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Home > Cricket > Prem Panicker's Blog > Stump Cam

If it is war, so be it - 2

September01, 2003

Raghu Sakleshpur: To elaborate, why do we give so much prominence to Pakistan, I do not understand. They are a terrorist, rogue nation out to undermine and destabilize India. We should not be wasting efforts to play in their country at all. I'm OK with playing them in neutral venues. Sending our teams to their country is not just suicidal, it gives the image that no matter how cunning and cheap they get, we spinelessly want to get their attention!

Divya Sharma: Just a passing remark to your question- 'Why are we sending buses and parliamentarians and journalists and high commissioners and business delegations to and fro, while cricket tours alone are vetoed?'

Thats because, fortunately or unfortunately, a common Indian doesn't relate any sense of pride or joy with any number of buses and parliamentarians and journalists and high commissioners and business delegations. Good or bad, in these categories of people, there is just no sense of personal stake.

Prem: Divya, wow, now you've raised a whole other question � how come we, as a people, don't care a hoot what becomes of our own parliamentarians, and diplomats, and business heads? How come these supposed leaders of our destiny matter less to us than 14 teenage cricketers? You want to take that? (*L*)

Latha Ilangovan, Connecticut: I like ur columns. It relects my views mostly. Why should we play with Pakistan? Did US play with USSR during cold war? Did anybody else (UK, AUS, NZ) play with Pak?

Pakistan seems to spread only hate and terror. For god's sake, they have a leader who planned and executed wars against India. How could we play any game or sports with them? No self respecting people should do that. Think of our jawans. Think of our Kashmiris, so many innocents dying.

I hate those newspapers and reporters and columnists who urge Indian Government to play Pak. Will they send their sons and daughters to that country? Where is the security? Remember what happened when we toured last time? Shirts-torn, stoned... I wouldn't wish my enemy to go there. Why would I send my cricket team or any team there?

Separate the diplomacy. I think that we are doing the latest round of diplomacy to show the world what really Pakistan is. Because this time if Pakistan attacks us, everyone in the world would be watching. It is not like Kargil. I for one would like to demolish all their madarasas-hate breeding centers.

Why can't they propagate love instead of hate? How can one can play with them when they propagate hatred?

We should not tour Pak until any person from India can walk in Pakistan with out fear.

Prem: Which pretty much says it all. So, on a different note, I spent last Saturday in your part of the world. A cricket team from Connecticut, the Gypsies, had invited me over to watch a game. Was fun � great weather, a more than decent game, good dinner and great company and to round it off, a pleasant drive back to New York. Lovely.

Ashwin Honkan: If the BCCI must send a team, let us send Dalmiya, Dungarpur (they see eye to eye only on this issue of playing Pakistan) and the other bozos that run BCCI. That will guarantee that the PCB won't profit from the tour and if something happens to these players, Indian cricket will benefit greatly.

I can't understand why Dalmiya and Dungarpur have to bring this issue up every few months. It's always just a matter of money for them.

It's always wonderfully refreshing to read your articles.

What do you think about Indian cricketers sponsoring other sports that are starving due to a lack of corporate and public interest ? Doing so will improve the image of the cricketers who are largely seen as selfish (though that may be unfair and incorrect) and greedy.

If the members of the Indian cricket team, or at least those with big endorsement portfolios -- Sachin, Rahul, Saurav and probably Virender and Yuvraj -- sponsor the Indian hockey, football, basketball, badminton etc teams and sponsor promising athletes like Anju George, Anjali Bhagwat, Beenamol, Jaspal Rana etc, it will be a great gesture and may raise the level of corporate interest in these sports. Maybe Ferrari could donate a car to Narayan Karthikeyan, a more deserving candidate!

Prem: Actually, I've known some of our cricketers to -- quietly, and away from the limelight -- help sportsmen in other disciplines, in their hour of need.

There is another dimension to this whole issue of sports sponsorships that is not being talked of, meanwhile. Every year, in the annual budget, a sizeable sum of money is set aside for the Sports Ministry -- which in turn disburses it to the various sports bodies.

No one asks these bodies what they have done with these monies -- besides, of course, traveling around the world supposedly in the name of exploring ways to improve our performance, or otherwise fudging the books to line their own pockets.

The sports allocations in the annual budgets are our -- as in, the taxpayer's -- money. Isn't it time we demanded a few answers?

Mohammad Ameenuddin: Prem nice to see you back (I am sure you must have read it so many times but as we are taught formalities first). Prem, I have a humble request with on-coming NZ & Aus Series, 36 attending conditioning camp, Indians in counties and their performance...

Oops so much to say in your lucid and exceptionally talented way of analyzing things and letting us little mortals know more of the sport that we adore. Don't you think that 4 months lay off was good and now please do provide something to cheer about. In your absence their have not been any better interviews or reviews from Faisal as well.

