Sandeep Sahu in Centurion
‘Team India’ captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni (‘Mahi’ to his zillion of fans in India) dropped a bombshell on Wednesday when he threatened to walk out of all forms of cricket – and even the Indian Premier League (IPL) – along with all other members of the team if they are not allowed to play ALL their matches in India.
Alleging that there is an ‘international conspiracy’ masterminded by the fixtures committee of the International Cricket Council (ICC) to malign Indian cricketers overseas, the Indian captain said; “The ball always seems to do strange things like kicking up from a length or swinging prodigiously whenever we bat outside India. I have reasons to believe that the balls given to us to bowl are not the same as the ones that our rivals get. Otherwise, how do you explain the fact that the ball that seems to do nothing when we bowl starts doing all these strange things as soon as it is in the hands of our opponents?”
Talking exclusively to OST soon after escaping with a 2-0 (instead of a 3-0) series loss at the hands of the Proteas after the third and final one day international was abandoned here on Wednesday, Dhoni warned that he may even consider quitting Chennai Super Kings (CSK) before IPL 7 if the ‘unanimous’ demand of Team India is not conceded forthwith.
Team members confided to this correspondent that tours to ‘godforsaken’ places like South Africa leave a deep mental scar on the psyche of the Indian players, which take a long time to heal. “The only cure for the scar is an IPL season immediately after such a tour which, in this case, is not possible since it is only December 2013 and IPL 7 is at least four months away,” said a player requesting anonymity. “And who knows, the Supreme Court might take cognizance of some stupid PIL filed by some stupid spoilsport and order the cancellation of IPL 7,” he said.
“Has anybody even bothered to find out how long it took for the boys to recover from the deep wounds inflicted on them – both physically and mentally – by the back-to-back 4-0 drubbing in England and Australia last year?” asked an anguished player of Team India.
The mental scar is not the only harmful effect that tours to places like South Africa have on the players, they aver. “Our endorsements take a huge beating too. And this, as you know, hits us where it hurts the most,” said another player accusing the Board president of ‘not doing enough’ to get the SA tour scrapped altogether.
Rattled by the team’s threat not to play – and especially MSD’s threat to quit CSK – Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) president N Srinivasan called up Dhoni on Wednesday night to assure him that he would do everything that he can to ‘persuade’ the ICC to keep India out of the purview of the Future Tours Programme. “Srini has assured MS that if push comes to shove, the BCCI would threaten to walk out of the ICC,” a reliable source in the team, who did not want to be named for obvious reasons, said.
While this assurance by the BCCI boss could not be independently verified, what lends credence to it is what the BCCI boss told the media in Chennai soon after news of the captain’s revolt broke, as it does most often these days, in the social media.
“I have no reasons to doubt Dhoni when he expresses doubt about different balls being used during the two innings. It goes without saying that the Proteas would do the same mischief during the Test series as well. This simply ain’t cricket. I am fully behind the players and will write to the ICC immediately to ask it to keep India out of all future overseas tours,” Srinivasan told reporters in Chennai on Tuesday.
Asked if BCCI would consider walking out of the ICC of the demand is not conceded, Srinivasan said the option is certainly open, though he denied reports that he had given any such assurance to Dhoni.
The BCCI president also denied ‘allegations’ that he did not do enough to get the South Africa tour cancelled. “What else could I have possibly done? I packed in a tour by West Indies, our most favourite opposition, at the shortest possible notice. I also tried to browbeat Cricket South Africa (CSA) and threatened to call off the tour. If the tour was not cancelled, it was certainly not for want of any effort on my part,” Srinivasan said.
Former IPL chairman and BCCI vice president Rajiv Shukla, who doubles up as the Parliamentary Affairs minister in the Union cabinet in his spare time, fully backed the Board president in his fight with the ICC. “After all, the BCCI is ICC and ICC is BCCI. We provide all the money and all the crowd that keeps cricket going in the world. Will the ICC survive even a day without the BCCI?” asked the part-time Parliamentary Affairs minister.
Cricket fans in India have already started celebrating the prospect of not having to endure the heart-rending experience of watching Indian batsmen hop, jump and flinch against the bowling of Dale Steyn & Co and instead watching the same batsmen smash the same set of bowlers all over the park at the next IPL.
“Who wants to see a bull fight in a cricket field? After all, it is just a game and should be taken as such. I, for one, would never pay to watch bowlers on a rampage against our ‘world class’ batsmen. Was not cricket always supposed to be a batsman’s game?” asked an angry fan in Bhubaneswar.
With anger running high in the country after Dhoni’s startling revelation about different balls being used, hectic confabulations have started in the ICC on how to meet what could well be the biggest threat it has faced so far.