Editorial/ Contract cricket
The colonial cringe
This above all/ Death is the end of life
People/ Parthiv Patel
Letters to the editor

 
 
EDITORIAL/ CONTRACT CRICKET 
 
 
 
 
The conflict raging in cricket, one could say by slightly altering the title of a famous essay by T.S. Eliot, is between the associations and individual talent. Cricket is a team sport but it is studded with talented individuals. It can also be said without too much exaggeration that thousands are drawn to the cricket grounds by the attraction of these gifted players. In the sub-continent such players — a Sachin Tendulkar or even a Sourav Ganguly — are made into icons. The participation of these players in tournaments makes the latter successful and fills the coffers of the various national cricket associations and of the apex body, the International Cricket Council. The wealth and success of the associations are thus inextricably related to the players. The reverse is not true because, as Mr Kerry Packer showed, it is possible for the best players to break out of the aegis of the ICC and form a separate body driven more by the needs of the players. But the iconic status of the players, or the star players, has another dimension. Advertisers use these players to promote and to market their products. Thus, cricketers sign contracts to endorse certain products and it is a common sight on television to see players advertising tyres, soft drinks, credit cards, razor blades, cars and so on. Endorsement is a very lucrative source of income for players, especially those who have had celebrity status endowed on them. To tie down cricketers to their own products, advertisers enter into long-term contracts with them. At the heart of the current controversy lies such long-term contracts made by individual players.

The ICC, not to be left out of the money that can be made from sponsorships, has signed contracts with four sponsors who are committed to providing money for the World Cup next year and a tournament dubbed the mini world cup beginning on September 12. The ICC is insisting that players sign a contract foregoing all personal endorsements in favour of the sponsors chosen by the ICC. This contract will apparently be binding not only for the duration of the two tournaments but also one month before and after the tournaments. The ICC’s logic — or to be more precise the logic of its four sponsors — is that such a clause is necessary to stop “ambush marketing” by firms in competition with the four sponsors. The players, not surprisingly, find the ICC contract unfair. It makes players who have individual sponsors and endorsements liable to breach of contract and to loss of income. Most players, except for those from New Zealand, have refused to sign the contracts.

The ICC is putting forward the view that the players concerned are putting cash before country. This is utterly spurious. The ICC knows that the success of its tournaments depends on the participation of the top players. Hence its insistence that the national associations send their best teams to the tournament. It cannot cash in on the players’ glamour value and then ignore their interests. The ICC could not have been unaware that the contract sent out to the players ran against the players’ individual endorsements. It chose to give the players a fait accompli. The dialogue it is engaged in now should have preceded the sending out of the contracts. The ICC exists for the players, not the players for the ICC.

   

 
 
THE COLONIAL CRINGE 
 
 
SUNANDA K. DATTA-RAY
 
 
Indians love a mem. In terms of naďveté and the colonial cringe, even in this 55th year of independence we are not too far removed from the apocryphal African chieftain whose funeral oration for a missionary proclaimed, “His skin may have been white but his heart was as black as ours!” Our obsession with Mother Teresa made headlines round the world. Newspapers abroad found it incredible that a European woman should be placed “ahead of India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, as well as frontline independence leader, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, who was instrumental in getting 562 princely states to join the Indian union”.

They may well have had an inkling that the real value of an Outlook magazine survey, of which I have seen only reported excerpts, lies not in what it says of Mother Teresa but in what it tells us about the warped and stunted thinking of respondents in Calcutta, Chennai and New Delhi. Disenchantment with politicians, the most readily trumpeted explanation, only partly accounts for the preference. It does not even fully explain Sachin Tendulkar outranking Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Tendulkar is a star — of the cricket pitch as much as television advertisements — and therefore has the box-office glamour of a Shah Rukh Khan that the populace laps up. In contrast, the once sparkling Vajpayee, with whom I have had several engaging conversations in the past, seems to have retreated into sad somnolence.

