The English Press overdoes it

Published : Jul 28, 2001 00:00 IST

"FOUR games from history" was the headline in one of the newspapers in England which one got to see while in transit at the Johannesburg airport on returning from Harare. It was in anticipation of Tim Henman's victory over Ivanisevic which would have meant that it would have been the first time since 1938 a British player would have entered the finals of the All-England Championship. Typically the headline ignored the fact that it was two sets all and Henman was trailing by two games to three. When it comes to sporting glory and heroes even an ace by Henman or a return of serve by Greg Rusedski is enough for the writers to look for catchy headlines. When it comes to cricket, a dead defensive shot off Shane Warne or a cover drive straight to a fielder off Glenn McGrath will also evoke something similar and if England do take the first innings lead in a Test against Australia it will be like the winning of the Ashes.

Fortunately for England, Henman did not get to the finals, with Ivanisevic polishing him off in just 14 minutes when the match was resumed or else they would have had to live with the horrible weekend where all their sporting contests against Australia ended in defeat - the Ashes Test defeat, the Rugby defeat in Australia and the Wimbledon final if it had taken place - the way Rafter was playing it was only an inspired Ivanisevic who could have defeated him. Rafter's comeback in the semifinal was unbelievable especially in the final set when he was down 0-3 and then again when Agassi was serving for the match at 5-3. The man from Las Vegas, with the railway bogie shaped head, believed it was a line call that did him in besides of course the warning he received for an audible obscenity which was heard by only one lineswoman and conveyed to the referee. Cricket too could do with such officialdom for the language out there is appalling and those who use it take shelter behind the excuse that it is gamesmanship and a mental ploy. But in reality it is uncouth behaviour of spoilt brats who cannot accept that someone else can also play. By the way did Agassi blow kisses to all four corners of the court after losing or is the crowd to be appreciated only after one wins?

The Australian cricket team was well represented at the Wimbledon final, cheering their countryman Pat Rafter. That is not surprising as there is a tremendous feeling of kinship and mateship among Australian sportspersons. One wondered whether the Indian cricket team would also have got so many tickets to the finals if an Indian had been in one. Surely, Rafter, as finalist, could not have got as many tickets as to accommodate that many cricketers plus his family, coach and friends. So how did so many Australians get in? Would the All-England Club give the Indian cricket team so many tickets to watch Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi play in the doubles finals? I doubt it.

Speaking of tickets, isn't it about time the Board of Control for Cricket in India increased the number of complimentary tickets that the Indian team is given. In stadiums that can accommodate thousands of people, the Indian players receive 75 tickets. Yes, 75 complimentary tickets that have to be split between the entire squad of 16 or 17 players. Each player thus gets about five tickets, though the outstation players do give some of their share to the local players in exchange for the same when it is a home game for them. Just imagine, players who are representing the country get only four or five tickets when a former official of the Board such as a former secretary or a former vice-president or a former treasurer to name just three categories of office-bearers, get six tickets each. The Board president has a Board president's box in which he gets 50 tickets for himself and the Board secretary and treasurer get half as many. Former Test cricketers get two tickets but it is strictly supposed to be for the player and his wife. So it is better to be an official than a player for at least after retirement there is a possibility of getting more tickets than what the current players are getting. The Board is talking about making graded payments but the players also need to take the opportunity to try and discuss other issues than just the monetary aspects, with the Board.

One issue that the players will certainly take up is about the team sponsorship. Though the Board struck a deal with a sponsor the Indian players were without the sponsor logo for the two Test matches that were played in Zimbabwe. Surely it is not the players' fault that the sponsor did not send the clothing. So why should they lose out on their share of the logo money and secondly why should the Board shell out if it is going to do so from its own funds? After all it is no small amount, for, if the figures bandied about are correct then it is a cool Rs. 1 crore for the two Test matches out of which 60 per cent has to go to the players. So, if the Board is going to give it from its own funds, then questions will no doubt be asked as to why the sponsor is not paying.

The other problem of course is the delayed payment of the players' logo and prize money. The Board pays it out sometimes almost a year after the tour without any interest. Why should the players lose out on the interest factor? These are some of the issues the players need to thrash out with the Board and not just regarding the graded payments.

The problem is there is no time for the players. They are travelling every other day which means the Board will get the excuse that it cannot be put up for this year's Annual General Meeting in September. Perhaps Anil Kumble and Srinath who are not going to Sri Lanka should do the talking for the players, and quickly too.

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