sri Lanka. The matches commence May 28 and conclude on June 13.

Kris Srikkanth, the BCCI Chairman of selectors has “rested” as many as 9 (yes, nine) Team India ODI players for this tournament. Yes that is correct! MS Dhoni, Sachin Tendulkar, Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra, Harbhajan Singh, Yuvraj Singh and Praveen Kumar are being “rested”. It is likely that Virender Sehwag and Praveen Kumar are carrying injuries. But even so, that is a fair number of players that have been rested in one fell swoop!

I have to pose this question to Kris Srikkanth: As Chennai Super Kings Brand Ambassador, did he ever request MS Dhoni to “rest” and “sit out” 4-5 IPL games with a view to Dhoni playing in the tri-series donning India colors? Or did he have an undeclared, unmanaged and out-of-control conflict of interest there?

Can Kris Srikkanth effectively marry his role as Brand Ambassador of Chennai Super Kings (CSK) and National Selector? I do not believe so. Kris Srikkanth is horribly conflicted in my view. The only aspect of this sordid scenario that makes Srikkanth look good is that his boss, Mr N. Srinivasan, the owner of CSK, is even more horribly conflicted than Srikkanth is! As Kris Srikkanth tries to extract every ounce of effort from his CSK team members, exhort them to give off their very best and get them to stretch every sinew in their already weakened bodies to secure a win for CSK, he would have to know that their efforts for CSK would severely compromise their efforts for Team India.

Witness the team that Srikkanth has selected to tour Zimbabwe! It does not have MS Dhoni in it! Why? Could MS Dhoni not have been rested for 4-5 games that CSK played?

How can N. Srinivasan, the owner of CSK not expect the very best from MS Dhoni, Suresh Raina and M Vijay on the field and in CSK after-match parties? He is after all the owner of CSK and, as the person that has made a major investment, he would (and he should) expect rich returns for the shareholding in that investment! He should expect his personal wealth to increase as a direct consequence of the risk that he has ventured into. And the only way that can happen is by forcing players — either through contracts or by setting unwritten expectations — that they have to give off their best on the field and in smoke-filled dance floors! It is not wrong to castigate N. Srinivasan or belittle him for attempting to augment his personal wealth. After all, Vijay Mallaya, Priety Zinta and Nita Ambani are doing just that! So why would I be a moral cop and pull Srinivasan up for attempting to augment the size of his wallet?

However, as a Team India fan, I do have a problem with him doing that while donning BCCI colors. That just does not stack up for me. Something has to give. It is not enough to merely declare conflicts. These conflicts have to be actively managed.

Srikkanth’s action of includng MS Dhoni in every CSK game that Dhoni was available for and then “resting” him for the Zimbabwe tour does not seem to me to reflect the actions of a man who is managing a known and declared conflict of interest.

There may be many reasons for Team India’s poor showing at the ICC WCT20 tournament. Judging from the mass-resting of nine Team India players, physical/mental “fatigue” and too many late-night parties in dark rooms — not to mention, trying to dodge peanut flings! — may be one of the reasons! Others may well be the sudden and inexplicable loss of form of players like Zaheer Khan, Gautam Gambhir, the prolonged loss of form of Yuvraj Singh (which even a “goatee” could not reign in), wrong team selection, poor fielding, the team’s inability to cope with chin music in the short form of the game, the absence of Virender Sehwag, etc.

I am not perturbed by the fact that India lost. I have always said that we must learn to celebrate wins and tolerate losses with equanimity and dignity. However, the manner of India’s loss hurts more than the fact that India lost! Witness Gautam Gambhir’s running in the last Super8 game against Sri Lanka! It was the running of a man who was completely fatigued; a man whose focus was not quite on his game.

But my point is that if players are “fatigued” by too much cricket and testosterone-driven peanut activities, why were they not rested during the IPL? I do think post-match IPL-parties have outlived their utility. I am reasonably confident that these parties will be committed to the archives of the BCCI and IPL offices.

