Sunday, July 1, 2012

Tony Greig vs The Great Indian Ego

Tony Greig (Pic Courtesy:
Tony Greig's recent comments at the MCC Spirit of Cricket lecture at Lords raised a lot of Indian eyebrows. Greig, a former England captain who currently plies his trade in the commentary box (when he's not visiting Sri Lanka, that is) remarked that most of the sport's problems can be sorted "if India invokes and adheres to the spirit of cricket". How dare you, Tony?!

Greig obviously hasn't heard of The Great Indian Ego. Yes, that thing which is greater than that Chinese wall and resides in all of us (Yes, all of us! Don't you deny it!), that thing which doesnt like being told off and is so fragile that it makes Samuel L Jackson look like Superman (Yes, I watched Unbreakable on TV last night).

So how dare Mr Tony Greig come and tell us that "the spirit of Cricket is more important than generating billions of dollars" and "turning out multi-million players"? How dare he suggest that India (read BCCI) is indifferent towards Test Cricket and the international calendar? What right does he have to imply that India has a command over other member boards of the ICC? And last but definitely not the least, how dare he have the audacity to criticise our prized possession, our billion dollar baby - the IPL!

The Indian media and cricketing pundits were out with their swords as soon as Greig bowed out and were aplomb with comebacks. While some were on the defensive and guarded the IPL from Greig's bouncers like Gollum would his precious, some went on the counter-attack and fished out some controversial incidents in his playing career and questioned his moral right to deliver a "Spirit of Cricket" lecture.

But did old Greigy really deserve this tirade?

The media, especially our Indian lot, more often than not tend to skip between the lines and omit any part of a quote/byte they deem uninteresting. The media made it seem as if Greig dedicated his entire 40-minute speech to India (how touching!), but this was not the case. I wonder how many pundits and experts who lambasted Greig after reading excerpts of his speech in the media actually went ahead and read the entire transcript. I did.

Now, I'm not saying im an expert of course, far from it, but from what I made out the speech definitely doesn't deserve this sort of reaction.

Greig begins by talking about the controversial World Series Cricket and tries to justify his involvement in it, a good 30 years after it happened. Then, he goes ahead to define what exactly he understands by the term "Spirit of Cricket" and says that:

"When you talk about the spirit of cricket you are talking about not just the game, but a way to live your life; you are talking about embracing the traditions of the game and sharing your experiences with friends and cricket lovers alike; you are talking about caring for people less fortunate than us...The spirit of cricket is not just about adhering to the laws of the game. It's about something far more enduring, adhering to a set of values that can elevate you above the hum drum, above the cynicism that can drag you down if you let it."

He then goes on to talk about the condition of the game today, compared to "the golden years" when he played. Remarking that the game is in "a reasonably good shape" with it's increasing run rates and television ratings, Greig then goes on to list the problem areas of the sport, viz. the decline in the image of cricket, the international calendar and the mix of different types of cricket, gambling, the DRS, etc.

Fair enough.

It is then that he begins to talk about India and the the financial clout it has on the game. He begins by saying:

"Fortunately, I think most of the problems can generally be addressed if India invokes and adheres to the spirit of cricket."

Bam! That's all it took for the Indian media to prick up its ears! Oh no, he didn't!

I wonder how many journalists and experts actually read Greig's next line:

"Mahatma Gandhi said 'A nation's culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people.' As cricket certainly resides in the hearts and souls of Indian people I am optimistic India will lead cricket by acting in the best interests of all countries rather than just for India."

Greig's praise for India and the BCCI doesn't end here. He goes on to "acknowledge and praise India for embracing the spirit of cricket through the financial opportunities it provides" and accepts that the BCCI have "enabled a number of Test playing countries to survive, and some to thrive." He also goes on to remark that world cricket would be in a sorry state if it weren't for the money shared with other countries from India's television deals, even praising India's sophisticated administrators, wealthy entrepreneurs and bollywood stars who have injected so much moolah into the game.

