September 6, 2013

The BCCI owes people an explanation

The board must make clear why India's Test series in South Africa has been curtailed, or everyone will be justified in assuming it was all done for one cricketer
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Some might think it is the by-product of games played on another field, some might believe that he is the primary reason, but at the end of it all, Sachin Tendulkar will play his 200th Test in India, most likely at the Wankhede Stadium, where he scored a first-class century on debut.

You'll never know the real reason, the BCCI won't say anything, and Tendulkar, well, he tends to keep his cards close to his chest, doesn't he?

If indeed the upheaval in itineraries is to allow Tendulkar to play that 200th at home, then I'm afraid it is wrong. It is an astonishing landmark, even for a staggering cricketer, and let's be honest, we don't know if he asked for it, but if everyone began moving schedules around to accommodate people, there would be more variables than in a political scenario. But if this is to allow him to play his last game at the Wankhede Stadium (and again, Tendulkar hasn't even indicated thus), I think we can look at it differently. Yes, the argument against moving schedules for one person is still valid, but we are an emotional people and to that extent our sporting ethos is a bit different, and we are talking of someone who has given more joy to Indians than almost anyone else. A farewell before the fans is not wrong. It is, in fact, quite a nice thing to do. And it would give all those who benefit from the Tendulkar industry one last opportunity as well.

But there is, in fact, a more valid, more commercial, reason for playing a series at home. The BCCI has very lucrative television and sponsorship deals, and anyone who invests a large amount has a commercial interest too. Marketing and promotion plans are created around sponsorship, income forecasts are made, profit and loss statements can be affected. You cannot tell people who are heavily invested that there will be no activity this year. But you also cannot tell that to the South Africans, because they will argue it should have been thought of earlier. After all everyone is committed to the Future Tours Programme and other countries are entitled to make their plans, have their marketing tie-ups and protect their profit and loss statements too. So if India need to play a series at home it shouldn't come at the cost of another.

It seems fairly clear, though, that there is a third reason why South Africa will only face India for a very short tour. Two countries that were fairly close allies - South Africa helped India take the IPL there within three weeks in 2009 - have now drifted so far apart that I suspect neither is picking up the phone and speaking to the other. Clearly, the BCCI is not in love with Haroon Lorgat, who now heads Cricket South Africa, and whispers of unfair and unreasonable actions during the 2011 World Cup (when he was head of the ICC) have been around for a while now. So there is a suggestion that this is indeed a personal tit-for-tat.

I don't know how true that is but the fact remains that the issues are coming in the way of a marquee series. Test cricket is in peril, there are more romantics than realists in its corner, and more words than cheques come its way. For Test cricket to survive and hopefully to flourish, it needs as many contests among the best teams as possible. South Africa v India is World No. 1 v World No. 3. The last time these two teams played in South Africa they produced some brilliant cricket, and Tendulkar v Steyn in Cape Town will always be among the game's more lasting memories. It isn't just contests like these but the build-up too that draws people in. A two-Test series is like settling down after starters only to be presented with the bill.

It is imperative that personal differences do not come in the way of cricket. If the BCCI has a valid reason, it is important that the fans know of it, because if it doesn't, everyone in Indian cricket has to stand up to the outrage. There have been times in the past, like with the DRS, when the BCCI has taken an unpopular stand that has been proven to be largely right. But by not coming out with its argument in time the board let the world assume that the objection came from the captain and Tendulkar alone.

Solutions can sometimes be found if you put the non-negotiables first and try working around them. On this matter, three Test matches in South Africa should be the non-negotiable. And hopefully that 200th is not the reason for all this change.

Harsha Bhogle is a television presenter, writer, and a commentator on IPL and other cricket. His Twitter feed is here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • abhitupe on September 11, 2013, 7:30 GMT

    Absolutely agree with Harsha. Have been Tendulkar fan for all my life. But, if these are arm twisting tactics or tit for tat, then this is not good for cricket. Arguments may flow that MCC and Australia also used the same in their days, but thats no logic for me. It absolutely absurd, to reschedule the series. I would urge all that these things work because we disagree with this and dont do anything about it. My stand would be if they dont come out with possible fair response. I should not watch cricket, let them feel brunt of it. But I know most of the us will conviniently forget all these things and still crowd the stadiums, watch it on TV/online, follow it on cricinfo. And this should mean every cricket fan boycotts it. And am not here to contest who is bigger fans or board. Cricket is bigger and should get due respect. Even if it is at inconvenience of fans. I question myself whether I will be following WI series or not. But, I would take a stand principally and not follow.

  • vishmanc on September 10, 2013, 8:00 GMT

    For me Tendulkar himself should say and take a stand on this. Playing 200 test Match at home or on foreign Soil, he will be the best to answer. What He wants.

