The empire strikes back
Review meetings are meant to be eyewashes. Not much more than some token nip and tuck was expected of the two-day meeting of the Board of Control for Cricket in India to discuss its team's embarrasssing early return from the World Cup. What has emerged instead is a series of tough, some would even say harsh, measures aimed at reining in some of the game's biggest - and, in the eyes of the board, truant - superstars. The message to them is strong, and it has been delivered in the bluntest manner possible.
And amid it all there is a massive vote of confidence for Rahul Dravid. It may yet be of symbolic value, but the message to Sachin Tendulkar, the holiest of holy cows, will not be lost on anyone. By deciding to serve him a show cause notice for his interview to a leading newspaper, in which he expressed his hurt over the coach questioning his attitude, the board has demonstrated that it is not willing to spare anyone. A similar notice has been issued to Yuvraj Singh, who went on record to say the players backed Sachin's stand.
To rub it in, the board has also announced that a team consisting of younger players will tour Bangladesh under Dravid, who has also been appointed captain for the next tour to England.
It might not say it in so many words but it is the strongest assertion of power from the board in recent times and a clear acknowledgement of the fact that it has taken serious note of the attitude of some senior players.
This is probably the most strident move by the board against the players since August 1989, when it banned six players - Dilip Vengsarkar, Kapil Dev, Ravi Shastri, Arun Lal, Mohammed Azharuddin and Kiran More - from playing international cricket for a period of one year after they participated in a series of unofficial matches in the USA. That came at a time when the players were talking about protecting their player rights and forming an association. The six players challenged the ban in the Supreme Court, which applied the Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Act to rule in their favour.
Though it's farfetched to see the board actually banning or fining the two players they have issued noticed to, the board has backed the accent on youth that Dravid and Greg Chappell have been talking of for a while now.
There's a strong chance that several senior players will be rested, at least for the one-dayers, in the forthcoming tour of Bangladesh. This means that players like Manoj Tiwari and Rohit Sharma will get a chance to dislodge some of the established members of the team. Strong performances could well ensure that they get a look-in when tougher tests confront India later in the year.
It's tough to say whether Dravid has got all he wanted. But one thing is clear: The players have got a strong signal - pull together, win matches, and you will be rewarded. The board will not stand by and watch wheels within wheels undermine the efforts of some members of the team.
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Anand Vasu is associate editor of Cricinfo