BCCI not good with PR. But no double speak either - Sunil Gavaskar Column

2008 Sep 05 by

Perhaps the BCCI is yet to learn about good PR but at least there is no doublespeak and double standards like with the other whingers and thank God for that.

It's been an interesting few days for the cricketing community. The old powers won the battle to postpone the ICC Champions Trophy tournament to next year, though nobody can be sure how the situation will be in a year's time. Hopefully though the decision about the tournament will be taken much before than on this occasion, when the decision to postpone the tournament was taken just a few days before the tournament was to be held, which made it impossible to shift it anywhere else too.

One can understand Australia and New Zealand having security concerns because they are fortunate not to have the spectre of terrorism hanging over their heads in their countries, and so are understandably concerned though fearful is perhaps the correct word about touring areas where bombs explode without any warning. South Africa too doesn't have a problem with terrorism though the crime rate there makes a terror strike look like small change. What was amusing was the stance of the English who have lived through the Irish Republican Army age and have suicide bombers blowing themselves up in trains and buses, and who now find Pakistan a security concern. But then they are the masters of the double speak and double standards?

Marcus Trescothick's book about his career and his problems has made the headlines and it was good to see that he has now apologised to all those whom he didn't tell the whole truth about his condition. The apology was particularly gratifying since it now clears the good name of Mumbai and Baroda cities. In the media release about his sudden departure from India in 2005-06 there was a mention that he had contracted a virus in these cities and which had led to him being unwell, and was the reason for his packing his bags and leaving the tour even before the Tests had started. Now the book makes it clear that none of that was true and that he had other problems and he has apologised to all whom he may have misled with the virus version. With the air cleared it is hoped that he will get better soon and live the kind of life that he wishes to and is happier for it.

However the part of his book that has made more headlines is where he admits that he was using mints to ensure that one side of the ball had its shine on, thus enabling England's seam attack to get it to swing even after many overs had been bowled. England's seam bowlers bowled quite superbly throughout that series and helped England to regain the Ashes after a long, long time. The English media which had taken Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis to task a few year's earlier for getting reverse swing and called them cheats, were now full of praise for their bowlers who used the same tactics in getting the Australians out. Doublespeak and double standards? You tell me.

If the English are in the news then can the Australians be far behind? Andrew Symonds being sent home tells us why the Australians are such a great team. No individual is greater than the game and the team always takes precedence over everything else. By missing out on a team meeting Symonds put himself over the team and was sent back. There was no question about him being a star or anything like that, as he was summarily told to leave the team and go home. What is even more impressive is that Cricket Australia is not abandoning him but will help him in any way that they can, so that he gets back into the team frame. This is where Cricket Australia is different from other Boards and perhaps explains why Australia produces cricketers who value that Baggy Green more than anything else.

Look at the way they handled Ricky Ponting when he at the start of his career had a few problems. They helped him and today Ponting is the number one batsman in the world, who bids fair to beat all records in the book. It is not the first time that Symonds has had disciplinary issues and he is lucky that nobody in India has tried to link his latest escapade with the previous ones and call it a pattern, as was done in the case of Harbhajan Singh. As soon as Harbhajan was banned by the Indian Premier League and the BCCI, for the backhander to Sreesanth, most guys even in India tried to link it with what had happened in Australia only a couple of months earlier, where he was wrongfully accused of using a racial slur against Symonds. The conclusion drawn was that Harbhajan must have used the racial slur because of what he did to Sreesanth. How the two separate incidents can be linked is hard to understand. Now will those people similarly say that Symonds is a serial provoker who has provoked his own Australian team and his good friends in it to take the extreme step of sending him back as a disciplinary measure?

Some in the Australian media are making the excuse that Symonds is nursing a grievance against Cricket Australia for downgrading the charge against Harbhajan Singh to verbal abuse and not racial slur, as the reason for his sullenness. They are blaming Cricket Australia for bowing to pressure from the Indian Board when the facts are very simple. Once the video and audio recording after being dry cleaned of other voices and sounds showed that nothing racial was heard Cricket Australia knew that the charge could not stand in the sitting before a qualified judge. The next step was to salvage something and that meant getting Harbhajan to agree to lower charge of verbal abuse which he did despite the fact that it was Symonds who started it all with his language which wasn't exactly the Queen's English, and pretty much the same as what Harbhajan had used. Still it was the Indian who got punished while Symonds got away with a rap on the knuckles from Judge Hansen. The version that BCCI had threatened to abandon the tour was widely used to malign BCCI; despite the President going on record, as the controversy raged, that there is no question of abandoning the tour.

Perhaps the BCCI is yet to learn about good PR but at least there is no doublespeak and double standards like with the other whingers and thank God for that.