Prem: Thanks, Ameen, for the vote of confidence; I'd hope this particular forum � which, given the interactivity, I am finding far more fun than sitting on my lonesome writing columns � should become hyperactive as the season gets into gear. Faisal, for his part, has been traveling, but he too is now back on duty, so stand by for his interviews as well.

Shankar Bali, New Delhi: I recently saw a debate on NDTV 24x7 in 'the big fight', where they were discussing money in sport. The panelists were Sanjay Manjrekar, Geet Sethi, Suresh Kalmadi and Bhaichung Bhutia, moderated by Rajdeep Sardesai.

I found in general people have no clue or are apathetic to, on how to make sport a profitable career in India. Sanjay Manjrekar representing Indian cricket, in the program was gloating and giving informed "tips" to hockey and soccer associations. He was asking them to 'make their product more attractive' to TV and market the sport well to get sponsor interest.

I think the state of Indian cricket on this front is actually as pathetic. Undoubtedly, there is enough money for cricketers but only at the international level. That has happened more by default than by any design. ICC (admittedly under Dalmiya) went about marketing International cricket and found a lucrative market in India. All this while the immense opportunity to get money to domestic cricket goes a begging.

Soon there will be a ridiculous tournament held in India called the "Challenger trophy". This tournament has been an immense success over the last few years in terms of TV coverage as well as gate-money. It has no team-loyalty, no zone-affiliation, no continuity, nothing. It actually fosters individualism among the players, since their only objective is to get into the national side. It would be much better if the same could be an "invitational" state/zone championship for 4-5 teams. These could then be "owned" by some corporate houses and money could flow.

BCCI/State Cricket Assns could then get corporates to sponsor respective teams and a longer term championship could ensure money all the year round at all levels.

I mean, just look at the cricket starved Indian public. The sports channels are making money broadcasting English county season and someone else is profiting from Indian sponsors and viewer interest. The level of cricket there wasn't too great either. Another indicator, is the number of international players, retired, discarded, old and young queuing up to play in the English county season. The only reason could be money. The same can be easily done in India.

I am not sure if anything will change in India. We need corporate style professional management among our sports bodies to make the difference. The Leles, the Dungarpurs, the Dalmiyas, the Khannas need to change their mindset. Someone needs to tell them that they too will benefit from all this change. These guys are businessmen in their private lives and I am sure they realize the seriousness of running a large organization. They just need to see the magnitude of Indian cricket as an organization.

Prem: Entirely agree.

Actually, this whole business of corporates (and there is no reason why this should work only with cricket) getting into cricket was mooted quite a while back. Simply put, the idea was that the domestic season as exists would be eliminated; instead, six or eight large corporates would be permitted to recruit, and field, a team apiece -- each team to include at least a couple of international players, to up the standards. Each corporate would be given a home ground, and asked to maintain it to the highest international standards.

The teams would meet in a focused, time limit annual competition featuring both one day and 'Test'-type games. Given the prestige attached, imagine what could result -- firstly, selection would be brilliant, because the teams would vie with one another to attract and field the best possible talent. This in turn would mean that all eight teams would be top notch; this in turn ups the standards of competition to a very high level -- and that in turn ensures that a player who scores runs and takes wickets in this competition would be almost up to par with international standards, and wouldn't find the gulf to the highest level quite so huge.

Side benefits: We get eight of the best stadiums money can buy and maintain; corporates with an eye to the future would also recruit, and field, junior teams, so the second rung would also be taken care of.

There is more, this is just the gist. When this was first proposed, the BCCI honchos shot it down; they had their own convoluted reasoning, but the bottom line was, they were afraid the game would go out of their control. Now, I understand, a watered down version of the Corporate Cup is on the cards -- but yes, the possibilities are enormous; and again, there is no reason why the same structure, and strategy, should not be applied to other popular games like hockey, and football, with terrific results.

Subra Maniam: From Australian ABC's "The Fat" aired yesterday:

Adam Spencer: "Hey Glen, I really enjoy your batting.

Did you know you are the sixth best No 11 in the world. Your highest score in 39. Do you reckon you want to hit a century someday?"

Glenn McGrath: "Yea, I think so."

(Studio laughs)

Spencer: "Well, you got bat manufacturers like Gunn & Moore, Kookaburra, Stuart Surridge, Gray Nicholls , etc. So who is your bat sponsor?"

McGrath: "Summers".

Spencer: "WHAT? Summers who?"

(Studio laughs)

McGrath: "Well, you know, Steve Waugh has been my batting coach. His best advice was that I should approach all these bat manufacturers you mentioned, and tell them that if they didn't pay me something like 3000 or 5000, I WILL start using their bats!"