Of course, no opinion poll is ever definitive. But there is a sound reason for each choice. Industrial achievement accounts for J.R.D. Tata’s fifth place. The cause of raising the downtrodden places B.R. Ambedkar immediately after him. Mumbai’s enthusiasm for Dhirubhai Ambani is understandable, and not only in terms of the values that inspire India’s financial capital. Recent demise, combined with fairytale beginnings in the Aden petrol pump, invests his billions with a magic halo. Indira Gandhi is forever Durga incarnate, Jayaprakash Narayan the poor man’s Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi.

In Mother Teresa’s case, the legend is far greater than reality. What she once told me — and immediately regretted — of the personal search for Christian salvation that was her only reason for working among the poor is not known well enough to make any dent in the public’s veneration. The simple would probably fail to understand the implications even if knowledge of her motivation had been widespread. Nor are people interested in looking at the sea of misery around them to ask what impact, if any, her efforts had on distress in Calcutta. Laws of physics have no application at the moral level.

What matters most is the flattering fact of foreign — read European — attention. Imagination sets her in a mixed bunch of whites that includes some good people and some itinerant adventurers. Anthony Firingi and Sister Nivedita, Nellie Sengupta, a Frenchman whose City of Joy for a squalid leprosarium in Howrah has become Calcutta’s proudest sobriquet , a German who wrote that if god shat from above, Calcutta would be the shit, but who nevertheless paid us the compliment of living among us for a while, and, perhaps, William Radice. They are a threadbare modern Bengal’s ikons.

Staring down into the bustees below the flat in Alipore where I used to live, an angry Shiva Naipaul exploded that India clung to slums as desperately as it clung to Mother Teresa. Both, in his view, enabled a masochistic people to brandish its mutilated stumps in the face of a sympathetic world and demand alms even more raucously. “I would shoot them down,” he thundered, not making clear whether he meant the slum-dwellers, the nun or mendicant Indians.

Perhaps the complex is equally disfiguring in other parts of the country. Ironically, it is seared most deeply into the thinking of Bengalis who are flamboyantly nationalistic, progressive and cultural. The farther a milieu is removed from the West, the greater its hankering for some token of Western approval. The deeper its reverence for those few Westerners who condescend to take some notice of Bengal.

Devotees will retort that Mother Teresa was an Indian. Did she not wear a sari and carry an Indian passport, and a diplomatic one at that? Did Inder Kumar Gujral not order that she be buried with resounding state honours? True enough. But it might come as a surprise to those who regard her as the “greatest Indian” ever to know that for all her ostentatious Indianness, the government of India did not regard her as an Indian at all. Morarji Desai’s supposedly liberal regime thought her a security risk. When Arunachal Pradesh simmered with protests against conversion to Christianity, the home ministry extended the ban on foreigners to prevent her too from crossing the Inner Line. Mother Teresa could not carry out her intention of visiting Arunachal Pradesh where irate locals were destroying chapels.

Never mind, runs the Bengali argument, in death as in life, she brought Calcutta to the attention of the great and the glorious. So did the Black Hole of Calcutta. So did Katherine Mayo’s Mother India. But, of course, crowned heads and presidents would not have flocked to Calcutta without her. Bill Clinton did so even after her death. The cause of such fame deserves honour. No wonder Sonia Gandhi has a solid following.

The survey coincided with Singapore’s own debate on who is a Singaporean. It was sparked off by the achievement of two China-born players who are Singaporean citizens and who won gold medals for the city-state by beating New Zealand at the Commonwealth women’s table tennis finals. In an earlier and different event, they had vanquished China’s reigning champions. Further, to add to the confusion, the New Zealand players pitted against them were also ethnic Chinese. Simon Tay, a Singaporean analyst with one foot in academia and another in public affairs, asked whether New Zealanders, with their Maori heritage but white majority, “wondered why two Chinese were wearing the nation’s all black colours”.

Perhaps ethnic overlapping should prompt no comment in this age of travel and relocation. If a Japanese can be president of a South American country, if Cyprus can have an Indian first lady, an Italian lead India’s opposition and a Pakistani captain the English cricket team, we are on the way to realizing Peter Drucker’s dream of globalization. But does it mean that a man (or woman) then acquires many homes and many loyalties, or does he or she forsake both to become a well-heeled international displaced person?

