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ICCB post-mortem of the World Cup (flop) show
March 27, 2007
The entire scene before me is somber, at the biggest 5-star hotel in Mumbai. It is the day after the defeat against Sri Lanka that leaves the issue of continuance of the Indian team in the World Cup in the hands of the Bermuda team which now has to beat Bangladesh for India to survive. The ICCB bigwigs are present in full force and the event is a meeting to analyze and introspect on the performance of the team at the World Cup.
The seriousness is self-explanatory. With the entire nation busy in burning posters and taking out funeral processions of the players and coach, it is important to put up a good show of showing concern and action being taken. In order to make the entire process seem more organized and professional, a couple of ex-cricketers of immense repute, SMG and KD, have been roped in to attend the meeting. To the author's astonishment, an email was received by him at 9 am from the ICCB, requesting his presence at the meeting, which would start at 1 pm.
With no idea of why he had been called, and a hurried Air Deccan flight later that was almost cancelled ten minutes after it took off from Hyderabad, I was there with the rest of them, sipping tea and munching on crumpets richly spread with butter, and gawking at familiar figures I had only ever seen on TV screens.
The meeting is now formally in order.
Power play:-- Ok, I am disappointed with yesterday's performance. Is anyone else disappointed? Does everyone agree that we have to take some action?
Others (including me):- Yes, yes, we are all disappointed!
Power play:- Good! We are unanimous in our being disappointed. Scribe, take down in the minutes that we are unanimous in being disappointed and wanting some action to be taken.
[Scribe furiously noting down the minutes]
Power play: Ok, so it is an open house now! I leave the floor open to all personnel present to give your thoughts.
SMG: I think it is important to note at the beginning of the meeting itself that it was a great ball. It was a delivery that would have accounted for the best set batsman, and it was unlucky that he got it when he was new to the wicket.
Sriram: Huh, what are you talking about?
SMG (impatiently): The little genius, of course! I don't want anyone blaming him else I am walking out of this meeting.
Representative from East Zone (threateningly): And if anyone dares to blame Ganguly for this, after the tremendous comeback he has made into the team, I have it directly from the Lok Sabha members representing our zone, that nation-wide strikes would be called and parliament would be stalled till he is re-instated into the team. So, anyone not wanting to catch a Bengal tiger by the tail better not walk in that direction.
Representative from South Zone: Dravid was the highest scorer in the match. Dinesh Karthick, Sreesanth and Kumble did not play the match. There is no way you guys are pinning this on us.
Representative from North Zone: But Dravid was the captain, right? I always said "Don't pick these vada-dosa guys to lead. They bat well and they bowl well but they don't have heart. Jigar nahi hai! It is no use being intellectual and talking about processes; he should have gone into the teaching line where that works; here we are talking heart, jigar, dil � passion!
[On cue, a video is played on the giant screen in front showing Ganguly mouthing obscenities at the English team and whirling his tee shirt over his head.]
Representative from East Zone: Heart, jigar dil ... In other words, Sourav Dada! If he were the captain, he would have inspired the team to perform well.
Sriram: Uhhh, pardon me for butting in but is playing for India not enough inspiration? I mean, a billion people sitting all night in front of their TVs, praying, skipping work, organizing yagnas, writing songs in their honor. A guy tearing off his tee shirt is more inspiring?
[Everyone ignores him]
Representative from South Zone: Listen guys, if the brat brigade had done the job, we would all not be having this conversation today! For too long, some of these North Zone guys have been clinging onto their spots because of their reputations. Bhajji hasn't played well in a long time, and what to say of Sehwag? Dinesh Karthick can bat better than Virender Sehwag right now.
Representative from North Zone: Can anyone here name India's only triple centurion? Can anyone name the guy who took a hat-trick against Australia in 2001 and helped rout the mighty Australians? Anyone, anyone, anyone? The prize will be one plate Masala Dosa sponsored by our South Zone anna.
Representative from South Zone: Do not start me off, I am warning you! I have a friend sitting in Hyderabad wondering why he was not playing in the West Indies. Anyone remember the very, very special Laxman who scored 281 in the same match? And speaking of past records, Anil Kumble is only the second player to have taken ten wickets in an innings.
Sriram: Uhhh, pardon me! All those mighty events happened in test matches and that too in the time well past. I think we should be focusing on player form over the last year or so as that would be a better indicator.
[Everyone ignores him]
Power play: SMG and KD, what do you both say? You have played at the highest level and have immense experience. What are your thoughts?
