Shame on BCCI

IN any team sport, the World Championship or the World Cup is the ultimate test of talent and temperament. To the best of one's knowledge all sports with the exception of cricket are played in one format. Cricket's ultimate test is the Test match where more than talent it is temperament that separates winners from losers. The limited overs format in cricket does allow players with limited temperament as well as skills to shine but unless they pull their socks up they will find it much tougher in the longer version of the game.

Since cricket has only one World Cup which is a limited overs format often teams which are not so good at the Test level can do well and give a wrong impression about their strengths. Still a World Cup is a World Cup and it is a dream of every player to represent his country at the World Cup. When the World Cup comes around and whether that country has a following for the sport or not it is followed by the majority especially in a sports mad country and not in countries where commerce and industry take precedence and where sports is looked down upon as a pastime for those with brawn rather than brain.

It was therefore with great interest that one read about the sending back of the Irish Roy Keane just a few days before the World Cup began. Keane, who plays for the game's most recognised club, Manchester United, was sent back for voicing his disapproval of the way things were run at their camp among other things and the coach asked him to pack his bags and take the flight home. This was quite unprecedented for remember Keane was the captain of the team and also played for the world famous Manchester United.

Predictably Keane's send off created a storm and if Ireland doesn't qualify for the last quarter leave alone the finals the criticism will multiply. So far there has not been much said against the coach probably because nobody wants to upset the rest of the team who seem to have approved the action of the coach.

Keane also hasn't said much after his return home apart from "my conscience is clear" and unless his team goes on to win the World Cup you can be sure that when the tournament is over there will be lots more said on the subject. Perhaps because Keane plays in England and not in Ireland the team members do not feel much sympathy for him but it should all be out as soon as the World Cup is over either through exclusives on TV channels worth a lot of money or in the tabloids and who knows even a book might come out on the subject!

One can't help thinking whether such a sacking of a player, leave alone the captain, would ever take place in cricket. If anything the coaches are likely to be sacked more than the captain or the player, especially in the sub-continent where it is the most popular game. Actually the coaches don't seem to have the power to fine or suspend or send back a player and that does hamper them from taking action against players who flout team discipline or play against the instructions of the captain and the coach.

At the most they can be dropped from the next trip or series but by then the match or the series would well be lost. There have been innumerable instances of indiscipline which have hardly been punished and by indiscipline here one means cricketing indiscipline where a player plays against instructions and not the indiscipline that is conjured up in one's mind that takes place off the field. It is on field discipline that is more important to the team for it can mean the difference between defeat and victory.

The manner in which the Australian Cricket Board charged Adam Gilchrist for his comments on Muttiah Muralitharan needs to be followed by all the Boards. Whether Gilchrist is reprimanded or fined or just let off, it is the promptness with which the ACB has come in that sends the right signal to the players. Compare the ACB action with that of the Board of Control for Cricket in India where they dilly-dallied for a while before asking for video clippings and action of the spinner Harbhajan Singh and then letting him off with a warning. Not only that the team management thought the spinner's actions were a welcome sign of aggression. If that is aggression then Indian cricket is better off without it. Players have been suspended or fined for just pointing the way to the pavilion to departing batsmen and here for an obscene gesture the Indian management just warns the player and calls it a show of aggression. Shame on you BCCI for it is the team management that represents the Board on a tour.

Was it not the BCCI that raised holy hell when Mike Denness fined and suspended some Indian players in South Africa? That is still reverberating round the cricket world and here they are turning a blind eye to something far more serious than whatever breaches occurred in South Africa. The more objectionable part happened in between overs when the commercial break was on but in some countries where the TV commercials are not shown it must have surely been seen. The Match Referee too did not see it, so it was up to the Indian management to have taken action but they have chosen to bury their heads in the sands. If only the spinner was asked to go and apologise to Chanderpaul it would have shown the right spirit but that was not done and all one can say to the BCCI is put your own house in order first before pointing fingers at the ICC. The BCCI would have enhanced its credibility if they had acted even when the Referee did not.

The spinner is young and has a bright future ahead and hopefully he will never repeat it for a bowler will be that much more respected if he takes wickets with his guile and not words and gestures. He only has to look at his hero Kapil Dev, who never ever said a word to the opponents and still went on to become the leading wicket-taker in the world and follow the example of the current highest wicket-taker in Tests, Courtney Walsh who only raised his eyebrows but never said a nasty word to the batsmen just like all his great predecessors of the 1970s and 1980s.

Those who say that sledging has always been part of the game are only creating a myth to suit themselves. There have been good humoured banters but never abuse and those that call it a form of mental disintegration do not have the good of this great game at heart.