Underlying all such situations is the ultimate question: what constitutes a sense of nationality? Singapore being a formulaic state, Tay had some ready answers. He advised naturalized citizens to eat local food and speak the dialect. “Show us you want to belong.” Recalling someone else’s question about being willing to die for Singapore, he proposed a harder test. “We need to ask, also, if someone will live for Singapore.”

In short, would they continue to make this little island their home even if they have the means and opportunity to live in Australia, America, Britain or some other mainly white country? Agreeing that the question applies just as much to the native-born, he put it specifically to new citizens. “The questions we ask them — like whether we will live for Singapore and expect to retire here — are ones that all Singaporeans may need to answer afresh.”

Not many Indians would pass the Tay test. If 22 million ethnic Indians abroad are in fact granted Indian passports, it would only bestow further respectability on rejectionism and legitimize what I earlier described in these columns as documents of convenience. Mother Teresa can truly be the greatest Indian in such a rootless deracine world. Since no one belongs, no one can be said not to. We are all free to indulge fantasies born of a lack of confidence in ourselves.

   

 
 
THIS ABOVE ALL/ DEATH IS THE END OF LIFE 
 
 
KHUSHWANT SINGH
 
 
Some weeks ago I wrote about death and admitted that neither I nor anyone else had the slightest clue of what remains of us after we die. I was not referring to reputation, property, good works and so on, but what was contained in the body, such as the mind and the thinking faculty. I got many answers, all going round and round the same theme; the body perishes but the soul (atman) survives. I don’t buy that. What does the soul look like? If it survives, where does it reside? About the last letter I received on the subject ran into six pages from one Munish Markan of Sangrur who claims to have all the answers. He starts by saying he never reads the rubbish I write and calls me an ignoramus for asking silly questions. Then he elaborates on the theme of death. I quote him at some length because he is typical of the verbosity used by sabjantawalas. I failed to get any answers to my simple question but was bombarded with a lot of gratuitous advice. He writes: “I should tell you that your very thinking is stopping you from encountering death while alive in this body. As far as I can judge, your interests seem to be only intellectual. Had it been possible for the humans to know, experience and transcend death by reading and contemplation, majority of the humanity would have gone beyond death and had known the secret of death.”

I pondered over the statement for a while. Without any intellectual pretences, I could not see what other faculties besides reasoning I could use to find answers to my questions. He proceeds to caution me: “We all are riding high up on the ladder only in the end to find that our ladder was inclined on the wrong wall. Probably, in temporal matters, you have enjoyed considerable prosperity and now at the fag end of life, you seem bothered about the ‘journey beyond’ if there is any. One thing you must admit that nothing is known beyond death and before birth. No knowledge of these areas, nowhere is it taught in schools, colleges and universities.”

If nothing is known about life and death, how can they be taught in schools and colleges?

He advises me to switch off “this instrument called mind”. At times nature does the switching off when we fall into deep, dreamless sleep (sushupti). He asks: “Where do we go when we are in dreamless sleep? Try to find the answer to this question existentially, not intellectually.”

Honestly, my answer would be: “I go nowhere. I just wake up to realize I had a sound sleep.” I don’t know how one answers simple questions existentially.

He proceeds to say: “If I may analyse, your whole knowledge is your enemy. The answer to the question, “who am I? will provide all answers about life and death as Ramana Maharishi always used to say.

I don’t care what Ramana Maharishi had to say; to me death is the end of life. He gives an analogy of how electrons cannot be seen unless a ray of light is beamed on them. That may be so. Also that time seems to take much longer to pass for one in distress than it takes for one in joyous mood. True, but what does it prove?

He advocates meditation and suggests different techniques of emptying the mind. I find meditation a sterile concept productive of nothing except peace of mind — which in turn produces nothing but peace of mind. I would prefer to have a mind constantly engaged in finding answers to questions. He recommends The Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramhansa Yoganandaji. I went halfway through it, found it boring and gave up. I do not accept kriya yoga as a science and find the talk of a “subtle body” a meaningless play with words.