It is then that Greig treads into somewhat dangerous territory by implying that it is this dependence on India's financial clout and influence over other member boards that the ICC's reforms are stalling. Taking the 70% majority system of voting (Currently, there are 10 full members of the ICC and the passing of a motion requires the approval of 70%, or seven members, which means 40%, or four members, can block any motion) as a cue, Greig says:

"Much of the game is controlled by the BCCI because it controls enough votes to block any proposal put forward at the ICC board meetings. The reason for this is some countries would not survive without the financial opportunities India provides...The recommendations are raised at the ICC board meeting and if India doesn't like them, they are, at best, modified or thrown out. It's a sorry state of affairs and very frustrating for those who give so much time to getting things right."

Somewhere 5000 kms away, Arnab Goswami begins to polish his sword. It gets better...

Greig goes on to talk about India's "apparent indifference towards Test cricket" (nice use of the word 'apparent', Tony!) and the international calendar (read IPL), the corruption scandals (again, read IPL) and its disregard towards the ICC's anti-doping rules and the DRS, branding them as "disappointing decisions".

Ok, that's it! Shoot the bastard!

While the Indian media went in overdrive berating Greig, I took the time to ponder over what he said, and couldn't help but thinking: What wrong did he say?

The international calendar is packed and scheduled on a decade-long basis as part of the ICC Future Tours Programme. What is wrong in accusing the BCCI of high-handedness if it squeezes in a two-month long (IPL 2012 saw 76 matches being played over 54 days) cash pinata of a tournament in the middle and expect other boards to comply?

What is wrong in saying that domestic competitions should not have precedence over international ones? Greig did not restrict himself to the IPL and also included other T-20 tournaments like Australia's Big Bash and the Champions League.

Anyway, I'm not going to get into the IPL debate. That's a discussion for another day. But, just know that Greig even had words of praise for the tournament:

"Twenty-20 has played a crucial role in creating interest in cricket to a new audience. The funds it generates at both international and domestic levels also helps under-write all other cricket. The IPL has produced a wonderful opportunity for players from all cricketing countries to mix in a way that Martin Luther King would never have dreamed."

The point Greig wished to stress on is that Test cricket is suffering due to an over-indulgence in domestic T-20 tournaments and that "some players appear not to have the same feeling for Test matches as their predecessors". I, for one, find nothing wrong with this argument.

It is damn right true that there are more and more meaningless limited overs matches being played today and Test cricket is taking a backseat. A glaring example is India's schedule this year where we play only nine Test matches (Australia and England play 15 each).

Innovative ideas such as holding a quadrennial Test championship (in place of the now obsolete Champions Trophy) are shot down due to commercial reasons. The proposal for day-night Test matches, as a ploy to get more spectators, is being put on the back burner. Where is Test cricket - the purest and traditional form of the game - headed?

Now, I'm not calling for T-20s or ODIs to be scrapped. I'm sure there's a way in which all three forms of the game can coexist simultaneously and successfully. I feel Test cricket has to be promoted to member nations and perhaps operate on an annual promotion/relegation league format, with the top 10 forming the premier one. ODIs should, in my opinion, continue but be restricted to a maximum of five per bilateral series. As for T-20s, I agree with Ian Chappell when he suggests restricting them to club level.

These are just my two cents worth. Tony Greig has his own proposals where he suggests an expansion of the IPL into an Asian T-20 championship (with clubs from all Asian countries) with the revenue being split across the participating boards. Now while I don't quite agree with Greig on this one, at least it has set the ball rolling.

My point is that instead of nit-picking Greig's lecture for an anti-BCCI sentiment and sensationalising the issue for more "Breaking News", I wish the Indian media, cricket experts and their giant egos got the larger picture!

India should use its clout over the cricketing world for the betterment of the game and not just for monetary purposes. Greig stresses that the survival of the game is non- negotiable and this is only possible "if India accepts its responsibility as leader of the cricket world".

