Two high profile retirements, an ugly storming of BCCI chief’s office with a helpless President ducking for cover, and an irreparable damage done to India as a sporting destination.
On the field too it has been a lacklustre performance by India allowing visitors to dominate even as undercurrents of leadership tussle in the team have become fairly visible. Remember Captain Cool’s reference to ‘swords out there in public’ to receive him.
Swords out there have done their damage elsewhere as well. The storming of BCCI office in Mumbai by Shiv Sainiks has done as much harm to the game as to dateline India.
India has for the first time witnessed an Umpire being withdrawn by the International Cricket Association (ICC) mid series. Pakistan elite umpire Aleem Dar has umpired in India on umpteen occasions including the historic 2011 India-Sri Lanka World Cup tie.
To add insult to the injury is the shocking news of two greats of the game withdrawing from the commentary for the ongoing India-South Africa series.
Wasim Akram, who has made India his next home, given his various cricketing preoccupations here post his retirement, has called it quits, along with another great from the sub-continent.
Speedster Shoaib Akthar joined his compatriot in quitting commentary job assigned to them by sports broadcaster of the ongoing series. Both are said to have pulled out due to security concerns for the fifth ODI to be played in Mumbai.
All this has happened quickly in a spate of a couple of days when Pakistan cricket boss and career diplomat Shahryar Khan is visiting India.
The ugly turn of events has cast its shadow over years or enduring relationships between top players of India and Pakistan. Wasim Akram has been a regular here switching roles: between promoting easy measures to battle diabetes to mentoring Kolkata Knight Riders to analyzing on field action as a commentator.
It is true commercial reasons drive his India preoccupation but who would deny he is a treat to watch as a television commentator. Remember the famous Shaz&Waz show that featured Ravi Shastri (ironically now India’s team director and someone who is said to be an influential voice in BCCI) and Wasim Akram holding forth on cricketing action on and off the field.
Some may argue and call the ICC move to withdraw the umpire as an over-reaction. There, however, is no denying the fact that what has transpired has left an impression that a few hooligans can dictate terms with the state playing a helpless victim. There is an obvious lack of confidence and credibility.
India is scoring a self goal if it does not quickly arrest the tide. It is bound to battle a huge diplomatic gaffe. It takes years to build a reputation and one bad incident can spoil it all. Somehow a free run to a few fringe elements all these years has helped us stay in the danger zone.
The Pakistan case study itself holds the mirror. Shiv Sena by its rowdy acts is only pushing India closer to the brink and with the world watching breathlessly the day is not far when they will see the entire sub-continent as a disturbed area.
Remember Pakistan suffered total boycott from cricketing world for almost six years with no international cricket being played there post the terror attack on visiting Sri Lankan team in 2009. It was only in May this year that Lahore hosted Zimbabwe for a solitary T-20 tie. Doubts, however, persist over safety of Pakistan as a destination to play international cricket.
With the way things are growing and Pakistan already threatening to pull out of the T-20 World Cup scheduled to be held in India next March, India runs the risk of easily being hyphenated with Pakistan.
The government of the day has to quickly put its act together and not allow anyone to hijack the spirit of the game. This is not to suggest India rushes into inviting Pakistan to play cricket. The requirement of the day is that India sends out a message loud and clear that safety is not at all an issue for any international cricketer active in India.
An immediate step to restore confidence would be to get Wasim Akram and Shoaib Akthar to stay on as commentators. Remember they are both great ambassadors of cricket in India.
India has tremendous clout with the ICC and must get it to quickly revoke its decision to withdraw Aleem Dar. If cricket is like a religion in the country, India deserves better than a few goons attacking its soul.
Let us do it for the ‘Sultan of Multan’!
First Published: October 20, 2015, 7:03 PM IST