“Logic has its limitations,” he asserts. I agree. But I do not understand what is meant by experiencing something at “the existential level”. Again another pointless analogy. Reading books on swimming does not enable one to swim. Or learn to balance oneself on a bicycle without riding on one. He continues: “Similarly, anything and everything you read and listen to about death is not of much consequence. At best it can point the direction in which you have to move. But contemplation on death has never helped anyone to know death. Direct jumping is required.”

Must I kill myself to solve the mystery of death? No, thank you. “Why is man fearful of death? One reason is that we are accustomed to live in future, in tomorrow, and when death comes, it says no tomorrow, only today. Now that is what we fear. Life is a sum total of todays...That is why it is said that we should enjoy the small things in life.”

He recommends Japanese tea meditation. I sat through one: a kimono-clad lady went on endlessly cleaning a tiny cup with a brush while a tea-kettle was on the boil. The end result was a thimble-full of bitter, undrinkable tea.

He ends his long letter with another clever play on words; you know how habits are formed: doing an act repetitively over a period of time unconsciously. It becomes one’s nature. Another sutra for experiencing bodilessness is to become aware; in this context live and read Osho. Stop reviewing and reading novels of others. Enough of it you have done throughout your life. You did a lot for the literary world. Now, live for yourself. I know it takes great courage to break off from the habits of past, because of habit I have heard:

If “H” goes, a bit remains

If “A” goes bit remains

Even if “B” goes it remains.

What does it prove? To me, nothing. Munish Markan, I would like to continue the dialogue on death with you. But please don’t bamboozle me with words. If you don’t know the answer, be brave enough to admit it.

Play to the gallery

Kaif’s marvellous performance at
Lord’s
Has tempted us all to believe
Young players can certainly do
What oldies fail to achieve!
The victory was so unexpected
Our players danced with boundless joy.
Sourav Ganguly took off his shirt
And waved it like a crazy boy!
Taken aback, Kapil Dev said,
“Why did the captain celebrate it that
way?”
Doesn’t he know that we Indians
Are emotional and have hearts of clay?
(Courtesy: G.C. Bhandari, Meerut)

Losing entries cannot be returned

Cappiello, the famous French poster designer, received the following letter from a leading liquor manufacturer:

“We are organizing a contest to find the best poster for advertising our products, and would be glad to examine a few of your designs. The winning poster will be awarded a prize of 20,000 francs. Sorry, losing entries cannot be returned.”

Capiello fired back his answer by return post: “I am organizing a contest to find the best liquor in France and would be glad to try out a few bottles from your firm. Sorry, losing entries cannot be returned.”

(Contributed by Reeten Ganguly, Silchar)

   

 
 
PEOPLE/ PARTHIV PATEL 
 
 
 
 

Little drummer boy

There are many things Parthiv Patel cannot do. Only 17 years and five months of age, he cannot cast his vote if Gujarat goes to polls in the next seven months. Underage, he cannot buy a drink in most English pubs either. And, he will not be able to watch an adult action flick like Minority Report.

So last Monday, under the soft glow of a late evening summer sun at Nottingham, the babyfaced, five-feet-three-inches tall debutant wicket-keeper-cum-batsman from Ahmedabad set his sights on accomplishing a simpler feat: saving a Test match for India. With defeat still a distinct possibility and about 30 overs still to go on the fifth and final day, the left-hander walked in like the boy on the burning deck.

In the next 82 minutes the juniormost cricketer in the team and the youngest ever to play as a wicket-keeper in a Test match, banished all thoughts of a first innings duck from his mind and batted with the stoic serenity of a teenage saint. By the time the young Prince of Cool left the pitch, unconquered for two runs more than his age, India had saved the game.

Patel had arrived as a boy. He left as a man.

In their post-match analysis, television commentators — Sunil Gavaskar, Geoffrey Boycott, Ravi Shastri and others — couldn’t stop gushing about Patel’s application, composure and character, attributes not always applicable to some of his more illustrious teammates. They praised his exemplary glovework during England’s monumental innings of 617 and pointed out that he had conceded only five extras. In a team where wicket-keepers have often been chopped and changed as frequently as disposable diapers, they admitted that the teenager, whose face can still launch a thousand babyfood products, looked like a durable long-distance runner for the job.