However, more importantly, I would like the BCCI to enforce a rule whereby each IPL team can use a “contracted” Team India player in no more than 10 (say) of the 16 games that each team plays (or 11 of the 18 games in IPL-4). In other words, each IPL team must be forced to bring into play a rotation policy that keeps players “fresh” and available for Team India assignments.

Mind you, the team chosen by Kris Srikkanth and his band of merry friends is not really bad although I find it somewhat mysterious that Robin Uthappa and Abhimanyu Mithun cannot find a place in the team. Is Uthappa injured? And if Mithun can be good enough to play for the last ODI series that India played in, what has happened between then and now for him to sit this series out?

That said, the team for the tri-series has a bunch of players that will soon be knocking the doors of Team India. Some of them are already playing in India colors in some form of the game or other.

The team is:

M Vijay
Dinesh Karthik / Naman Ojha (wk)
Suresh Raina (capt)
Virat Kohli (vice-capt)
Rohit Sharma
Yusuf Pathan
Ravindra Jadeja
R Ashwin / Amit Mishra / Pragyan Ojha
Umesh Yadav
Vinay Kumar
Ashok Dinda / Pankaj Singh

Meanwhile, the Indian media that chest-thumped India to #1 Test side in the world and #2 ODI side in the world in angry. Yes, the Indian media is very angry and demands answers!

Rahul Kanwal is Editor of Headlines Today a news channel. I watched a segment yesterday in which the young and erudite Kanwal assembled past captains like Kapil Dev, Mohammed Azharuddin, Bishen Singh Bedi, Imran Khan (for a perspective from a foreign hand, no doubt) and Sourav Ganguly to ask them for their views on the Team India WCT20 “debacle”. The Indian fan is angry and demands answers, roared the young Kanwal. He goaded the panel to castigate. He brayed for blood. He wanted names of people whose heads deserved to rest on a block of wood as the guillotine came crashing down. He was passionate and emotional as he roared his way through the program. Did I mention that he was angry too?

Mohammed Azharuddin thundered that no player can be above the game. He said, “For a player, cricket should come first and everything else is secondary!” Really now?

— Mohan

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21 responses to “Of flying peanuts and conflicts of interest…

  1. There are 2 kinds of former players.
    One who are on the IPL bandwagon or want to be on the IPL bandwagon.
    The other don’t want to be on the IPL bandwagon or know that they can never be in it.
    While the first are attacking players for the WC disaster, the second attack the IPL.

  2. Srikanth Mangalam

    I would like to point out that this conflict of interest is not limited to cricket. Coaches for the Canadian and US hockey teams were flying out the day after the olympic finals to represent their franchises in”key” NHL playoffs. Wayne Gretzky, former coach of Phoenix Coyotes also coached the Canadian Olympic team. The General Manager of the Toronto Maple leafs also managed the Canadian national team.

    However, for some reason, one doesn’t seem to see the impact of these conflicts felt in the games nor are they even talked about in the same vein as they are in this context.

    Just thought I’d share these facts! I am not necessarily taking sides in this argument I just feel that the IPL needs a few more years to mature before we start examining these issues.

    Cheers..

  3. @Srikanth

    Valid points.

    If we take soccer, for example, despite that tensions that exist between the FA in England and the various soccer teams in the EPL, I have rarely seen anything other than the “best available” team represent England unless of course if the game is a ‘friendly’. Most of the team-coach Vs FA arguments happen over ‘friendlies’. Everywhere else national team takes precedence over team. I have also never seen a situation where a national coach (or selector) is also coach/selector of an EPL team.

    That said, I agree with you that the IPL needs a few more years to become a more mature event.

    Question: How come Jayawardene is not “fatigued”?

  4. Mohan, I’d like to add a few points and seek to understand your reasoning here.

    In one of the previous IPLs, Dhoni played and then skipped the immediately following SL test tour citing fatigue. You didn’t have a problem with that at all. I said at that time that he needed to put country over club cricket and maybe skip a few IPL games. But the consensus in this forum was that Dhoni had been brave to take a stand and he was right in not touring if he was tired.

