In February, the Toyota University Cricket Championship grabbed the attention of the next generation of Indian cricketers. In March, the current generation of Indian cricketers redeemed themselves with a 4-0 clean sweep of Australia. In April, as if the previous 8 Test losses in a row had never happened, generations of Indians were once again eating, sleeping, drinking cricket with the start of the 6th edition of the IPL. In May, generations of cricketers were once again criticizing cricket, the IPL, the T20 format, players and the BCCI alike. In 2012, when I interviewed the then IPL Chairman Rajeev Shukla for a story for my show titled 'The Good, Bad and Ugly of Indian Cricket' he said that 'the BCCI has become everyone's favorite punching bag'. The recent spot-fixing scandal has indeed opened a can of worms, but what shocks a young journalist like me is that not one cricket journalist can stick his neck out and say 'it came as a surprise to me'. What's emerged is that journalists in the field have always smelled something fishy. Yet not one has unearthed conclusively damning evidence. What does that say about us journalists? We're not doing enough punching!
Activists, the police and every Tom, Dick and Harry with a vested interest is motivated enough to take on the BCCI. But not journalists. On the other hand, one could argue that the BCCI has been as clean as holy water which is why people who might have tried to investigate failed to find much. But alarm bells would start to ring on most news channels if anyone said Mr. Srinivasan and the BCCI are clean as a whistle. It's no wonder that most respected voices are using the 'wait for the investigations to finish' excuse. The Indian judicial/investigation system is known to let people off the hook. So save the b$x# s%#t for someone else.
In the last four months, the only job that gave me an honest high was seeing the smiles on the faces of close to a hundred young cricketers participating in the Toyota University Cricket Championship. It might sound vain for an ambitious journalist but it is the surprising truth. Breaking the news for close to 3 hours on live television the day Sreesanth and company were arrested was painful. This is the heart talking. A little background would help - I'm a cricketer and a sportsperson first, a news broadcaster/journalist second. Watching the Indian team thump Australia 4-0 was confusing. Even experts suggested that cricket mattered little, the conditions were the real differentiators. The IPL gave the feeling that things were back to normal. Unfortunately, the business end of the tournament burst the bubble.
A secret abortion is probably the toughest thing a woman goes through. The marriage of a loved one to someone else is probably the toughest thing a lover goes through. Seeing your game fall apart piece by piece is possibly the toughest thing a fan goes through. The three examples may not be at par in many ways, but we dare not undermine the powerful impact of the role that cricket plays in the lives of millions of Indians.
The spot-fixing scandal hurt because this time at the forefront was one of Indian cricket's seemingly mindless yet passionate individuals. He seemed natural. He seemed human. One that erred too often. Sreesanth's career is probably over. However, considering that hundreds have demanded the resignation of the BCCI President, N. Srinivasan's tenacity in holding on to the post has been surprising. Call him the Rock of Gibraltar or a pigheaded near-septuagenarian, the buck has not stopped anywhere.
At the same time, Forbes has declared the India Captain MS Dhoni the 16th richest sportsperson in the world. Dhoni is richer than Rafael Nadal and Usain Bolt, while Sachin Tendulkar is ranked a distant 51. The Forbes list comes out at a time when Dhoni has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. Wearing too many commercial hats ended up becoming a conflict of interest. The investigations by journalists into this matter or others have so far been limited. I'm not sure whether getting after Dhoni would rid cricket of the disease that ails it but the journalistic integrity would suggest that the matter demands investigation.
The image of the game has been tarnished, but the BCCI will not collapse like a house of cards. The devil will remain in the details. Lalit Modi will jump on the bandwagon. The game will go on. The question only remains which match the Indian public will choose to watch - the one on the news channels between the Arthur Road Indians and the Tihar Daredevils, or the Champions Trophy ones where the national team attempts to restore the image of the gentleman's game through genuinely deserved victory. I really don't know. All I know is I'll be looking out for the new zoo zoo advertisement in the commercial breaks and singing along to the tune of zumi, zumi, zumi.....