SMG: I think form is temporary and class is permanent. I think it is criminal that a man with 40 One day hundreds, and who has scored most of his runs at the opening position, should be dragged down to the number four position. Ponting is already closing in on him in the count of test centuries and if this keeps up, I am afraid the same would happen for ODI centuries also.
KD: Who is Greg Chappell? Why are we getting a white man to coach our Indian team? I think it is a fascination with the white skin that has cost us this world cup. I am proud to be Indian and I have always played with my heart. That is all is required; for the players to go out and play with their heart. We don't need white man with his fancy hats.
SMG: Errr, KD, I think it is Geoffery Boycott you are thinking of. He is the guy with the fancy hat.
KD: Not him, SMG! You always think you are so smart. I am talking about those red, blue and green hats that he made our team play with. We should be practicing batting and bowling and the players are spending time in wearing hats and crawling under chairs and tables. Cricket is a simple game; you hit the ball over the boundary when you bat; you throw the ball at the wicket when you bowl. How is wearing red hat going to help in playing a square cut?
Sriram: Uhhh, Mr. KD! I think the idea behind the hat thing was different. It was more to do with the thinking, strategizing and other mental processes than about playing a square cut.
[Everyone ignores him]
Power play: Listen gentlemen! This meeting has been on for two hours now and we have not reached any agreements on what went wrong and what should the actions taken be. The media is waiting outside like a pack of hungry wolves and there are a billion people watching TV waiting for a decision from us. Can we all be more constructive?
Senior ICCB member 1: I don't know why we are suddenly meeting like this. What is the urgency? The World Cup is still on; Bermuda might still beat Bangladesh and India might still make it through the net run rate. Then all the idiots out there sitting in front of TVs will forget everything and be bursting firecrackers again. Everyone will forget the matches against Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
Senior ICCB member 2: That is true! If only Bermuda beats Bangladesh, we are out of the woods. Shall we call up the Bangladesh board and propose a series vs India if they let India go through? They will lose in the Super 8s anyways and a series against us can make them richer than they could ever get even by winning the world cup.
[The ICCB members all perk up and throw admiring glances at Senior ICCB member 2]
Power play (with an uneasy glance towards Sriram): Ha Ha, good joke indeed! If only we were manipulative enough to consider these kind of things!
Senior ICCB member 2 (astonished): Huh? What is wrong with that? And why are you looking so uneasy? Who is that chap with the disgusted look on his face? I have never seen him here before ... is he some association member come to beg for a tour abroad as manager or something?
Power play (kicking Senior ICCB member 2 under the table and catching the table leg instead): Owwww! Mr. Sriram here is a member of the general public. I have invited him as a guest for this meeting to increase the transparency of our functioning. Everyone is always complaining about our transparency.
[Murmurings start all over the place and dirty glances are thrown at me]
Senior ICCB member 1: A member of the general public here? For God sakes, why? What does the general public have to do with all this?
Senior ICCB member 2: Yes, yes, why are we suddenly caring about them? We let them buy the colas, the TVs, the motorcycles and the washing machines. What more do they want?
Sriram: We want accountability, responsibility, discipline, hard work, honor and a whole lot more we will never get, Mr. ICCB member.
Senior ICCB member 1 (shocked): Accountability?
Senior ICCB member 2 (shocked): Responsibility?
Sriram (heatedly): We are the guys who shave our heads in shape of the country's map and shout dumb things like "Oooh Aaah India, Aaya India" and "Come on India, Dikha do" whenever the matches are on. We are the guys who keep transistors under our books in class to keep up with the latest score and invent illnesses at offices to watch the match live. We are the people who buy the Castrol Engine Oil, the Britannia biscuits and the VISA credit cards your players promote. We are the people who earn you the billions that you hold in your coffers. Don't you think you owe us something?
All ICCB members in unison: NO
Sriram (shouting now): Hell, this is the national cricket team. How can the national cricket team or the body in charge of the national cricket team not be accountable to the public? We elect the governments. This is our cricket team. We will not stand for this tomfoolery, this hoodwinking of the public.
[Sniggers all around]
Power play: Ok, cool down, Mr. Sriram. You want action; you will get some action. Come on people, let's get down to business. I want some heads to roll. Chop Chop, guys!
Senior ICCB member 1: I have a suggestion. Maybe we should first list down those that cannot be touched.
Power play: Good one, Senior ICCB Member 1! That is the way to go. Sharp thinking!
[Power play draws a paper towards him and writes down "Sachin Tendulkar" in bold letters. Murmurs of assent are heard from all directions.]
Sriram: Uhhh, pardon me but no one thinks Sachin Tendulkar is not an automatic choice in the team?