    Now, when these guys get tossed out of the WC, you are blaming the brand ambassador for not requesting Dhoni to skip a few games? Why, couldn’t Dhoni make that decision, keeping country over club cricket? He was brave to skip a test series, why not a few IPL games as well?

    All I’m saying is that Dhoni and the players are equally culpable. Of course, if they were forced to play all the IPL games, despite requesting rest, then it is another matter altogether. Also, I agree, conflict of interest exists all over the Indian cricket scene.

  5. @Shankar

    You make some valid points and I am in partial (if not full) agreement.

    Before I get to specifics though, I have to state that I seriously have no problems with India losing. I think I mention in my piece that winning and losing have to be dealt with with poise and dignity.

    I also have no problem with a player requesting a fatigue break when they need it. Some players like Michael Clarke seem to have the ability to “pace” themselves and opt out of events (like the IPL) that they do not have to be a part of. Other players are fatigued when they are fatigued.

    I DO have a problem with the Chairman of Selectors not selecting his best players to represent the country when he has been involved in selecting them for his private team!

    But I do agree with you that the player is equally culpable. But is it really possible for a player to say to his team owner that he wishes to take a 5-game “fatigue break”? This needs to be regulated and built into the system.

    That said, my gripe with Kris Srikkanth is that I am not sure any of the nine players requeste a “fatigue break”.

    — Mohan

  6. Hey Nice post…my question is should we need IPL??i think ipl make us hurt…IPL is simply Indian Publicity League
    my friend wrote a blog read it and post ur valuable comment…
    http://bit.ly/aJTlHI

  7. Srikanth Mangalam

    Is Jayasuriya in position of conflict. Being a member of the ruling party, can he guarantee himself a permanent place in the Sri Lankan team?

    Seriously though, he was an overhead that should have been avoided by the team.

    I sincerely a combination of insecurity, money, fame, long term sustainability and similar factors may affect players’ desires to declare their fatigue states. Players like Dhoni, Sehwag, Tendulkar, and Dravid do not have those concerns are able to state so quite clearly. I do not believe that the same luxury is available to the other players. The BCCIs and the franchisees have to play a more proactive role in this regard. Having said that, it is impossible to expect the incompetent cricket administrators to ever do so.

  8. Srikanth Mangalam

    Just as an add on, and something that I have always felt, I don’t give too much credence to Kris Srikkanth’s competency either. His intelligence is far below par, was bad as a cricketer, was terrible as a commentator and is pretty ordinary as a selector. He has merely been lucky that that the players’ pool is larger these days. If he keeps wading through the pool in his drunken state, soon that pool will run dry….He really has to go. Kumble is his recent article in the Hindustan Times has made some valid points. Maybe Kumble should take on that role….

  9. Dhoni is a very clever and shrewed spin doctor. By mentioning IPL after – parties, he has cleverly side tracked the minds of fans and media alike.

    Fatigue in travelling Business class and 5 star hotels with swimming pools? Kevin Peterson has just flown to the birth of his child and back and has top scored in the semi-final. Pull the other leg and play jingle bell!
    When one takes into consideration, cost of living and buying power within India, IPL money is worth a few times more for Indians than players from other countries. Hence, Indian players no longer have the hunger and desire to improve their performances in games other than IPL–after all, IPL money has bought them houses, cars, restaurants, bars etc for future income. Tours etc are just the cream on top of the cake!

    BCCI, Kirsten, Srikkanth et al can not hold the bat on the pitch or grip and swing or catch the ball in the middle of a game. The players are in absolute control of their and the country’s destiny and have to take full responsibility. It has nothing to do with fatigue–simple case of application–or lack of it.

  10. @Sampath Kumar

    Sure players have to take responsibility for the way they play. I am not saying that they should duck that. If you read the article carefully, I did say that what disappointed me most was not the loss, but the manner of the loss (or words to that effect).

    That said, I do believe there is an issue here of “fatigue”. I can’t believe that a good runner-between-wickets like Gautam Gambhir can run the way he did unless he was totally “not there”. That “not there” effect is fatigue-induced. I have no doubt about that. His form, confidence and focus on his own game dipped to such a remarkably low level.

