By Suresh Menon
Ultimately BCCI versus WADA is a heart versus head issue. The heart says that players are entitled to their privacy, and security might be a valid point considering the threats some Indian players have received. The quaintly named â?whereaboutssâ? clause has caused concern among sportsmen around the world, not too many of whom either like the idea of Big Brother (George Orwelllâ?s, not Reality Televisionnâ?s) watching them or genuinely have no idea where they will be say 43 days from now.
Sportsmen whose lives take in endorsements, promotions, charity work, the odd love affair outside of marriage, visits to places of worship between tournaments, general goofing off in the off season will be hard put to it to put a time and place to their movements. One can sympathise.
The head, however, says that this cannot be reduced to a question of individual convenience when larger issues are at stake. Drugs in sport is a serious issue, and every sportsmen has a responsibility to help counter it. The argument that drugs might actually inhibit a cricketer from performing at the highest level rather than enhance that performance is not valid for two reasons. One, we do not know enough about the constantly evolving nature of the sophisticated drugs that might help a fielder take amazing catches at slip or a bowler send down 25 overs a day without losing pace or guile. More importantly, sportsmen must not only be clean but seen to be clean if their records are not to come under a cloud.
For once neither the BCCI nor the ICC can be blamed for the impasse. By standing by its players the Indian board has made its point, but it will be interesting to see just how far it is willing to go and damn the consequences. Cricket is not an Olympic sport, and if the ICC pulls out of the WADA agreement, it would not seriously affect the gameeâ?s prospects. But that would be a shortsighted response.
Cricket needs to take its place among the major sports of the world, be seen as clean, and the authorities must keep the larger picture in view at all times. WADA, which has the worlddâ?s top sportsmen in their bag (so to speak) is unlikely to give in to the discomfort of a few Indian players. If the ICC decides that it can run its own drugs regimen, questions will be asked about its efficiency and its habit of giving in to the Indian board, so that does not look like a practical route either.
WADA will argue that there is no cause for special treatment to the Tendulkars and Dhonis when the Federers and Usain Bolts have signed up despite their reservations.
If India are banned from future ICC tournaments (that means all international cricket), that would be too high a price to pay for what is at worst an inconvenience. Privacy and security are good arguments, but it is inconvenience that is at the bottom of the refusal to sign.
WADA is not perfect. But it plays an important role. There are only two courses left for the ICC. Either it pulls out of the agreement, and that is not good for the gameeâ?s image, or it convinces the Indian board that its players have a duty to abide by the rules of engagement. â?I refused to take part in the war against drugs because I didnnâ?t want anyone to know where I would be two months from now,,â? is a ridiculous excuse. Players have to suck it up and sign.