Remember the times when we all hoped the Board of Control for Cricket in India would be a more transparent body? These days an internal email among Indian cricket’s administrators seems to be circulated more than a Whatsapp forward.
In the latest bureaucratic not-so-merry-go-round, the two remaining members of the Supreme Court-appointed Committee of Administrators have been doing a lot less administrating and lot more infighting. The topic, of course, is the suspension and further action over the comments made by Hardik Pandya and KL Rahul on Koffee with Karan, a television interview show.
And with every passing day, it’s clear that the Board of Control for Cricket in India, not for the first time in recent months, is witnessing a player-related controversy snowball into a bureaucratic mess.
When we say that’s the topic of their latest disagreement, we are being generous in our assessment. For, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that Vinod Rai and Diana Edulji will disagree over whether the earth is round or flat at this point in time.
Also read: Diana Edulji vs Vinod Rai — the in-fighting in the COA is making the ‘old’ BCCI look good.
Not long after the Mithali Raj-Ramesh Powar issue played out in public towards the end of 2018, with leaked emails and agenda-driven decision-making, Pandya and Rahul find themselves in the center of a similar drama in the new year.
Let’s get a few things out of the way first. What Pandya said (and Rahul implied without saying as much) indicated that the youngsters in the Indian cricket team need mentoring on a wide variety of issues. The former’s comments, crass and sexist as they were, was also a window of how fame and money can alter the thinking of an athlete.
As detailed here by a journalist who has covered the game for a while to have an understanding of how the game has evolved, the need of the hour is to educate upcoming cricketers and recent internationals on what constitutes acceptable public behaviour.
“There must be do’s and don’ts that extend beyond lectures on anti-corruption. The player-fan connect is the bedrock of any sport’s sustenance. It is incumbent upon the system to give the player every chance to connect with fans, and remain connected with them,” as R Kaushik put it.
UPDATE: CoA asks Supreme Court to appoint ombudsman to decide Rahul, Pandya’s punishment. Read here.
But, whether it appeals to our sensibilities or not, the fact is that no woman has officially lodged a complaint against Pandya or Rahul. The quantum of punishment should take that, and nature of the television show, into account. And there is a case to be made that calling them back from a crucial tour and putting them in a position where they are likely to miss three to eight ODIs in the lead up to the World Cup is already verging on the ridiculous.
Neither faction has covered themselves in glory in recent times, but Rai’s words, in response to Edulji calling for a detailed inquiry so as to avoid any cover-ups, sum up the problem with this situation.
“We have shamed them by recalling them from an ongoing tour. We have suspended them from further games. We need to correct them and not bring their career to a cul de sac by indefinitely delaying a decision. These misdemeanours require swift action, with a corrective approach,” CoA chairman Rai is quoted as saying to Edulji in one of the email exchanges.
The legal ramifications of the issue, as laid out here by the counsel on this matter, clearly stated that the matter doesn’t fall under the BCCI Code of Conduct. But a free-hand was given to the CoA to interpret this matter from their perspective and that they had the right to suspend the players, pending an inquiry.
And that is all the ammunition that was needed, as it turns out.
Gender sensitivity is an important trait for any human being, let alone a cricketer representing the country of a billion people. You’d imagine (and hope) by now, Pandya and Rahul have realised where they went wrong, and that doesn’t just refer to their unreserved apologies.
But, beyond making them understand that, this has gone into a territory where they are being made to pay professionally for a few personal transgressions that, truth be told, may or may not have happened to the extent which Pandya made it out to be.
The question now is: does the BCCI even understand the real problem here? One cannot help but feel that the two players are being used as sacrificial pawns in a bigger political game.
Within a week of Pandya making those cringe-worthy comments and Rahul being a bystander to it, the situation has, somehow, descended into one where the players are gaining sympathy for the way they are being treated by the Board.
The set in which the interview was shot had a neon light sign that came under focus every time Karan Johar cut to a commercial break and back. It said “Stop making sense” — it feels apt for the way Indian cricket has approached this issue.