[Shocked looks all around]
Power play: Mr. Sriram, I understand you are a very sincere young man but please understand. We all have to live in this country and we would preferably like to do it in one piece.
Senior ICCB member 2: Ha Ha! What a thought! Dropping Sachin Tendulkar, indeed!
[Good natured laughter all around and everyone give Sriram pitying looks as they would their mentally retarded third cousin]
SMG: Mr. Sriram, it is clear to me that you do not know anything about cricket. Have you ever scored 14000 ODI runs, almost 11000 Test runs and more than 75 international centuries? No? Then keep quiet.
Representative from North Zone: Sehwag and Yuveraj stay. There is no compromise on that.
Representative from South Zone: Sehwag after all this? Are you for real?
Representative from North Zone: Give me Sehwag and I will give you Laxman in the next selection meeting.
Representative from South Zone:� Deal! What about Agarkar and Irfan Pathan? They haven't exactly set the Thames on fire.
Representative from West Zone: Hold your horses. If Pathan's confidence had not been shaken by Greg Chappell and Rahul Dravid's insistence of making him bat at Number 3 in all those matches, he would have been the star of this World Cup. And Agarkar cannot be dropped; we all know that.
Sriram (butting in): Hey, wait a minute! No one told Pathan to stop practicing his bowling just because the team management wanted to bat him at Number 3. What else do you need a team management for if not for trying different things? If his bowling hadn't fallen off, Greg Chappell and Dravid would have been hailed as genius.
Representative from West Zone: But his bowling did fall off, so they are proven wrong.
Sriram (exasperatedly): But that is short sighted thinking!
Representative from West Zone: Whatever! Pathan stays. We can't drop Agarkar, so lets move on.
[All the men in the room nod assent]
Sriram (confused): You keep saying that; "Agarkar cannot be dropped; Agarkar cannot be dropped". Why cannot he be dropped? His economy rate is atrocious; he gives hit-me balls all the time.
[Everyone looks sheepish]
Power play: It is like this, Mr. Sriram. Since he came onto the scene and was described as a Rolls Royce by Bobby Simpson, he has always been in the team. No one really knows why but selection committee after selection committee has always selected him. No one really knows why he is there but now everyone is afraid to be the one to drop him. So he stays!
Sriram: That is amazing logic.
Power play: Indeed! Let's move on, boys. Time is a-ticking.
Representative from East Zone: Brinda Karat has already said that though she doesn't follow cricket, she thinks Sourav should be captain! I can't go back home without his name in the list, if not as captain, then at least as a player.
Sriram: Brinda Karat, the Lok Sabha member? What does she have to do with all this?
Power play: I have to face her in parliament, my na�ve friend. Somnath Chatterjee is from Bengal too and he is the speaker. You don't understand anything, do you?
Sriram: Hmmm, I am beginning to, just a little bit.
*The next 30 minutes saw a fish market at its best being enacted as players were swapped, foreign jaunts were promised and lots more Gulaab Jamuns were eaten. Finally the big decision was made; the men to be dropped � Karthick, Sreesanth, Uthappa and Munaf Patel.*
Senior ICCB member 1: Whoof! That was a tough exercise. What pests these guys are! We pay them so much and they give us so much trouble. Maybe we ought to cut their pay.
Senior ICCB member 2: They pay for that bataata-vada you are eating right now.
Senior ICCB member 1: Ummm, delicious! The problem is � there is no big name here. We need to sack a big name else people will call it a cover up.
Power play (looking at the list): No one else is possible, if we have to keep the various associations with us and all the sponsors too.
SMG: Greg Chappell is a big name, isn't he?
Power play: You hit the nail on the head, SMG. It has to be Greg Chappell. We sack the coach and half the public will be on our side. Additionally, no association or sponsor will break his head over a foreigner. SMG, you can be the coach.
SMG (going pale): Me? No way, I am too busy with other commitments.
KD (nastily):� SMG, you have enough time to be the chairman on every cricket committee formed by the ICC or the ICCB. Why can't you make time for this?
[SMG mutters something about answering the call of nature and disappears from the room]
Power play: Ok, so it is decided; Greg Chappell goes and the four players we decided. South Zone representative, as reward for your selflessness in taking out some of your men, you can be the manager on the next tour to Australia. Bhabhiji can also get a tan, Ha Ha!
All ICCB members in chorus: Ha ha ha ha!
[ICCB secretary running into the room with a look of urgency]
ICCB secretary (to Power play): Sir, Rahul Dravid calling from West Indies!
Power play: Put him on the big screen, Niru.