    I read an article today in HT by an unidentified Indian cricketer. Read it and talk to players (like I have) before asking players to “pull the other leg and play jingle bell”, a curious and not-often-used phrase that was used in July 2008 on this blogsite when Dhoni sat out the SL Test series…

    Oh! And that is why I addressed this to Sampath Kumar.

    Read the comment in the attached URL by Govinda Iyer!

    http://i3j3cricket.com/2008/07/09/team-india-for-sri-lanka-series/#comments

    Govinda Iyer? Surely he is not Sampath Kumar? Yes he is. IP addresses do not lie 🙂

    Guys, really… Sam Kumar is not really a loser. 🙂

    You keep talking about money as if it means a lot to you. If Yuvraj plays badly and gets kicked out of Team India, all his money will be gone.

    So, no one goes out there to play badly! Some of them do get into that zone where they think they are invincible. I suspect Yuvraj Singh is in that zone now. But I have to believe that no one goes out there to lose! They play as well as their abilities and their bodies will allow them to play unless of course they are “on the take” like Azharuddin, Cronje and co were!

    Which is why I was baffled when Azharuddin preached that no man can be above the game! I mean, what the….?

    — Mohan

  11. Srinivas Iyer

    Like Sampath Kumar before him, Adi Dakshin has problems in life. But unlike Sampath Kumar whose rants made no sense and had no meaning at all, Daksin does make one valid point. Ultimately, players have to be responsible for their form, their bodies and their mental application. Incidentally, that is exactly what Dhoni said!

  12. Yuvraj Singh should be dropped from the team – T20, One-day ….

    Gambhir – who I thought was a real find for India, does not want to run between wickets properly – converts 2 runs to 1 run with his running – he was run-out a few times. and he is not such great fielder also.

    Yusuf Pathan – I do not what he does – bowling or batting. Atleast Irfan was good in his batting.

    IPL parties, man – I wish I was there !!
    Tickets for the match + party were going @ Rs. 50,000.

  13. Dear Mr Mohan,

    I think the selector’s decision to rest the Nine players is absolutely rite considering the fact that we are touring a country, which is not even worth its test status. As a prudent cricket fanatic, if u look on a long term basis, i really dont find a better time than this tour to test ur bench strength. We need options to explore. We all by now know wat Gambhir is capable of, wat Yuvraj is capable of or wat Zak is capable of.. Thats the advantage Aussies have, if Lee is out, u ve Ryan Harris and Doug Bollinger as replacement, if watson is out, u ve Marsh waiting, but tel me who is there for India wen Sehwag goes out or wen Gambhir goes out..Looks bleak to say the least (Looking at all forms not T20 specific).

    But i wud ve really endorsed ur views, had this entire so call mass resting had happened if we were to tour any other nation apart from Bangladesh or Zimbabwe. Also this rest is because of an hectic schedule which is awaiting post the Zimbabwe series where major tournaments are awaiting.

    Its simple logic, if i am the boss and have a really important meeting, i cant take off from work, but its a meeting for which the boss is not required, then there’s nothin wrong me in takin off by delegating. As simple as tat.

    And with respect to Srikanth, even though i’ve never been a big fan of him, but overall looking, i feel he has done a decent job as a selector. The winning record for Team India has been substantially high compared to all his former peers , the only glitch unfortunately (fortunately for the critics) has been the world cup debacles. Lets accept that he has been a better selector and its the players who have not capitalised on the opportunities that were provided to them. (Eg. Jadeja)

    Further to ur point as to ‘Why? Could MS Dhoni not have been rested for 4-5 games that CSK played?..
    Yes MSD was rested for few games for CSK in this years IPL. Being a T20 game i as CSK’s owner from a business point of view, cud ve very well forced Dhoni to play the games wit painkillers. But again i am sure this decision to rest him wud ve made considering the future tournaments ‘beyond IPL’ and Srikkant wud ve been part of this decision as a ‘Brand Ambassador’. So i beg to differ from ur view.

