By Sunil Gavaskar
England's cricketers are up protesting the decision by the England and Wales Cricket Board of abolishing the fifty overs format from the domestic competitions in England next year. It is a decison that has even taken the Professional Cricketers' Association by surprise and even they are unhappy about it if reports are to be believed. The main grouse seems to be that since the 50 overs format is still part of the ICC calender and the next World Cup in the Indian sub-continent is a fifty overs a side competition the England players should not have been deprived of playing and getting practice in that version so they are better prepared for the ICC World Cup.
In the Caribbean Isles, the West Indian Cricket Board and its players' assocation are at logger heads about the wages and payments structure as well as non-payment of some of the players by the West Indian Board. The result is that at the ICC Champions Trophy the West Indies will have a second string team with most of the players either pretty senior in age or totally new to international cricket. The ICC has magnanimously said that they will keep the door open for the full strength West Indian team to play in the Champions Trophy in case the imbroglio is solved in the next few days but is that fair to the other teams who had to declare their final squads over a month ago?
In all this schmoozle the silence of the Federation of International Cricketers' Associations [FICA] is deafening. If it is anything to do with India, then the FICA, even though it has no locus standi, is right in the thick of it making threatening noises about this and that, but where it should be active in solving what seems an impasse, it is staying away.
If the argument is that it is for the West Indian and England and Wales Cricket Boards who should deal with their respective cricket players' assocations then how come when it comes to India the FICA flexes its muscles? Not that it makes a difference for the BCCI, which has never even acknowledged the existence of FICA, is hardly bothered and does not even react.
Not for a moment is one doubting the need for a players' body but unless it is a strong one that has the players' and the game's best interests at heart, it will only be a disruptive body that will do little good for the players it acts for as well as the game.
"Nobody is bigger than the game" is an old saying, but has been true for ever and will continue to be so. If there is good communication between players and the administrators then the need for a players' association will not be felt. That has been the case with the BCCI for several years now and with the BCCI officials being more than willing to listen to the players the players don't feel the necessity to have a body to represent them which is in fact a huge compliment to BCCI that gets ripped in the media often but hardly ever gets the credit it deserves. Yes, good news is no news in the modern world but that still doesn't take away the fact that the BCCI has more going for it than against it.
In 2007 when the Indian team reached Australia just a few days before their first Test match there was fierce criticism of the BCCI for not letting the players have enough time to acclimatize to the conditions and the pitches there but now that the team has gone more than week before its first game in the Champions Trophy there is hardly a comment about it. After its win in Colombo the Indian team will be high on confidence and the fact that most, if not all, its players have played in the second edition of the IPL in South Africa only a few months earlier will mean that nobody should be taken by surprise by the conditions and the wickets.
Though India are in the toughest group with Australia and Pakistan, beating these two teams will give them just the belief that they need to win a Championship that has eluded them for so long.
The Indian team observing a minute's silence to respect the memory of Raj Singh Dungarpur was indeed a rare tribute. The team does observe silence and have black arm bands when a fellow cricketer passes away but to do so for an administartor who loved cricket dearly was probably a first. He too would have gone on to the world beyond in a happy state since the Indian team had achieved the number one ranking in one day cricket just before he breathed his last.
Andrew Flintoff's decision to reject the ridiculous contract offered to him by the ECB did not come as a surprise at all. He has had so much trouble with injuries that it is but natural for him to think of his future and limit the games he is playing and be choosy about when and how much he plays. To blame him for looking at the money is silly for there was hardly a bigger trier and gutsier cricketer than Freddie and all those who are having a go at him are either those who have not experienced serious and career threatening injury before or those who are somehow not connected with IPL and if they are, then those who have not got the huge contract that Flintoff has got. It may well start a trend but the IPL has ensured that the trickle does not become a flow by insisting on a no objection certificate from the home Boards for players to play in the IPL. If the player gets it then he can play but otherwise he will have to wait for it or retire from the game.
The IPL, like the BCCI, is a favourite dart board especially for the overseas media but in this case it is clean as a whistle and nobody can croak about it.