How Politics Plays Cricket
Cricket is undoubtedly the biggest religion in India. The dedication of fans towards the game has been immense since the day broadcasting was normalized. The fans are so emotionally invested that over these few decades, our nation has witnessed several riots caused due to the legendary India-Pakistan match. And where there is such huge following, how can you not expect political involvement?
Cricket and Politics are the two favorite topics of the whole nation to discuss upon, all the time. Both of the topics are so fiercely sensational that best of friends would not take more than two minutes to fight over any random issue: be it Dhoni’s retirement or building of the Ram Mandir. But at the same time, these topics are at their best when functioning individually. Eruption of massive chaos on a national level is what would happen when politics annexes in cricket.
Unsurprisingly, the whole Indian cricket body from top to bottom- from the selection of players at district coaching centers to the election of the president of Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) is politically interrupted giving injustice to thousands of talented players and coaches every year. The situation goes out of hand when players are selected as per personal interests and not on the basis of their performance. On the lowest level, the job security of selectors is pretty good and hence they get a chance to select players who can offer them a good sum of money. The whole system is involved. If complained, the upper level of association would hush up the situation and tell the victim to accept the consequences as they too would be having some share of illegal income collected by the selectors. India is an expert in corrupting systems; this is still a mainstream one.
Former DDCA (Delhi and District Cricket association) chairman of selectors, Atul Wassan, spoke about favoritism, age fudging and lowering standards of committee decisions, “Those days of power centers in cricket is gone. You must have read about the nepotism and all that, Delhi cricket thrives on corruption, in terms of selection, that’s the most disheartening thing. You can embezzle all the money you want but if you fiddle with selection, you set a system where you do not pick talented players, and they move away.”
It is great to see players such as Yashasvi Jaiswal who came up from the poorest background now play for one of the richest franchises in the Indian Premiere League. There is still hope that the people in power will understand their duties and fix the future of Indian cricket in whichever way possible.
People in power often play games ‘under the table’. But there are some games played in front of all of us. The people who are in power constantly try to be in power for a longer reign and at the same time try to expand their dominance to different regulatory organizations. Cricket boards have obviously been their first preference to have control over, since always.
Saurav Ganguly, dada, became the 39th BCCI president on October 23, 2019. His team consists of Jay Shah, Union Home minister- Amit Shah’s son, as the secretary and Arun Singh Dhumal, Anurag Thakur’s (another minister) brother, as the treasurer. Also, Rupa Gurunath, daughter of N. Srinivasan (former BCCI chairman who was accused of match-fixing) is the new Tamil Nadu Cricket association’s president. It’s not that any of these have done any significant contribution to the game, but do any of them know cricket closely enough to be given such grand positions, except dada. They were simply ‘elected’ by the state board committees. Nepotism is not just in Bollywood; it is only highlighted in Bollywood.
One noteworthy fact suggests nepotism is only restricted to the boards and associations. There are no children of famous former cricketers who are playing national or international if they do not deserve enough. A very famous commentator and former cricketer Aakash Chopra commented on Sunil Gavaskar’s son who was playing cricket by profession, by saying that nepotism in cricket is there and would be unfair to deny that statement but it is on very lower level and hence the quality is not compromised at the national level.
At national and international levels, things are different. It doesn’t mean that politics doesn’t have a hand there; politics is everywhere. The selection committee decides who gets to play and who doesn’t, as they have the power. So politics happens at their level. The biggest example would obviously be the epic Chappel-Ganguly controversy. Chappel had some weird calculations due to which the whole controversy took place.
Then after a few years when Kohli was appointed as the Indian captain, some said that he helped Ravi Shastri sustain his position as the Indian coach by not letting Anil Kumble settle with the team and the partnership of Kohli-Shastri is not letting new people adjust in the group who can possibly threaten positions of any of the two in future. No one will ever know what the truth is in these theories until any of the insiders speaks himself but at least these insights will always show how intense and severe politics has been at that level of operation. Maybe the question is not about reaching at higher positions where these professionals stand but about staying in power for the longest time with a concrete support and strength.
These are the incidents which have been disclosed in front of the general public. There would be many more of these which are still hidden under the cover . The most control over politically handled issues would be of the BCCI, but in this case, the regulatory body itself is affected due to it.
In a situation like such, the BCCI began organizing the Indian Premiere League from 2008 every year so that ten-twelve more teams could exercise politics, including international participation. BCCI says that it is a Non-profit organization but does not say it is a Non-corrupt organization. Yet there is some hope in dada’s presidency.
It is not just in India that politics is suffocating cricket. In West Indies, Dwayne Bravo said, “too much politics is killing the game in the Caribbean and the administrators need to take a hard look at them.” Just a few weeks ago, even the South African cricketers asked the board ‘to put politics aside to avoid downfall’. It is devastating that politicians use a sport as a tool to spread their rule.
Some of the huge names like Gautam Gambhir, Navjot Singh Sidhu and Mohammad Azharuddin have joined politics after leaving cricket. But is it because they’ve been witnessing it even while playing the game?
Politics has almost ruined one of the most beautiful, beloved and honest sources of entertainment in this country and tends to ruin it more. It is the one that pulls out the sportsmen spirit out of the sport. Politics in cricket has stayed since the colonial rule but day by day, at a fast pace, it is intensifying.
If this continues any further, things won’t look very good in the future.