[Rahul Dravid, still looking shell shocked from yesterday's loss, appears on the screen]
Rahul Dravid (taken aback): Uhhh, I wasn't expecting a full house, Mr Power play. I wanted to talk something privately.
[Titters all around]
Power play: That is ok, Mr. Dravid. Anything you tell me in private would anyways be on a billion TV sets ten minutes from when you say it. I trust everyone here immensely. You may proceed.
Rahul Dravid: Ok, Sir! I just wanted to tender my resignation as captain of the team. Even if we go through because of Bermuda beating Bangladesh, I still take moral responsibility for...
Power play (breaking in): That is ok! You are out!
Rahul Dravid: What?
Power play: You are out unless Bermuda wins and then you go onto lift the cup. Anything else?
Rahul Dravid (bewildered): You already decided to fire me? Even before we are officially out?
Senior ICCB member 1: Mr Dravid, we can call you tomorrow and tell you that you are fired, if you want; immediately after the Bermuda - Bangladesh match.
Sriram (breaking in): Mr. Dravid. This is Sriram, a member of the general public. I really think your backing of the obviously out-of-form Sehwag was more of hard-headedness than the smart cricketing brain you are credited with.
Rahul Dravid: Huh? Why should I listen to you?
Sriram: I also think that you started off nicely with a theme of change; bringing in fresh young blood; focusing on processes. I somehow think you screwed it up in the end by going back to the same old faces with the mountainous weight of records backing them than any logic that said -- "this is the way forward for Indian cricket".
Rahul Dravid: Everyone in the general public has an opinion. I don't have to listen to this.
Sriram: You stressed on processes and young blood, Mr. Dravid, for 90% of your tenure as captain. Then you went ahead and made a squad for the world cup that had Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, and Anil Kumble as its backbone. How did that happen?
Rahul Dravid (exploding in anger): All right! That does it. [Grabs a huge book from behind him and flips through the pages feverishly]. Sriram, Sriram, Sriram ...
Sriram (nonplussed): Mr. Dravid, what is going on?
Rahul Dravid (still feverishly searching): Do you know what this is? This is the greatest chronicle ever written. This is something of so much immense value that you and I can only ever dream of seeing it.
Sriram (awed whisper): You have an advance copy of the last Harry Potter book that hits stores only on July 21?
Rahul Dravid (triumphantly): No, idiot! This is the annals of cricketing history. I have flipped through it all, and I can't find your name anywhere. Hence I don't have to give any importance to anything you say.
Power play: Uhhh, this is taking too long. Mr. Sriram, stop interrupting serious business. Mr. Dravid, you can go now and start preparing to watch the Bermuda - Bangladesh game.
[Rahul Dravid vanishes off the big screen]
Power play: Ok, so we are finished here. Niru, give the press release to the dogs outside and make it a point of emphasis that ex-greats SMG and KD were present at the meeting as was Mr. Sriram, a member of the general public. This ought to give us credibility.
Sriram (jumping up): But I don't agree with whatever has gone on here. I am not going to associate my name with this nonsense meeting. I will go out and tell the world how they are being fooled.
Power play: Have you ever been to Australia and Singapore, Mr. Sriram?
Sriram: Huh? What? No � why?
Power play: Sydney Harbour Bridge, The Great Coral Reef, sun, sand, beaches, shopping for electronics at Singapore; all expenses paid. Of course, with your wife and children!
Sriram (gasping for breath): I don't have children yet.
Power play: Well well, one has to start sometime. Ha ha ha! You never know what could happen by the time you come back from all that sun and sand.
Sriram (fighting hard): This is bribery.
Power play: No, no Mr. Sriram. It is just that we think life should treat you fairly. All the men sitting in this room today have explored every corner of the globe. Are they better than you? Why should you not experience the same luxuries? Why shouldn't your wife experience the luxuries their wives experience? Don't you owe it to your family to provide the best for them?
Sriram (tears in eyes): I am in.
[A press release was made later that day: "A meeting of the ICCB, chaired by the president himself, Mr Power play, was conducted this afternoon to analyze the performance of the cricket team at the World Cup. In order to bring the player's viewpoint into the proceedings and to also embrace the feelings of the general public while taking decisions, Mr. SMG and Mr. KD, the reputed cricketers of yesterday and Mr. Sriram, a member of the general public, were part of the meeting proceedings. The findings are as follows -- xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx. The following actions have been decided � xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx. We are happy to note that the meeting decisions were taken unanimously and with these, we hope to charter a turning point in the history of Indian cricket. In the year 2011, we are sure our boys will bring back the World Cup.]
The Cup: Complete Coverage
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