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Pandurang Salgaoncar - Greed or A Cry for Attention?

The idea that Salgaonkar or any other individual on a ground staff could manipulate a pitch to suit a couple of bowlers a few hours before a game is both laughable and preposterous. Such utterances are mostly a cry for attention, not too different from a small child smearing chocolate on his face.

Dileep Premachandran |Cricketnext |October 25, 2017, 2:24 PM IST
Pandurang Salgaoncar - Greed or A Cry for Attention?

Pandurang Salgaoncar is just three months younger than Sunil Gavaskar, but like so many others who played domestic cricket in the era before wall-to-wall TV coverage and live online scores, he may as well not exist. These days, you can be a Twenty20 gun for hire like Andre Russell, who played his only Test seven years ago, and still be a superstar. The national cap isn’t the guarantee of recognition, it’s how visible the cricket you play is, and how much you accentuate that on social media.

Salgaoncar could, and should, have been a contender. His numbers – 214 wickets at 26.7 on pitches designed to deter anyone but masochists from bowling fast – say as much. But for whatever reason, the big break never came. Those less gifted and far less quick took the new ball for India. His career faded into anonymity.

Bookies, or those seeking to expose cricket’s dark underbelly, approach their task in the same way that criminals do a heist. It’s the fault lines they look for, the weak links. Even the strongest vaults and most united cricket teams have them. There can be high-profile players, like Hansie Cronje, that can’t keep greed at bay. There will be others embittered by life on the fringes who seek to cash in. And then there will be those, like Mohammed Amir and Henry Williams, who just don’t know how to turn down a crooked captain or senior.

It was no coincidence that cricket’s last fixing scandal, in the Pakistan Super League (PSL), featured individuals like Khalid Latif, Sharjeel Khan and Mohammad Irfan. Irfan, with a body like a giant Meccano installation, is liable to break down any time. Latif is one of those, in his 30s, who time has passed by. Sharjeel had his breakthrough during the 2016 PSL, but his physique was never going to do him any favours with the modern generation of coaches and trainers.

Salgaoncar interacted fairly extensively with the media during the India-Australia Test in Pune earlier this year. He didn’t know then that he would be thrown under the bus, with the pitch he prepared – likely under instructions from the Indian team management – attracting censure from the International Cricket Council (ICC).

For someone like him, those few days of hosting a match are the only time spent in the spotlight. Several of his peers are fixtures in newspapers and TV studios, while others got lucrative one-off payments from the Indian board for their services to the game. Salgaoncar, except for the cricket tragics of his era, may as well be invisible. That changes only when the microphone-and-laptop pack descend on the stadium in Gahunje for a match.

Having spoken to various curators down the years, most are desperate to shine some light on what they do. Pitch preparation is far from being an exact science, and they usually only make the news when things go wrong. But for most of these men, it remains a way to stay relevant.

The idea that Salgaonkar or any other individual on a ground staff could manipulate a pitch to suit a couple of bowlers a few hours before a game is both laughable and preposterous. Such utterances are mostly a cry for attention, not too different from a small child smearing chocolate on his face.

If the images and clips that have gone viral are to be believed, Salgaonkar was clearly in breach of the anti-corruption code. We just can’t be sure if it was avarice that drove him to be so indiscreet. There’s every chance that he was just trying to sound important, and feel part of a bigger picture that he was airbrushed out of more than 40 years ago.

Team Rankings

Rank Team Points Rating
1 India 5046 120
2 New Zealand 2829 109
3 England 4366 104
4 South Africa 3177 102
5 Australia 3672 102
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Rank Team Points Rating
1 England 6745 125
2 India 7071 122
3 New Zealand 4837 112
4 Australia 5543 111
5 South Africa 5193 110
see more
Rank Team Points Rating
1 Pakistan 8366 270
2 Australia 6986 269
3 England 5568 265
4 South Africa 4720 262
5 India 9349 260
see more