Saturday, July 7, 2012

MCC Lecture - 2012 & Tony Greig's India Obsession

The annual Colin Cowdrey Spirit of Cricket Lecture was held on June 26. After a highly impressive oration by Kumara Sangakkara last year, I had begun to look forward to the annual Spirit of Cricket Lecture. On learning that Tony Greig had been asked to deliver the lecture, was certain that somehow BCCI and IPL would be mentioned in his speech as being responsible for all the evil in the world. And he certainly did not disappoint. Where did I get this surety? From following his twitter account. Mr. Greig never misses any chance to take potshots at the Indian board in the limited to 140 characters medium and to provoke caustic remarks from Indian followers. And he certainly wasn't going to miss this hour long opportunity.

To his credit, he has acknowledged the financial power of BCCI and the good use which has been put through it (e.g. the one-time benefit package to past cricketers, bonanza for boards hosting India, Indian TV viewership rights etc.). However at the same time he is saying that BCCI is taking the spirit out of cricket. Well, to be honest, BCCI is not the only wrong-doer in this regard. And for the "Spirit of Cricket" business, in my humble opinion, it is a concept without any actual basis, based purely on an individual's judgement and applied arbitrarily as and when required. So lets not tread into such waters.

Tony Grieg makes a point about BCCI having sold off part of cricket to private investors. Point taken but   hasn't all sporting activity been funded through private investors for their entertainment. I mean if there hadn't been private investors, how would anyone make a living playing any sport. Ignoring this global point, lets say BCCI commited this crime. But does selling off franchisees in IPL compare to selling off your entire T20 tournament to a private investor (West Indies & Alan Stanford). Given that the West Indies board is poor, they didn't have any option, what about the English board who got swayed by the sight of Stanford landing in Lords with suitcases full of dollars? Greed is present everywhere, why just blame BCCI?

Then he has an issue of BCCI promoting T20s over Tests. I can only say one thing. Come to your sense Mr. Greig. Check India's schedule and compare it with any other Test playing country. You will find that India plays the least number of T20 matches. And they have the most heavy international schedule. Post 2011 World Cup, India has played 14 Tests and 6 T20s. For the 2012-13 home season 10 Tests are scheduled. Does it show lower priority for Tests? Even thedomestic calendar is being revamped with emphasis on getting more first class matches for the state teams. Yes there is a 2 month long IPL, but beyond that there is hardly any T20 participation from Indian players.

IPL is referred to as the main killer of the "spirit of cricket". Players are not choosing to play for IPL franchisees over their countries. Fair enough, everyone would want to have more and easy money, thats just human nature. Mr. Greig himself did the same when he went to Packer's side, which he was very honest about in acknowledging.. And when he chose to be part of the now-defunct Indian Cricket League, was it for any "Spirit of Cricket" business or just money?

Tony Grieg takes on his favorite point of beating BCCI by raising the DRS issue. I do not support BCCI's stand of opposing the DRS implementation. With different models of DRS operating in different series, it gets weird for the watching fan. Uniformity should be there across. However, I would leave the DRS to umpires and not to the players. Let 3rd umpires have a more pro-active role and review howlers rather than the challenge coming from the players. Guess would be better for the so called "spirit of cricket". Wonder why none of the esteemed commentators including Tony Greig raises this point.

Tony Greig does put some interesting ideas like expanding IPL into an Asian Premier League with teams from Pakistan, Bangladesh & Sri Lanka (Hangover of ICL which had Lahore & Dhaka teams???). SImilarly including the Kiwis in the Big Bash, having an African League & a European one with West Indies included. But will this not be contrary to his own statements on Tests getting less and less priority.

In short, to sum up my understanding of Tony Greig's speech. "BCCI, we want the money you bring to the game. But we do not want you to control the game". Mr. Grieg Sir, Is that even possible?

Lets see what all, if anything comes out of this speech.

Nishant Kumar for DieHard Cricket Fans
Follow Nishant on Twitter @NishantSKumar

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