The English press was equally effusive in its praise. “He is not much higher than the stumps and he was playing only his ninth first-class match but showed courage, coolness and excellent technique to keep a tiring England attack at bay,” wrote The London Times. The Guardian hailed his “common sense” and Daily Mail waxed eloquent about the “maturity” of “the little drummer boy”.

The echoes of Patel’s success in distant England goes far beyond the playing fields. Coming from a town that is still ravaged and torn apart by communal violence earlier this year, he has given Ahmedabad a rare reason to celebrate. The son of a former corporator turned small-time businessman, he lives in the hypersensitive Relief Road area in the walled city. He escaped the riots being away on tour with the India A team to South Africa and Sri Lanka. On the few days he was around when the state capital was aflame, his parents put him up at a relative’s in Nahapura so that the teenager didn’t miss out on the practice. It was cricket rather than the riots that made him miss his class XII examinations this year. With mega-bucks staring him in the face, who cares for an exam or two.

Call it Destiny. Patel, who is yet to play even in a Ranji trophy game, was pitchforked into the playing 11 on the eve of the Test match at Trent Bridge when first-choice wicket-keeper, Haryana’s Ajay Ratra, sustained a crushing toe injury. And, Patel was quick to grab the chance. Former India wicket-keeper Syed Kirmani, to many India’s best player ever behind the stumps, too is suitably impressed. “He is both competent and confident. With experience, he should improve more,” he says.

On the evidence of the past few seasons, Patel is upgrading himself with the speed of a Microsoft product. His travel schedule is busier than a high-flying executive. From journeying to Commonwealth Bank Academy in Adelaide for special wicket-keeping training under the likes of Rodney Marsh and Wayne Phillips to captaining India in the under-17 Asia Cup in Bangladesh in 2000-01, from guiding the under-19 team to the World Cup semi-final in New Zealand in 2001-02 to performing creditably during the India A tours in South Africa and Sri Lanka earlier this year, he has improved with every passing month.

Many sporting success stories have their origins in the private passion of a near relative or a dear friend. In Parthiv’s case, it was his cricket-crazy uncle, Jagat Patel, who not only introduced him to the game but also made his nephew’s career the mission statement of his own life. “He follows him everywhere and has watched most games Parthiv has played,” says sister Kinjal. Ironically, his father Ajay Patel and his mother Nishaben had never seen their son play before the second Test in the ongoing India-England cricket series. And, they were far more nervous watching him bat than Parthiv himself was out there.

The remarkable equanimity of temperament, father Ajaybhai points out, is a trait Parthiv carries from childhood. Except when as a four-year-old Parthiv rolled down from the stairs of his terrace and landed with a thud. Who wouldn’t bawl his head off at something like that. It required eight stitches just above the right eye for the wound to be sealed but the teenager still carries the scars.

Even Gujarat’s under-19 cricket coach and former Ranji trophy player Vijay Patel recalls how, during a Cooch Behar Trophy match against Maharashtra, he sent the 15-year-old out to bat with the team precariously poised at zero for two wickets. “He batted aggressively and with great confidence. Since then, I have seen, he seldom gets bogged down by situations,” he says.

Indeed, aggression is the keynote of Parthiv’s batting, a facet not on view during Monday’s dour match-saving knock. No surprise that in recent interviews he has talked about mercurial Australian wicket-keeper-batsman Adam Gilchrist as his hero. “He loves to play his shots, the square cut being his favourite stroke,” says coach Vijay Patel.

Parthiv started out as a pure batsman at the age of nine. During a local cricket coaching camp he kept wickets for fun in the nets. Only 10 years old, he enjoyed the experience. “The next day, I kept wickets wearing gloves. The coach praised me. I have been a wicket-keeper-batsman since,” he said in an interview sometime ago. Every coach Parthiv has worked with testifies to his dedication as a cricketer.

In a recent interview, one of his coaches with the Sports Authority of Gujarat, Sailesh Pandya, said, “We would ask him to come to the camp early, and tell him to leave half an hour late. He would do that year in and year out.” Present coach Vijay Patel echoes these sentiments. Ever since he picked up the willow, Parthiv has spent most of his waking hours engrossed in the game: either practising in the stadium or playing on the terrace or reading magazines on the game. “Even during his sleep he keeps talking cricket,” laughs sister Kinjal. Only, he doesn’t mind listening to Sonu Nigam or eating a good Chinese meal occasionally.