A few could've put it better.


  1. Agree with this point of view!!!

  2. He might nt hv been unfair against India this time around, but if you go through his history and his tweets.. seems like everything is against India/BCCI and everything that Australia does seems to be RIGHT.. which is fundamentally WRONG! He has every right to his opinion whether it is against the IPL or anything else that the BCCI does or doesn't do, but things like DRS which are still not at all 100% clear because the owners of the technology themselves are not 100% sure and similar other things are topics where Gregi clearly shows his pro-Aussie and anti-BCCI/India stance.. The Indian media is not fully wrong, but just picking out India/BCCI in his address as the main cause for everything not right in Cricket is totally rubbish and that's the impression Greig gives either in his tweets/comments etc. In fact if you see his re-tweets, you will find that generally Indians who have supported him OR have criticized the BCCI are the ones he tweets rather than ALL kinds of good ones.. n that shows the person that he is.. As much as he is revered, respected, loved and admired as a commentator, pity one cant say that since the time he is on twitter..

    1. I guess you're right about his pro-Aussie stance but this entry was strictly confined to his lecture at the MCC. I watched the whole video and honestly think he meant well regarding all his India comments. And if you see all the reports in the Indian media, its clear that they have just nit-picked.

    2. U are also on nit picking aspiring journalist, y dont u elaborate on the Revenue sharing model as suggested by his excellancy , u just say, " Quite dont Agree " cant u brief further otherwise u'll be called " timid one eyed wimps " how decent to say so!!!

  3. I m not sent percent agree with tony.there are some valid suggestion from his side ,but when he talks about cricket spirit where were he when Australian player along with media completely destroyed cricket spirit. Tony should put his fair opinion rather than double standard one.Have a balance in opinion tony,have a balance.

    1. It's true that the Australians and the English bullied the rest of the world when they held the reins but that does not mean that India (BCCI) should replicate them. We can be a good leader of the sport, one which everyone loves and admires.

  4. On IPL and scheduling - If BCCI has IPL, then Aus has Bigbash and England its own league. India while it plans for IPL has to consider availability of the Indian players and hence has chosen those those months. How can you or anyone blame India of misusing the power in scheduling its own domestic league. International players at best have an option not take part in IPL and lots of them have done so. BCCI is responsible for lots of things, but going to the extent of blaming India / BCCI for every wrong thing with cricket is also counter productive. Unfortunately, Tony Greig has been at BCCI for everything. I will not be surprised if he blames IPL if Aus looses against England.

    If IPL is responsible for players like Pollard and Gayle becoming mercenary players, then they are equally responsible as well. And how many settled international players have turned into mercenaries? Handful of them...

    I think both sides have to get some balance to move forward.

  5. What about his involvement in icl,that time all these issues didnt bother him

  6. I would rather stay neutral on the topic..Firstly i accept Indian board is more interested in finance aspect of the game rather than the game itself. But then isnt ICC trying to do the same. Frankly speaking the game is loosing its attraction in countries it is being played except Asia(with Pakistan and Bangladesh surviving on tournaments played)...Emergence of very few new countries and decline of fan following isnt being noted by ICC....To ask Mr Grieg and his compatriots - The stalwarts of the game what are they doing for game?? Are they developing some new countries team by coaching or training them..The answer to this is a definate no. Most of them are intrested in earning revenue out of commentary and column writing rather than doing something for the game. So they are as guilty for the game as is BCCI/ICC. So such speeches shouldnt be given any importance or undue footage at all!!

  7. First of all i think Tony Greig is an intelligent and much revered and respected cricketer and commentator. However, i find it immensely disappointing, that Mr Greig at his age should be so forthright on twitter to his other cricketing compatriots in India such as Harsha Bhoghle. I found his comments on twitter last year on how biased the Indian commentary/coverage to be completely unwarranted. I seem to recall him saying that Channel 9 had the best coverage even though it never has any of the opposing team commentators, and i would argue it is still behind Sky Sports and South Africa's coverage by some distance in graphics and commentary.

