A recent cartoon in a newspaper said it all. A wickedly gleeful BCCI
administrator, rubbing his hands in anticipation, is telling other
equally wickedly gleeful officials ``Next year is a leap year. That
means we can arrange one more one day match.’’
The cartoon aptly captures the morbid attitude of the BCCI whose greed
seems to know no bounds. All sorts of tours and one day matches are
being arranged anywhere and everywhere in the world with utter
disregard for players’ fitness and the quality of the game. Money is
the only factor that governs the BCCI, the burgeoning bank balance is
the only thing it can see.
There was a time when the Indian cricket season began around October
and ended in March. After that except when the Indians toured England
there was no cricket at all till the following October. Everything was
orderly and systematic, the cricket fan eagerly looked forward to
seeing his favourites play before a packed and appreciative audience
and the cricketers themselves were keen as mustard as they prepared for
the season and the big games.
These days it is cricket all through the year. So many insignificant
matches are played before empty stadiums and a dwindling TV audience.
But for the BCCI only the ad revenues and sponsorship deals matter.
After all it is highly influential in international circles purely on
its financial power. Didn’t Liza Minnelli sing ``Money makes the world
go around’’ in the 1972 classic `Cabaret’?
But there is a limit to the endurance of the players and the warning
signals were hoisted in unmistakable terms in the second Test between
India and Bangladesh at Dhaka. ``These were tough conditions to bat
in’’ said Wasim Jaffer and this was a gross under statement. He and his
opening partner Dinesh Karthik were both victims of the intense heat
(100 degrees) and humidity (in the mid 90s) and were forced to retire
with cramps. It is plainly asking for trouble having to play in these
unbearable conditions with dehydration almost a certainty. One had only
to see the sweat on Rahul Dravid’s face and shirt – and he had been
batting for just about half an hour!
The Indian captain known for his reticence obviously cannot take it any
longer. At the end of the first Test in Chittagong when conditions were
hardly better he spoke out his mind on the ``over cramped schedule’’
adding that this could be very tough on the players. ``It can be
frustrating too and there is an urgent need to plan the tours well and
keep the players fit in order to provide the quality. We have to get
the scheduling right and play only a certain number of Tests and
Dravid hit the nail on the head. In suffocating heat the quality of
play does suffer as one saw in the recent series in Bangladesh. Then
there is the fitness angle. Teams these days have qualified physios
among the back up staff but cricketers through fitness problems are
forced to miss matches. After all there is a limit to which a human
being can perform. Players are being worked into the ground and the
burden of playing non-stop cricket is taking its toll. The game's
administrators with their never quenching thirst for money may have to
take the one step they dread - cutting back on the amount of
international cricket. But will they?
No, they will not because the administrators are oblivious to players’
problems. If at all any proof was needed it was provided by BCCI vice
president Lalit Modi who simply brushed aside Dravid's concern over the
cramped schedule and fitness problems. "I don't agree with the fatigue
factor. Our cricketers don't play more than our tennis players. The
Australian and English cricketers play more. We are playing the same
amount of cricket as in the past. It's just that we have marketed it
better.’’ Yes, there’s the financial angle again even as the comparison
with the tennis players had no relevance whatsoever.
Going a step further Modi also dismissed suggestions that the BCCI was
bent upon thrusting meaningless ODIs on the overburdened team. "We are
still playing around 100-110 days' of cricket in a year as in the past.
The schedule may look a bit skewed in favour of ODIs because of the
cycle. We play more ODIs this year but next year we will be playing
more Tests against Australia and South Africa," he said. And then came
his parting shot. ``The more we play the better it is for the team.’’
Perhaps he means financially for that is the only angle the myopic BCCI
officials can see. But what about the heavy toll all this will take in
the long run? Don’t ask the BCCI. It couldn’t be bothered. Right now
they are busy contemplating the `moolah’ they will rake in from the
conduct of the nondescript Afro Asian matches to be held in Chennai
(yes, unbearably hot and humid Chennai) next month.