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PLAYERS’ INNINGS

The most peculiar situation created in the world of cricket by the greed and obtuseness of the International Cricket Council and the Board of Control for Cricket in India is now having the expected repercussions. The Indian players, the hardest hit in the current fiasco, have decided, according to reports, to form an independent body for players. This could take the form of a new organization or it could be the revival of the Association of Indian Cricketers which became defunct about a decade ago. Very significantly, the present players have also decided that till such an association is formally floated, they will be represented by a trio of past players — Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi, Ravi Shastri and Arun Lal. If the name of Arun Lal appears somewhat incongruous in such distinguished company, it should be remembered that he did most of the work of the AIC when it was functional between 1989 and 1990. Shastri has very graciously said that he expects the BCCI to support the move and stand by a players’ association. This may happen in the short run but such support is not in the long-term logic of things. A parting of ways is perhaps more likely, given the orientation of the BCCI.

The BCCI is a body that exists to serve the interests of cricket in India. What it, or more precisely, those who have been running the show for years, do not appreciate is that the interests of cricket are inseparably linked to the interests of the cricketers at the various levels in which cricket is played in India. Oblivious of this fundamental principle, the BCCI has become an interest in itself. It is driven by the pursuit of power and moolah. One reason for this state of affairs is the paradoxical fact that cricketers do not control the BCCI. It is a very significant fact that the most powerful — and in the reckoning of most, the most successful — president the BCCI has had, Mr Jagmohan Dalmiya, has never played the game at any competitive level. This simple contradiction is now manifest when the interests of the BCCI (and the ICC) are opposed to the interests of the players. Things have come to such a pass that a few weeks ago the BCCI was, in fact, asking the players to break the contract they have with individual sponsors.

The formation of a players’ association will end the situation in which administrators determine the fate and future of cricketers. The latter will have their own body and thus make the BCCI redundant and irrelevant. Indian cricketers will also be following a trend long established in other sports like tennis and golf. The future of players and the future of cricket are too important to be left in the hands of people whose only link with cricket is the privileged access they have to the Long Room at Lord’s. Cricket lovers will be happy that Indian cricketers will have a forum of their own. Such a forum augurs well for cricket; whether the same can be said for the BCCI is another matter altogether.

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