Ravi Shastri is the last man to seek sympathy. But I do feel sorry for him for the way he has been unwittingly embarrassed by his own Board, which recommended his name in a three-man probe panel to fix the spot fixing scandal.
It’s not Shastri’s fault that his name was endorsed by most members of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) working committee last Sunday. This was not a mere slip-up by the mandarins; it was a gigantic blunder. On air, Shastri’s blazer has the BCCI logo emblazoned on it. Now he is going to probe the actions of the very organisation he owes allegiance to? Of course this was going to cause a furore.
At the Dilip Sardesai Memorial Cricket Lecture last September, Shastri praised three BCCI presidents whose terms coincided with the IPL, including Shashank Manohar, who on Sunday, reportedly objected to him being on the three-man panel.
The cricketer-turned-commentator politely declined to comment when I sent him a message seeking his reaction to the opposition concerning his name on the panel. His reticence was both surprising and unsurprising. Surprising because he is not one to shy away from tough talk and unsurprising because he was probably waiting for Tuesday’s hearing.
Over the last few years, an otherwise outspoken Shastri has disappointed many Indian cricket enthusiasts by not being critical of the Board. They want him to step out of his crease as it were and go slam-bang. To be fair, we must respect the fact that he doesn’t find much wrong with the way the game is run in this country.
At the Dilip Sardesai Memorial Cricket Lecture last September, he surprised a section of his audience at the Bombay Gymkhana when he backed N Srinivasan’s decision not to step aside as BCCI chief after his son-in-law Gurunath Meiyappan was named in the spot fixing scandal. During his lecture, Shastri also praised three BCCI presidents whose terms coincided with the Indian Premier League including Shashank Manohar, who on Sunday, reportedly objected to him being on the three-man panel.
After waxing eloquent on Messrs Pawar, Manohar and Srinivasan, he admitted things were not perfect. But Shastri only said this: “I still believe that they (BCCI) still need a PR arm in place; they need a communications arm in place which at least comes across to the media where they can explain things in a better manner. And there’s always room for improvement.” Nothing has improved in the area of communication, which Shastri touched upon.
Last Sunday, Board members walked out of the Working Committee without briefing the media. Fair enough, it’s not their job. But the BCCI didn’t even deem it important enough to officially declare the names of those recommended in the three-man panel. Sanjay Patel, the BCCI secretary, told the media that sanctity should be maintained. No press release was forthcoming. If this is not a we-don’t-care-a-rat’s-behind attitude of the first order then nothing is.
I repeat, Shastri cannot be blamed for being recommended in the panel, but he will do well as a media man, who will soon complete 20 years of television commentary, to emphasise to the BCCI that they won’t have too many backers if their communications department is dormant.
Remember, it was Shastri who in a way, spoke out for the media at the press conference in which ICC match referee Mike Denness was not inclined to answer questions after punishing six players during the 2001 Port Elizabeth Test against South Africa. These lines from Shastri went down in cricket history: “If Mike Denness cannot answer questions, why is he here? We know what he looks like.”
I have heard Shastri remind former Board president, Purshottam Rungta (now deceased) that he needed to play an attacking stroke and do more than just a Rs 5,000 monthly pension cheque for past players which was announced in 2004 to coincide with the Platinum Jubilee celebrations of the Board. The establishment has done a great deal more on this count, more than any cricket body in the world, but their credibility is at an all-time low.
I heard recently that the BCCI is keen to do something to polish up their image Sunday’s behaviour confirms that what I’ve heard is totally untrue.
Clayton Murzello is mid-day’s Group Sports Editor