(Not just the studio, even I was rocking around in laughter!)

Prem: That is hilarious � wish we had sports shows like that back home, that could show a more relaxed side of sportspersons; what we do get are prosy, boring studio interviews where, more often than not, the interviewer talks more than the interviewee does. Hey, do keep sending over such snippets, this one was brilliant.

Venkata Nemana: I noticed one thing common in your arguments on this issue as well as the Sachin-Ferrari issue. You want equal treatment in both cases. In the India-Pakistan issue, you want not only sports but other avenues of 'co-operation' to be stopped too. In Sachin's Ferrari case, you want him to be taxed just like all other Indians.

I am, in general, not a big fan of the equal treatment argument in both these cases. These are my reasons:

1. India-Pakistan: It takes a truly brave politician to risk steps towards peace when he can easily win elections by stoking the fires of nationalism. In the end we have to remember that we share this border. A total stonewalling of Pakistan will simply not work. What are we going to wait for? For Pakistan to become a failed state? For them to feel so completely lost and desperate that they just use the nuclear weapon, simply because (and there is a cricketing parallel here), they have nothing to lose?

No. I think we should resume meaningful ties with Pakistan in terms that affect us as common men. Let's do business with them. Let's at least try to see if we can trust them and if they can trust us. This is a nearly hopeless course, but what else do we have? But cricket is another matter. A cricketing boycott is so much more meaningful than any other form of protest simply because people in both nations care so much about cricket. While we are trying to build trust through miniscule measures, like a bus service, we are making a strong statement that terrorism is not acceptable by not accepting cricketing relations and by not getting into any military understandings whatsoever (granted, this fact is quite unthinkable, so its not as obvious, we are at war...But still...) with Pakistan.

I don't think cricket is equal to the other issues (just ask Dhanraj Pillay :) ), simply because cricket is more important, not in a geo-political sense, but in a sense that as an Indian, that is one of the first things that comes to my mind when I think of Indo-Pak relationships. I am sure the common Pakistani would think of this too.

2. Sachin's Ferrari: Quite frankly, I was just bemused at all the brouhaha over this. Why do we have to care about this at all? Ask anyone who lives abroad and comes back. The corruption in our customs dept. is just another accepted fact of life. Yes, Sachin can afford to pay this duty. But that cannot be an argument. Yes, Sachin has provided the country with enough to warrant a special treatment (We only refer to him by his first name...that in itself probably is enough for the govt. to waive the duty).

But I don't think that just because everyone who comes from abroad pays some duty, that Sachin should. Yes, a rule is a rule. We are, I guess, imposing these duties to promote the Indian automotive industry, which, obviously, needs all the help it can get. But I don't see how a gift to Sachin should in anyway cost him money. Rules, especially in a democracy, should be looked at in context. And I don't see how this can foster any goodwill for the govt. or the courts. Nor do the courts look reasonable if they decide that Sachin has to be taxed. They simply dont. This is a gift. This is a celebration of a national treasure. And, a very good oppurtunity to get some foreign investment into India. (If Fiat gains some populartiy, and thinks it can sell cars here, then they probably will invest in a plant here, because, God knows, we are going to tax the heck out of them if they bring cars manufactured elsewhere to India.... :) )

I am sorry if my arguments were too lengthy. Needless to say, I love to hear my voice...

Prem: Nope, not suggesting that we stand by and watch while the neighbor goes down in economic flames. But then again, the economy wouldn't be in the shape it is in, if said neighor got over its obsession with Kashmir, and used the money being wasted on that front to do something concrete internally (not to mention the fact that we wouldn't be wasting millions in maintaining troops in the Valley, while losing more millions by way of lost business).

The other thing is, each time we try our hand at confidence building, boom -- bombs go off all over the place, terrorist attacks escalate, the toll spikes�

Granting the argument that there are disaffected elements determined to prevent peace for whatever macabre reason, isn't it time we told the Pakistan establishment fine, you created this monster in the first place, now you control it, fully and completely, and then let's work together for our mutual benefit?

I'll leave the Sachin issue outside off -- there's been so much of brouhaha over it, any more seems unnecessary; and in any case, the issue resolved itself while everyone was arguing.

Ritesh Kapur: Have written in a couple of times earlier, but have only been a silent listener for the last couple of years. And a real glad one at that, with the very welcome addition of the panix station being an icing on the proverbial cake.

Writing to you once more - JUST couldn't help throwing my hat into the ring on the "to play or not to play" with Pakistan issue.

If someone were to ask me till yesterday, I could almost see myself answering without flinching an eye - hell, no! No cricket unless ... the usual blah blah blah). But hey, I am starting to develop second thoughts after reading the readers' responses in your forum today (and the bomb blasts yesterday). Coz a lot of that seems to be from people who would do pretty well in a whining contest.