The world of sports is littered with stories of those failed to translate potential into performance. Something went wrong in many of these cases: Either absence of hard work, or lack of dedication, or, sheer bad luck. In Parthiv’s case, at least till now, nothing seems amiss. Only the little finger in his right hand. As most of us have heard, fast-fading filmstar Hrithik Roshan has one more finger than usual. Parthiv Patel has nine. Who knows, may be nine is a luckier number than eleven.

   

 
 
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR 
 
 
 
 

They all have evil designs

Sir — V.S. Naipaul’s argument that Saudi Arabian sources of funding of some terrorist organizations involved in the recent attacks “is a sign of Saudi Arabia’s desire to convert the world to Islam” is a little too simplistic to be true (“Saudis keen on Islamic domination, says Naipaul”, Aug 14). This is as good as Narendra Modi’s argument that since a few Muslims participated in burning the Sabarmati Express in Godhra, all Muslims in Gujarat must have evil on their minds. Of course, the Muslim world will not take kindly to Naipaul’s comments. Are we witnessing the genesis of another fatwa on a writer.
Yours faithfully,
Anjum Mustafa, Calcutta

Class discrimination

Sir — The news of the possible suspension of 450 second-year students of the Regional Engineering College, Durgapur, has shocked me, a retired teacher of the college and associated with it for 35 years (“Students pay for minister protest”, Aug 5). The step seems to be an over-reaction, a better approach would be to make the students sit with the minister for higher education, put forth their argument and work out a solution. Moreover, the students’ demand — that the college be granted national status — has enjoyed the support of teachers, past and present. The Centre is apparently contemplating a move to make all RE colleges centres of excellence. The state that refuses would miss a golden opportunity.

The West Bengal minister for higher education, Satya Sadhan Chakraborty, has made some points — the state provides a considerable part of the funding and Central control would mean that West Bengal’s students would lose the advantage of the 50 per cent reservation of seats. But as far as funding is concerned, the Central share is greater than the state’s. The state has full control over a number of colleges, and it can very well compete with the Centrally-sponsored ones to make them better examples of excellence. Also, the money saved by withdrawing funds from the RE college can be channelled into these to create more seats and provide better facilities.

The question that needs to be asked is: do we want to be overprotective of our students and spoil them, or do we want to train them properly to compete at the national level and emerge successful? The students, I believe, would opt for the latter.

Yours faithfully,
Kajol Gupta, Durgapur

Sir — As a former student of RE College, Durgapur, I am appalled by the decision of the principal to bar 450 second-year students from appearing for their third semester examinations because a handful of them gheraoed the chairman of the governing body of the college, who also happens to be the state’s minister of higher education.

Now to go to the crux of the problem. The agitating students were trying to protest against the state government’s opposition to the idea of making the college a national institution of excellence. In doing so, they have only followed the footsteps of the leftist leaders, who, in the mid-Sixties, introduced the weapon called “gherao”.

It seems that the post of the chairman of the governing body of the college is very dear to Satya Sadhan Chakraborty. As a national institution of excellence, the college will have conditions over which he and his government will not have much control. But why is the principal, S.P. Ghosh, bent on placating the minister by being undemocratic with students? He must realize that the students’ demand is in the interests of the college and an antidote to the left’s much politicized education policy. The government had earlier targeted the Ramkrishna Mission schools in a similar way. But it is more important to give quality education to students than making them toe the left’s line.

Yours faithfully,
Anurup Maitra, Calcutta

Parting shot

Sir — Just when we were doubting the batsmanship of Sourav Ganguly, he decided to silence his critics with twin scores of 68 and 99 in the second test against England in Trentbridge. For those who were wondering when Ganguly has scored his last half-century, he made an unbeaten 60 on May 5 this year in the third test against West Indies. Before that, he scored 75 not out on April 22. It hasn’t been too long, after all, since his last fifty.
Yours faithfully,
S. Bandyopadhyay, Durham, UK

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