Akhila Ranganna: Hello and welcome to Cricinfo Talk, I have with me the former India batsman Sanjay Manjrekar to talk about the 11 IPL-game ban that has been imposed on Harbhajan Singh after he pleaded guilty to slapping Sreesanth after Friday's game between Kings XI Punjab and Mumbai Indians.
What do you make of the punishment? Should Sreesanth have been hauled up too?
Sanjay Manjrekar: Firstly let me say that the governing council of the IPL has done the best they could have. They had only the authority to decide on their own tournament - they couldn't encroach on the BCCI's territory and do more. So what they have really done is given Harbhajan a complete ban for this season of the IPL, which is the best that they could have done.
I think the eyes of the world are now on the BCCI as to whether this [punishment] will be it: whether it will finish with these 11 IPL games or will there be more coming for Harbhajan. There is a new angle that has come in called double jeopardy: whether the BCCI can penalise Harbhajan again as it would become a second-time punishment for the same offence. But the problem is that if the BCCI doesn't have their own penalty imposed on Harbhajan, then his act - physical assault on a player on the cricket field - will only get him a four-week ban. When you look at the time frame, it is just a four-week ban for physical assault on another player.
Let us not forget that these are two stars and this happened in a highly-visible tournament. I think the BCCI needs to take a more serious view and I expect them to add a little more to the punishment that the IPL governing council has done.
As far as Sreesanth is concerned, there could have been provocation [from him to Harbhajan] but provocation always happens on the cricket field. So yes, the provocateur is also to be held responsible but a man who reacts and one who does in the fashion that he [Harbhajan] has done, obviously needs a stricter penalty. I have said this before and I say it again, Harbhajan and Sreesanth both need some counselling. The problem in Indian cricket at the moment is that after Harbhajan came from Australia - although he hadn't got too many wickets [in Australia] - he came back a hero in the eyes of the masses. Even if you look at the promotions for the IPL, they say that this [tournament] is not player versus player but that these are warriors and this is war. Basically there are a few players out there who believe that if they behave in certain fashion, they get more attention and more stardom. So that is a trend that the BCCI should try and curb.
Aggression is how you bowl or how you bat. Sanath Jayasuriya, Adam Gilchrist are some of the most aggressive batsmen in world cricket but they do not behave in ways that some of the so-called aggressive players in India do. That is something that the BCCI should look at - are some young players getting caught up in this trip of having a certain image for themselves that gets them more attention and builds their brand value. I think there are a few players getting sucked into this.
AR: But was this something inevitable, given the way the Indian players have been behaving? Is it aggression gone horribly wrong?
SM: This is something that we discussed on the Cricinfo Round Table as well before the tour of Australia. India is playing well as a team; India is performing better against the stronger teams; it is performing better than it has ever done against the best team in the world - Australia. A lot of that has been attributed to the aggression the Indian team showed. There are a few players in the Indian team who believe that you have got to behave in this way [aggressively] to get results. But that kind of an approach to winning matches is not the Indian way - in the sense that it doesn't come naturally to us. I'm not saying that India has to take everything lying down but it [aggression] doesn't come naturally to us. The Sri Lankans don't really play in this fashion because it does not come naturally to them. So when you do something that is unnatural, at some point you get found out and that is exactly what has happened.
When you look at the Australians, [aggression] is a way of life for them. Shane Warne's aggression is controlled and sometimes just acted out because deep down, he is well in control of his behaviour. Our aggression is uncontrolled. It seems deliberate and there is always a fear that certain players are going to take it a bit too far.
AR: But this whole business of being aggressive, is it part of an image building thing for some Indian players?
SM: If you see the promotions that happen before the tournaments and the build-ups that happen - whether it's in the news channels or by the host broadcasters - you will see certain players behaving in a certain fashion when they are splashed on the screen. The build-up for the IPL has been: these aren't cricketers, these are warriors. So you have players showing a lot of aggression, staring down the batsmen and looking very angry - little do they realise that they look like monsters themselves. There are certain players who believe that if they behave in this aggressive manner they'll get more attention. There are people around them who are in the business of marketing who will tell them that is helping them [the cricketers] increase their brand value. So there will be a few players who will get sucked in and do this deliberately to get more attention. That is something that one has to be mindful of and the BCCI has to be aware of all these things. This is now a marketable sport, there is a lot of commercialisation happening and it is not going to remain as pure as it was in the 60s and 70s. All these things are part and parcel of a changing sport. The BCCI has got to be aware of these changes and the effect of this tremendous visibility [on the cricketers] that cricket is getting.
AR: Does the board need to address this as a wider problem - you've spoken about the need for Harbhajan to get counselling - how do you think the board needs to address this?
|Aggression is how you bowl or how you bat. Sanath Jayasuriya, Adam Gilchrist are some of the most aggressive batsmen in world cricket but they do not behave in ways that some of the so-called aggressive players in India do|
SM: I wonder, if after the match when Harbhajan was where he was and there was somebody like Greg Chappell or a respected coach behind him, would he have acted in that fashion. That is one step: you have got to have somebody in charge of the team whom the team respects not somebody that the team can take for granted. That is one question that will be raised after this incident: if there was a senior, more respected coach near Harbhajan, would he have behaved in that fashion?
The BCCI just needs to be watchful now; they need to keep watching certain players and observing whether they behave in a certain manner deliberately; is there something more to their behaviour. The BCCI has to become like a guardian now. Dishing out penalties is simple: somebody gets out of hand and you rap him on the knuckles. But there is also a step after that as you need that talent. These are talented players and you want them to be serving Indian cricket for a long time and you want them to set the right example. There has got to be some form of counselling for these players to ensure that Harbhajan, after serving out whatever penalty he gets, comes back a more balanced player. I see that Irfan Pathan has changed a lot after he was dropped form the Indian team after the initial stardom that he got - I see that he is looking a lot more balanced. The BCCI should look at Harbhajan and Sreesanth as the two cases that they have now got to tackle and ensure that they come back more balanced and are a little more aware of their own behaviour and not go out of control.
Former India batsman Sanjay Manjrekar is a cricket commentator and presenter on TV. @sanjaymanjrekar
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