    Bottomline is “IPL to me is not a reason, its a platform to perform, platform to get recognised at the biggest level, a boon to Indian cricket, added with the entertainment masala’s”

    For the world cup disaster, it was our weakness which was exposed and the opponents were smart enough to strengthen them thro our weakness..

  14. Amazing victory for England.

    KP playing like the Ashes 2005 series. What an innings – lofted back over the bowler’s head of Shawn Tait !!

    After, the retirement of “high profile” all-rounder Andrew Flintoff (who was compared to Gary Sobers, at some point), they are able to recuperate and have selected a good side.

    Stuart Broad will be a good bowler for England.

  15. The situation is simple: Bad team selection for T20, and when things started going wrong, there was no back up plan. Considering the fact that there was not gonna be any gap between IPL3 and T20 WC, the coach needed to have a plan or three in place. I am sure the players were fatigued to an extent from IPL but that’s not the main reason. We got found out by the same problem that afflicted us in 2009.. the goddamned bouncing ball. We did not have the bowlers to exploit the bounce either. So, instead of causing inroads in the first 6 overs, we limited damage by using Bhajji and then, the floodgates were opened.

    Regarding the team selection for the tri-series, as much as I agree with you being pissed about sitting down all these players, I rather am of the thought that we will have as good a chance in these matches as the first choice 11, baring the injured ones. These “newbies” have been knocking on he door for a while and play purposefully, as they still have something to prove.

  16. @couch

    I am not pissed off because of the damage the “resting” will do to India’s chances. I have seldom lost sleep over India losing T20 and ODI games. I am pissed off because of the rising tide of people who are “conflicted” in the game today. And people naively believe that once a conflict is “declared” all is well. No it is not. The conflict has to be declared and actively managed! The “newbies” may or may not do well. But I really do not care that much!

  17. Mohan,

    As a fan of Indian cricket (in all formats), I like to see my countrymen win any match they play. The rising tide of people you mention – are you referring to the fans+media or the players themselves?

    I seriously wish for the newbies to do well. Especially in the short format. This would provide some seriously needed bench strength going to the WC next year. Its hard for the newbies to prove themselves in the test arena as the line up is stacked and the only avenue for these guys to show the world what they can do, is such triangular tourneys.

  18. @couch

    I believe N. Srinivasan, Kris Srikkanth, Sunil Gavaskar, Ravi Shastri, Lalit Modi, et al are conflicted. Srinivasan’s and Srikkanth’s conflicts have been talked about. Gavaskar is on the IPL Governing Council, several Technical Committees and is a permanent feature in every commentary team. His good friend Shastri is on the IPL Governing Council, is Director of the Cricket Academy and is a permanent feature in every commentary team. Lalit Modi is Chairman (suspended) of the IPL and has “interests” in several teams. I can go on and on, but you get my drift.

  19. Mohan

    I think we just failed to see the writing on the wall… India’s failure in World T20 shouldn’t have come as a big surprise, really…if you think about it.

    If you go back and look at the T20 internationals India has played since 2009 – they have won just 6 of 16 matches, of which 3 wins have come against Bangladesh, Ireland and Afghanistan. So, effectively they’ve beaten just two major teams – Sri Lanka and South Africa in that period.

    Just because India won the T20 World cup in 2007 or the fact that Indian players did well in IPL means nothing. Collectively they have been a failure in this format. (Having IPL so close to the tournament didn’t help India either)

    Anyways, coming back to the points you made –

    – I like your suggestion about keeping a quota on the number of matches a player can play in a season (I would extend it to international players as well)
    – It is going to be impossible to remove the conflicts that currently exists. The people who have to take the decision to remove these conflits are the ones who have these conflicts of interests – which itself is another conflict!

    Now for something, off topic – Am I the only one who thought the IPL was a lot more exciting than the World T20 competition? Isn’t it supposed to be the other way around?? Maybe it was the overdose of T20s…

  20. Pingback: VIP Defense — For Brutus is an honourable man… « i3j3Cricket :: A blog for fans of Indian cricket…

  21. Very useful site. Thanks, you describe the topic very well

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