Consider this,

Pakistan has done everything (for reasons best known to them) to acquire Kashmir in the last 56 years. The means have included wars, proxy wars, terrorism, propaganda, more terrorism, more propaganda etc.

And what do we do?

Hold your breath

....

....

....

...

REFUSE TO PLAY CRICKET!

All that we could come up with in the face of merciless attacks from this rather vengeful neighbor of ours was to stop playing a game that has nothing to do with anything in the first place.

Seriously, if terrorism is a problem, tackle IT! And by tackle, I don't mean just discontinue overflying permission to Pakistani flights. Or, just abandoning diplomatic ties. I mean, do whatever you have to do and get over it.

Inaction (because of lack of guts, although its always blamed on one excuse or the other) coupled with a public memory (who remembers Kandahar?, who moans Kargil anymore?) and a complete lack of self-respect as a nation are some factors that I think allows us to be taken for a ride. And taken for a ride we are.

The govt is not totally clean either. Its a veiled attempt on their part to make everybody in this country feel like some stand has been taken, that they are taking some harsh steps and a no-nonsense approach with this issue. It is falsely supposed to give us a feeling of anticipation (of God knows what?). The effectiveness of the steps (?) taken or the lack thereof can be gauged by the recent series of blasts in Bombay.

Frankly, I don't know if playing cricket with them or not is an important enough issue too, given the circumstances. We should rather be talking of whether we should wage a war with them or not.

Prem: This, in other words, is where I am coming from, too � essentially, we have a problem; we cannot compound it by our own inaction; reducing the problem to a question of whether or not to play cricket makes Nero's fiddle seem positively innocuous so yes, granting there is a problem, let's tackle it on all fronts, by whatever means necessary, end it, then get on with our lives � and cricket, or are they synonyms?

Siddharth Purandare: Good to see you back on "cricketing field". We missed you. 

I totally agree with all (rather "most" as still inspite of such an exposure to media some of them are not able to understand "why") my fellow Indians as well as the Government of India for not having cricketing ties with Pakistan. I for all Indians would rather appeal to the Indian Government to not have any kind of ties, be it political, sports or even humanitarian. In fact we should go on a war with Pakistan, but at least it will be a straight forward war, and not that someone is backstabbing you.

You or most of the people will not like my jingoistic or even fanatic comments, but this is what they have made us. We as Indians are the most tolerant as a lot, but there is a limit to how much we can tolerate. They have misunderstood our tolerance as our weakness. And this should be put to an end. And I know that maybe war is not the right tactic, but do we have any choice. It was much better when we had severed all ties with Pakistan following the Parliament bombing. At least it was putting pressure on Pakistan from the International Community. Why should we always try to be big brotherly and try to forgive them, when the little brother keeps fingering you and tries to play innocent.

On the same note to the Pakistani who said the following:
Imtiaz Nadaf: I think the reason for severing cricketing ties with Pak is very simple - lack of consistent policy. The leaders dont have a clue how to deal with Pak diplomaticaly/militarily, so they use cricketing ties as way to show how tough they are on pak. Not playing cricket is the only consistent policy statement our leaders have come up with regards Pak. Not that Pak gives a fig about it anyway, they infact exploit this policy to play hurt and inturn score some points in International community.

My response: We are trying to learn how to deal with backstabbers, and severing cricketing ties is one of them. And If Pak does not give a fig about it then why do officials from PCB and even the Dictator Pervez Musharaf keep coming on TV and news for resuming Indo-Pak Ties, with all kinds of proposal with the senior team, the U-19 team and whatsoever. Now Rameez Raja is coming with a different kind of proposal.

Pranshu Saxena: You mentioned that cricket is being used unequivocally as sole means of registering protest with pakistan. That is correct. At same times, the poets visit each other, the parliamentarians lead delegations. or adnan sami sings in India. or abc bin cdf is treated by indian doctors.

Why only cricket?

Cricket team represents nation. It is not saurav ganguly, sachin tendulkar who play pakistan but the whole past gangulies and tendulkars and whole future gangulies and tendulkars also in guise of Indian team. (God has 10 avatars!)

Thus, individual initiatives like parlimentarians meeting and exchanging jalebis are just that -- individuals having gala time together. When indian and pakistan meet on cricket field than it becomes india and pakistan having gala time together while pakistan is exchanging rdx jalebies with some other indian citizens at same time. Hence, why cricket exclusion sends a bigger message.

If wonder, look at south africa, they were banned from cricket for certain

Policies while at same time tennis and golf south african players in individual capacity represented in various tournaments.

Prem: Right, as I said at the outset, there is much more in the mailbox, on this and other issues; I'll get to those early next week. Meanwhile, have a great week, all.

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