  • jay57870 on September 8, 2013, 11:28 GMT

    Harsha - It's all speculation! As Bhogle admits: "You'll never know the real reason" - let alone the real facts - behind BCCI's actions to curtail the SA tour. To suggest Tendulkar might be the "primary reason" without evidence has no honest merit. Sachin's a man of integrity & loyalty. He values his privacy. It's his prerogative to talk to the media or not. This is a BCCI-CSA feud, so why drag Sachin into it? Let Lorgat & Patel "work out the best possible schedule" ('non-negotiable' really?) when they meet in Dubai. More important, BCCI owes an explanation on far more contentious issues facing Indian cricket. Bhogle needs to delve into why BCCI is still not coming clean on the fixing scandal. The 'independent inquiry' was a farce. The courts have challenged BCCI. The conflict-of-interest issue, especially CSK, remains unresolved. It's about Srinivasan - NOT Tendulkar! It's about governance & accountability: That's a 'non-negotiable'! Yes, "The BCCI must do right by the fans", Harsha!!

  • old_guard on September 8, 2013, 7:24 GMT

    It's so sad, but the the game of cricket is dying. We may not see it among the gaudy displays of the IPL and numerous meaningless one day tournaments, but the sad reality is that commercial interests have completely taken over.

    As a proud Indian it sickens me that my own board has been the architect of cricket's demise, with their almost fanatical and truly deplorable greed. BCCI, you're killing the goose that laid the golden egg. You've been slowly doing it for a while, and now you're denying us a decent opportunity to enjoy one of the only two overseas tours that actually mean something from an Indian perspective.

  • AbhijeetC on September 7, 2013, 12:38 GMT

    @Sandeep Albert Mathias

    I think you should check FTP first and then comment. I don't mind playing against SA in Nov. but they have series against Pakistan in UAE. (note to ESPNcricinfo: how could you add this comment in featured section? first three arguments are baseless as you know SA can't play India in Nov.)

    2. To be honest I don't mind if it is SA or WI, as long as Sachin is playing his 200th Test at home. (higher revenue/ good for promotion, marketing, I am not talking this our of love for Sachin).

    3. I respect Dravid and Laxman's decision, I knew Dravid would never announce his retirement before his final series, he is not that kind of person. but I would want Sachin to announce retirement at least before his final test.

    4. mark my words, If sachin scores even one century in this 2 test series, He will be on board playing for SA. (people like it not), As Shastri said he might play next year's lords test match. You never know.

    Thanks,

  • alarky on September 7, 2013, 12:36 GMT

    The danger that the BCCI is risking to the future of these young Indian talents is to have them going to SA to battle against the world's most lethal bowling attack, without proper preparation! Then if they fail in their first one or two innings, and not have enough matches to recover their dashed confidence, they usually unfairly drop them! Next thing, the competition in India is so stiff that they may never get another chance again - thus, sadly ending the international career of lots of more gifted and talented players than Terndulkar! The thing is that no one ever did this to Tendulkar ! In fact, he's the only cricketer who has never had any sort of pressure put on him to affect his play! Yet, with all the time and opportunities given to him, when fairly analysed, he is a "just above" average batsman! If he wants to play his 200th match at home, then call up SA to India; play the first 2 matches there, and let the youths get the confidence to face Steyn and Co. in the next 3 in SA!

  • jackthelad on September 7, 2013, 8:27 GMT

    The main problem is that the BCCI has so much financial clout, and has got away with so many doubtful actions because of it, that they have developed delusions of grandeur and believe they are bigger than world cricket and can do what they want. Something needs to be done by all the other cricketing nations and their organ the ICC to curtail this before it does irreparable damage to this most beautiful game.

  • sps21 on September 7, 2013, 6:28 GMT

    @ SCC08 : Its not about sachin's 200th test...its a smoke screen created by BCCI to avoid the public backlash here in india. Real reason is lorghat who is much despised figure among the BCCI top brass. CSA went ahead and appointed him despite BCCI very public reservations. So now BCCI is just showing them who is the real boss! things will be back to normal once lorghat is cut to size.

    As far as question of "500 trillion people" producing a quality test team is concerned: dont worry that day is not far off. india has improved a lot in last decade because now the cricket sports facilities in India are at par with Eng/Aus, processes are more evolved and talent is being groomed properly. ( Eng& Aus were aberation if you take long term trends) India is already an ODI powerhouse and now they have also started to look at tests more methodically. like grooming talent with lot of A/U-19 tours abroad. results will come slowly but suerly. We lost the Big 3 but didnt miss them!!

  • Arslan_Javed on September 7, 2013, 6:15 GMT

    For me it would be far better for Great Sachin to face world number one team in their backyard and score there. A good 50 would be far valuable than 100 or 200 against Weaker WI attack on flat and placid wickets. May be a good record to have 100 or 200 in 200th Test but would be great if done against SA attack. On other hand playing against WI is not a surety to achieve such landmark as Sachin in recent form has failed against weakest NZ fast bowling attack even indian pitches.