Gavaskar: Verbal skirmishes make the pleasure of beating England greater

Some English players can’t stomach the fees for which some of the Indian players are bought in the IPL and compare their achievements at the international level... So, you see more lip in the India-England encounters.

Published : Mar 13, 2024 10:04 IST - 5 MINS READ

India’s Ravindra Jadeja and Shubman Gill celebrate the wicket of England’s Jonny Bairstow in Ranchi.
India’s Ravindra Jadeja and Shubman Gill celebrate the wicket of England’s Jonny Bairstow in Ranchi. | Photo Credit: AP
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India’s Ravindra Jadeja and Shubman Gill celebrate the wicket of England’s Jonny Bairstow in Ranchi. | Photo Credit: AP

What a walloping, what great fun to watch a young India team demolish an England team that had arrived in India with the usual ‘we are doing you a favour’ attitude that brings a smirk on the faces of those Indian officials who go to receive them at various airports.

The Aussies have been invariably better, looking to adapt themselves to the culture and not look down their noses at us natives. It also helps that the Aussies recognise a golden goose when they see one, and the IPL is certainly a humongous golden goose.

Not only do Aussie players, some so memorably described by Kevin Pietersen as second or third-grade cricketers, go for astronomical amounts, but there are also Aussie coaches, physios, trainers, and anybody who is their golf and beer buddy in the IPL coaching staff, making more money than they do at home.

Not to mention the commentators, where sometimes it feels more like the Australian Premier League than the Indian Premier League. The Aussies are likeable and don’t have the supercilious attitude that the Poms generally have. That perhaps explains why the acrimony that was seen between the Indian and Australian teams has vanished almost entirely, even though the intensity of the contests between the countries hasn’t reduced one bit.

That is also the reason why the England and Indian players get into verbal skirmishes so often when they are playing against each other. Not a lot of England players are picked in the IPL, mainly because they can be withdrawn by their Board anytime for a preparation camp or something, which leaves the franchises in a lurch.

Some of them can’t stomach the fees for which some of the Indian players are bought and compare their achievements at the international level when the IPL auction dynamics can be so volatile and hard to explain or even understand. So you see more lip in the India-England encounters than in any other India match. That’s why the pleasure of beating England is always greater.

When Ben Stokes’ team came to India, there was a buzz around it as they had started to play a brand of aggressive batting that the British media dubbed ‘Bazball’. This was because the new coach Brendon McCullum’s nickname is ‘Baz’. He encouraged the players to always go in with a positive mindset and to keep at it, irrespective of the result. The batting thus became ultra-aggressive, with players encouraged to hit sixes and fours with a dot ball as the least preferred option. Stokes wanted his players to play like rock stars, whatever that means, and with England beginning to win games, the fans and the media were euphoric.

There’s no doubt that the batting was exciting to watch with the way the scoreboard rattled along. They even scored more than 500 runs in a day in Pakistan and then went on to win all the Test matches played there.

However, all this batting frenzy was on good batting pitches against opposition attacks that weren’t quite threatening. When the Aussies came last year for The Ashes, though the first ball of the series was driven for a boundary, England lost the first two Test matches. The Aussies quickly reduced the lengths and began to bang the ball in short, and the English batters, who are inherently front-foot players, began to struggle.

One of the tenets of the new regime of McCullum and Stokes is that they will stick by their players, come what may. While this is admirable, it also smacks of closed doors for anyone outside the squad, especially the batters. So, despite Jonny Bairstow once again looking totally out of his depth against the Indian spinners, he was persisted with throughout this series with unsurprisingly dire results.

Playing fearlessly is another thing we often hear. What is there to fear if, despite not delivering, there is a cool retainer cheque waiting for the player? Remove that cushion of comfort whereby if a player is dropped, he goes back to playing only County cricket or Ranji Trophy cricket, and then we will see who is fearless and who is not.

The BCCI must be congratulated for coming up with a scheme that will reward those who make themselves available to play most if not all of the Tests in the year by tripling their match fees. This is entirely Secretary Jay Shah’s initiative and needs to be lauded, for sure.

That said, it’s a sad state of affairs if a player has to be rewarded for making himself available to play for the country. It once again boils down to the retainer contracts, where, whether you play or not, your bank manager will beam as he informs you the funds have arrived. The tripling of the match fees will have more effect if the retainers are done away with. Maybe not fully, but with a minimum of 1 crore plus the reward of playing more Test matches. Then we will see how much workload factor comes in and sundry excuses like weddings of third cousins, birthdays, anniversaries, and such like to miss playing for India.

What really needs doubling, if not tripling, is the Ranji Trophy match fees, along with a slab system of more fees for every 10 matches played, for then not many will make themselves unavailable as there would be good money playing First-Class cricket too.

Just to end, in the recently started Tennis Ball Premier League, some players were bought for double the amount that those Vidarbha and Mumbai players who have played every Ranji match this season will get. By all means, make the rich richer, but also look at those hardy souls who sweat and toil for more than 40 days in front of sparse crowds and end up getting 15 lakhs for their efforts.

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