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If I can just give to the world more than I take from it, I will be a very happy man. For there is no greater joy in life than to give. Motto : Live, Laugh and Love. You can follow me on Twitter too . My handle is @Raja_Sw.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

For the sake of Indian cricket

This is what I have sent to the BCCI today. I do not expect anything from this but I considered it my duty, as a fan, to express my views to them for whatever these views are worth.

I titled it "For the sake of Indian cricket".

Dear Sirs,

We, the fans of Indian cricket, are deeply disturbed by the recent events involving the game in India and have been moved to present our opinion to you. We trust you will take the trouble to understand our standpoint and act judiciously and objectively in resolving the impasse that has developed recently.

We are referring to the extremely ugly fracas between the Indian cricket team captain, Mr. Saurav Ganguly, and the Indian team coach, Mr. Greg Chappell.

Over the years, we, the fans, have been subjected to much abuse by our players on the field. True, we have had moments of glory too – but, as diehard fans, we have often found the Indian team falling short of our expectations.

While that has been no doubt disappointing, we have taken that in our stride – as being part of the game. We are very happy if our team just gives its 100% - and if even that is not enough for a win, well, we are not just good enough to win. That is what we have reconciled ourselves to. We cannot ask for more.

But is our team giving a 100 % ? Is this the best that India can offer ?

These are the questions that we, the fans, keep asking ourselves. Of late, we have been increasingly seeing indifferent performances, players taking the field in half-fit condition or crying “unfit” on the eve of a game, players seeming to take their places for granted, players making statements to the press talking of being “victims” of selection vagaries – all signs that not all is well with the mental and physical aspect of the Indian team. If a team is in conflict from within, how can we expect it to perform as one united unit on the field of play ?

When Mr. Chappell was appointed team coach a few months ago, we welcomed this decision. We expected that a person with his playing experience, commitment to excellence and no-nonsense approach would be just the right person to revive Indian cricket.

It is early days for Mr. Chappell in India and we do not think it wise to pass judgment on his performance so far. Before his appointment as coach, he presented to you his vision for Indian cricket and it is this vision that you, the BCCI, bought into when you appointed him in the first place.

One of the important tasks (perhaps the most important task) that Mr. Chappell set out to accomplish for Indian cricket was to raise standards of excellence in the side. This is what he had promised to do in his vision statement and this is what he has begun to do. He did not promise to bring home the World Cup of 2007. He can, at best, build a team that is most capable of bringing home the Cup.

Mr. Chappell seems to be a man with a mission, who does not waste any time while pursuing his goals with all seriousness. He began with a training camp for quick bowlers, he has experimented with a few players during the recent one-day series in Sri Lanka, he has been very strict, almost regimental, with the players on fitness and training levels. He is going about his task in a manner that he thinks will lead to a fitter, better Indian side.

We believe Mr. Chappell needs to be given full opportunity and space to allow his vision to bear fruit. If we impose restrictions on his authority and style, we will never fully benefit from his coaching. And that would be a real pity, wouldn’t it ?

Which brings me to another point – the role of Mr. Chappell.

That seems to be at the heart of the recent misunderstanding between Mr. Chappell and Mr. Ganguly. That Mr. Chappell exceeded his brief by expressing his opinion on selection matters when his role is only that of a coach.

This is the typical line used by those who are uncomfortable with Mr. Chappell’s frankness and style of operation. True, he is officially only the coach and not a selector – but, again, if we “box” him and “cellotape” him, we will not be able to pick that active brain of his. He spends a lot of time with the team, he should be knowing each individual player’s strengths and weaknesses, his physical and mental condition. If, armed with this knowledge, he states his opinion (that too, when asked for it), should we not listen to it and take it into consideration in our future selection decisions ?

We, the fans, believe the coach should be part of the selection committee – who, better than him, has insight into the players’ fitness for the game ?

We have said enough about Mr. Chappell here. We would like to say a few words about Mr. Ganguly.

Mr. Ganguly has rendered commendable service to Indian cricket in the last nine years. We will always thank him for providing us with many memorable moments on the field.

We understand that Mr. Ganguly is going through a very difficult phase at this moment. We empathise with him for his severe loss of batting form in the last couple of years. In this game, it happens to many players and Mr. Ganguly is no exception.

We believe that the best thing Mr. Ganguly can do is to concentrate 100% on his batting – and nothing else. He needs to work on each one of his weaknesses, on his confidence and come out all guns blazing. Nothing would please us more than to see the Ganguly of old. However, we believe the right platform to work on his batting is not the international stage but the domestic circuit – be it in India or elsewhere. The pressures and high stakes of the international circuit do not permit much experimentation – and there is a real chance that Mr. Ganguly’s attempts to work his way back into batting form may be at the cost of India’s success.

We believe this (in different words) is what Mr. Chappell was trying to convey to Mr. Ganguly during that much-publicised pre-match discussion. It is very unfortunate that the discussion took a completely different direction and the incident, fuelled by a scoop-hungry media, sparked off such an unpleasant string of remarks and retaliation. We believe this was totally unnecessary and, for a team which already does not seem to be performing at its best, can only be even more debilitating.

We are aware that this is not the first time that Indian cricket is faced with a crisis that has nothing to do with play on the field itself. There have been crises in the past and there will be crises in future. Such is the nature of the game in India and the passion of its following that there will be reminders from time to time of the frailty of the state of the game in the country.

We can only expect each person or party to do its bit responsibly. The selection committee for example. We, the fans, do not have a say in selection matters, we are not privy to the closed-door (closed ? ahem !) meetings of the selection committee. We have to accept the decisions that the selection committee, in all its wisdom, has taken. We may rant and rave about it, but in the end, we just accept the decision for what it is.

We can only hope that the office-bearers of the BCCI (being the custodians of the game in the country), the selection committee (being the decision-makers on the team composition), the coach (being the technical guru for the players) and, very importantly, the players themselves can understand where we, the fans, come from, how keen we are to see our team do well, how proud we feel when our team does well and, looking at themselves in the mirror, how privileged they are to be in a position to satisfy the aspirations of more than a billion people.

I cannot say more than this.

On behalf of a billion people,

I remain,

Yours sincerely,

Raja Swaminathan

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