Dharmendra Jore: Raj ki ba(a)t

Raj Thackeray must refine the basics of the game he wants to master at any cost

Home pitches bring great advantage to the local team. But winning is assured only when the strip is prepared to suit the local team’s particular strengths. The curator must be a hard worker who leads ground staff to add winning potential to the home pitch, or winning becomes a far-fetched reality.

Cricketing strategies work in politics, believes Raj Thackeray, the founder of Shiv Sena’s breakaway faction, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS). He is a keen follower of the game and friends with cricket’s who’s who from Mumbai, once Mecca of the game.

Raj drew a parallel with international cricketing icon Sachin Tendulkar while describing his party’s dull affairs as it steps into its 11th year of existence. He also invoked stars from other fields to encourage the party’s rank and file that they will bounce back, mainly because they will be playing on the home pitch.

“We will be playing on the home pitch after days and months. Big personalities such as Atal Behari Vajpayee, Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Amitabh Bachchan and Sachin Tendulkar have had bad patches in their careers. We will have our share of bad patches too. So, don’t give up. We must keep working,” he said at the party’s 10th anniversary last week.

Let’s assume that Raj made this profound observation – we don’t remember him making such a statement before – after analysing the 10 years of MNS.

Since MNS’ inception politics has changed drastically, so has cricket. Strategies change as versions change. Players change as versions change. In some cases, skippers too change as versions change.

For Raj, certain things are static even as other parties have improvised on strategies. Raj has had an advantage of playing home matches. He hasn’t played away from home. His sole objective of politicking is the sons of the soil – the only ace up his sleeves. He hasn’t developed an array of shots that could get him runs while beating the tight fielding by mighty opponents. After initial good scores, the MNS chief hasn’t been able to achieve much.

Good skippers mentor the second line of leadership and encourage players who have skills to change the course of matches. Raj has failed consistently on this front. Accusing him of running his party in an autocratic style that befits his parent organization many promising players shifted their loyalty to other outfits. Raj didn’t leave his dressing room while he ended up losing his champs to one of the biggest political auctions of the Indian political history in 2014 Lok Sabha and Assembly polls.

Next year’s municipal polls will provide Raj an opportunity to rise like the phoenix. His recent hate speech in which he asked MNS workers to burn autos owned by non-Maharashtrians is seen as net-practice before a crucial match. Many more such speeches are expected in near future. But then the net-practice needs to be supported by proper coaches, and above all, the team management should have a sufficient number of players to pick probables. We’re told that the MNS will find it increasingly difficult to put promising probables together to make the final 11 (with some bench strength).

Raj should be looking out for new coaches, more carefully this time, because his non-playing advisors are seen as his nemesis. It was because of his experts’ ill advice, ill-informed cronies and his own understanding that Raj lost all his sitting legislature seats, barring just one. Raj is expected to meet a similar fate in Mumbai, Thane, Pune and other municipal corporations that go to polls next year if he doesn’t get his act together. Going by the 2014 Assembly poll results, Raj may even lose his bastion of Dadar.

Raj should know that Vajpayee, Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Bachchan and Tendulkar learned from their past mistakes and changed their approach towards what they loved doing most. He may very well do serious talking with Bachchan and Tendulkar, his good friends, to know more about fighting against all odds. But Raj shouldn’t get upset if the two tell him at the outset that he must refine the basics of the game he wants to master at any cost.

Dharmendra Jore is political editor, mid-day. He tweets @dharmendrajore. Send your feedback to mailbag@mid-day.com

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