IS Bindra: a scathing response to newspaper article
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The tensions that currently exist between the Indian board and other members of the cricket-playing world have been laid bare by IS Bindra, the former president of the BCCI, who has issued a scathing response to an article by the veteran Australian journalist, Mike Coward.
Writing in The Australian
on Saturday, Coward accused the Indian administrators of "brash and bolshy [behaviour that] beggars belief", and suggested that the BCCI was aiming to use its "obscene" wealth to usurp the ICC as the game's ruling body. "India must decide whether it wishes to remain a part of the international cricket family," he intoned. "It is as fundamental as that."
The BCCI might have been tempted to let such trenchant opinions pass by unnoticed, but coming from Coward - a man whom Bindra has "known for over two decades ... and respect[ed] for his invariably temperate views" - they instead felt compelled to respond in kind. In doing so, they have given a fascinating insight into the sort of conflicts that hitherto have been taking place only at boardroom level.
"He has just poured his venom and vitriol," wrote Bindra, after Coward accused his organisation of caring only for "naked ambition and the power of the purse". "I really wonder what is it that we have done to invite his unbridled ire," he continued. "I am both amused and aghast at some of his objectionable observations."
In particular, Bindra bridled at Coward's use of the word "bolshy" - a word that once had left-wing connotations, but now is more commonly used as a synomym for "obstreperous" or "stroppy". Ironically, it soon becomes clear that both alternatives would aptly describe his response.
"As students of history both Mike and I have read and understood Marx, Lenin and the Bolsheviks well, I think," continued Bindra. "How can the Indian Board be Bolshy when he is accusing us of using our money power to control the game! Is it his argument that we have unleashed a terror against upper classes or what he says countries like England and Australia? We Indians are passionate about cricket, but that doesn't mean we wish or talk ill of others."
Bindra insisted he didn't want to extend the Marxist dogma further "lest it is interpreted using dangerous analogies", but then ploughed on regardless. "How can cricket or even India survive without the countries which he insinuates we are out to subjugate? Yes, in a way he is right, like Bolsheviks our Board is full of revolutionary ideas as we believe in equality and we want every cricket-playing nation to prosper by replicating the Indian system so that cricket becomes a truly global sport. To call us imperialists sounds funny as we have never showed the imperiousness of absolute monarchs!"
The next meeting of the ICC executive board takes place in Mumbai on November 3 and 4. "It is bound to be one of the most rancorous meetings in the ICC's 97-year history," wrote Coward, who even questioned whether the organisation would still be standing by the end of it all. Bindra, however, insisted the game would survive what he termed these "aberrations and hiccups", although his wider response did little to allay any pre-meeting concerns.
"[The] ICC is not grinning and bearing it, it is the other way round," wrote Bindra. "It wants us to accept all its unreasonable diktats. The ICC may have made itself impotent and irrelevant, but the day it addresses all the issues raised not only by us but a host of others, it will be a vibrant apex body for international cricket. We are looking at a buoyant cricket world, not indulging in what he calls in any brinkmanship."
Coward pulls no punches in his forthright article, suggesting that the Indian board is reaping what was sown several decades ago by an Anglo-centric ICC whose "imperialist, paternalistic prattle [was] at best, dismissive and culturally elitist and, at worst, racist". But Bindra dismissed this notion. "We have long forgotten that as a bad dream," he wrote. "I don't know how many minds he has studied in the subcontinent to come up with such a profound psycho-analysis."
On his colleague, Lalit Modi, whom many critics of the BCCI single out as the most abrasive influence in the current dispute, Bindra was disarmingly honest. "[Coward] is obviously referring to [Modi's] excessive zeal and volatility he occasionally exhibits when the other side is refusing to see reason." For the sake of the game, here's hoping some reason can be reached at Mumbai next week.
Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo