By Veturi Srivatsa
The euphoria of winning a Test series in Australia for the first time is over and the India teams focus is now on the World Cup in England this summer.
Before the first of the three-match One-Day series against Australia, the selectors and the team management seem to have finalised the World Cup squad. The loss in Sydney has triggered a debate over everything with the team.
The middle-order is seen wobbly, the so-called finisher is not to be found and there are the perennial questions about Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s batting, his scoring rate and whether he should bat at No 4, 5 or 6. One defeat, and there is a talk of more changes than one for Tuesday’s second match at Adelaide.
As luck would have it, the two certainties for the World Cup, Hardik Pandya and Lokesh Rahul, went on a bitchy television chat show and made themselves look like oafs. They lost their marbles and made some asinine remarks, trying to ape the stars from the tinsel world.
As if to match with the two morons, the Indian Cricket Board and its supervising body, the Committee of Administrators (CoA), complicated matters by not deciding quickly on the process of disciplinary action. The two players, who looked certainties for the World Cup till that fateful night with Koffee with Karan, have been suspended and asked to return home pending an inquiry.
They have been replaced by Tamil Nadu all-rounder Vijay Shekhar and exciting Punjab batsman Shubman Gill, 19, both coming through the rungs of domestic cricket and performing for India A and with Rahul Dravid’s strong recommendation.
The most unedifying aspect of it all is the way the chairman of the CoA, Vinod Rai, and the lone member Diana Edulji are quarreling over the quantum of punishment and how it should be handed.
The two do not act or behave like the members of the same committee, each one answering the other through the media. Some of their quarrels are farcically dragging on.
Both the Supreme Court and the Justice Rajendra Mal Lodha Committee tried to discipline the board. The Lodha Committee report went into areas which it could as well have left alone and then the CoA under Vinod Rai was formed to oversee the implementation the report.
The former Comptroller and Auditor General of India presided over a fairly impressive committee with historian and Ramachandra Guha, who also writes on cricket, former India captain of the women’s team Diana Edulji and Vikram Limaye, managing director and CEO of IDFC Infrastructure Development Finance Corporation.
Soon Guha soon quit, finding it difficult to carry on, and Limaye also went to take over as Managing Director and CEO of the National Stock Exchange of India Limited.
What is surprising is that the apex court did not think it fit to add two or at least one member more so that the CoA functioned democratically. Either the board or the two members of the committee have also not brought to the court’s notice the anomalous situation.
So much so every decision of the CoA is being hotly contested by Rai and Eduljee, starting with the ‘Me too’ case involving the board’s CEO, then on the quarrel between the coach of the women’s team and the senior most player Mithali Raj and the appointment of the new coach in place of Ramesh Powar, who tenure ended with the Twenty20 World Cup.
Rai and Edulji are it again. Now Rai is unwilling to be part of an inquiry process to decide on how to deal with Pandya-Rahul. Edulji is in favour of an inquiry by CoA, but Rai is opposed to it, saying it is against the board’s constitution.
Rai instead wants board’s CEO Rahul Johri to conduct the inquiry and submit the report to CoA to take action, but Edulji is opposed to it, carrying on her grouse against him as she wanted him sacked over ‘Me too.’
Eduljialways thinks of only extreme punishment for the guilty and it clearly appears even the board members are divided, some clearly backing the former Railway official.
To add to the mess, Union Minister and BJP MP from Asansol, Babul Supriyo, jumped in to lambast Edulji for trying to “destroy” the careers of Pandya and Rahul for their “inappropriate comments.”
In a longish tweet, Supriyo said: “There is ‘Thick’ line between reprimanding someone and destroying them!! My plea to these seniors: please behave your ages gentlemen & ladies…”
To make life tough for the two players, formers cricketers have also slammed them, almost forcing the board take strong action.
Not for tothing is the board caught in a cleft stick.
(Veturi Srivatsa is a senior journalist and the views expressed are personal. He can be reached at [email protected])