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Love (of $) makes the world go round in Indian cricket
by Suresh Menon
Nov 18, 2008
India might have started well in the England series, but soon it will be time to set this aside, change hats as it were, and wear the Twenty20 garb. Whether switching the mindset is as easy as changing clothes is something we will have to wait and see. Some players will go from playing a one-day international to a Twenty20 tournament to Test cricket in about ten days.

Between the one-day series against England and before the Test series, some of the Indian players and most of the spectators will change channels - for on December 3, a few hours after the end of the seventh one-dayer, the Champions League is set to commence.

The final of that tournament is scheduled for December 10 in Chennai; a few hours later, India take on England in the first Test at Ahmedabad. Already there is talk of postponing the start of the Test by a day to give everybody time to get to the venue. Some genius in the cricket board obviously didn't realise that 11 follows 10, and the fixtures were drawn up thus.

The Indian Board, currently negotiating (that's the polite word) with their counterparts in the English Board to change the dates of the start of the English season next year so Andrew Flintoff and Kevin Pietersen (among others, one presumes) will be free to take part in the IPL, has been paying lip service to Test cricket but have shown little interest in supporting it.

In India, the home of cricket, the rule seems to be: the fewer the overs, greater the crowd support for the game. Thus we have Twenty20 at the top of the pyramid, attracting upwards of 50,000 in the major centres, one-day cricket in the middle capable of attracting around 30,000 spectators but mainly outside the major centres, and Test cricket which, if Nagpur was anything to go by, attracts about ten people. The Board's reaction, as the governing body is curious: throw more energies into Twenty20, and prepare for Test cricket's funeral.

And it is not just the Board. India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni - whose cricketing skill is matched only by his PR skill - takes time out in the middle of an important series, between the first and second one-dayers to inaugurate a stadium in Bhandara in Maharashtra. Well, he (and two others) cannot say 'No' to Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel (the stadium is named after his father). Air India went out of its way to give the players goodies after the World Twenty20 victory, and this is payback time.

There is a touching innocence about a Board busybody's attempt to pass it all off as being in aid of charity. And never mind the dangers of physical injury as the crowd rushed onto the field to swarm the players, or the security risk involved.

And this is the same Dhoni who pulled out of a Test series in Sri Lanka because he was tired of too much cricket.

But who has the moral authority to crack the whip and tell the players that they cannot do certain things in the middle of a series? Imagine the Board telling Dhoni he cannot play in Bhandara during a series. He will (or his agent will) merely turn around and ask the Board how the governing body can hold an international tournament in the middle of a bilateral series.

Love does make the world go round.. Love of money, that is.

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