    With regards to DRS, there are many cricketers outside India such as Martin Crowe that are not entirely convinced with the DRS. The Indian players such as Kumble, Dhoni, Tendulkar and Dravid simply do not trust it. If this is the case, then the BCCI are unequivocally well in their right to oppose the DRS system. Kumble even went on record as saying in 2011, that they lost the Sri Lanka series due to the DRS. The fact remains that DRS has not always helped India as proved in the Dravid dismissal in the last series against England. It quite clearly has not eradicated the so called howlers as it was meant to do. I personally have no problem with teams using the DRS, but the fact remains it suits some teams more than others.

    I also think his condescending views on IPL to very hypercritical. Tony Greig is a bitter man, and is behaving like a petulant child. He was one of the founders for the failed ICL, and is clearly agitated that he has subsequently been ostracized from the Indian cricket coverage and ICC events. In my opinion, Vic Marks column clearly eludes that Tony Greig has always been money orientated, and self interest has never been too far away with Greig as stipulated in his column with his involvement in the Packer series and the failed ICL.

    Finally, Tony Greig's assessment that the IPL has had an adverse affect on test cricket in India is not entirely correct. Over scheduling and under preparation on overseas tours with most countries has been the main reason for their downfall. Also, since the introduction of the IPL, India have played more Tests than any other nation along with England and Australia who all have their own T20 competitions.

    1. Hi,

      I haven't read Greig's comments on Indian commentators so i really cannot comment. Although i must say that Sunil Gavaskar is quite biased! :P But others such as Harsha Bhogle and, to some extent, Ravi Shastri are pretty neutral (Shastri can get a little patriotic too if he wants).

      About DRS, yes, it hasn't really favoured India in the past so the BCCI has a strong argument against it. I think the current system where the two playing nations can decide whether they want to implement the technology is fair, until they can find a way to make it more accurate. Although, it is a difficult question whether we should be getting more and more technology into sport. In fact, i plan to write my next post about it. So, watch out for that! :)

      Could you send me the link to the column you're talking about regarding Greig being money oriented? I don't know what he has said in the post was particular to this lecture and i think he gave a fair assessment of the issue.

      Doesn't the IPL contribute to the over-scheduling of the cricketing calendar? Greig is right in saying that the tournament should be shortened. It should ideally be just a month long, at max. And you cannot really argue against the fact that the IPL/T20 cricket has an impact on the way Test cricket is being played. I spoke to Nari Contractor recently and he was really bemused with the kind of shots batsmen go for in Test matches!

      Are you sure about your stat that India has played more Tests than any other nation after the introduction of the IPL? I highly doubt that.

      Thanks for the comment! Awaiting your reply. Always a pleasure getting into a meaningful debate!


  8. Seems there will always some Indian black sheeps , who want to get a Good Conduct Certificate from these Whites, So much for Freedom of speech and independant thinking
    And as expected, His Excellancy Sir Tony Grieg rightfully found this blog to show his credentials
    Keep up the Good work, u'll be his P.A one day

    1. Thank you so much for the kind words coz you, sir, are exactly what i'm talking about when i say "The Great Indian Ego"..although i wish you had been kind enough (and man enough) to identify yourself.

      It's easy to sit behind an (anonymous) veil and berate others. If you feel so strongly about the topic at hand, why don't you come out and say something...un-anonymously of course.

      Tony Greig might have said things in the past against Indian cricket. I really don't care. My post was about this particular lecture which i watched and read. Clearly, you haven't. If you had, and thought about it with a clear head by putting your ego aside, maybe you would've gotten what i wanted to say...and more importantly what Greig wanted to say.

      Anyway, i'm sure it's a waste of my time trying to convince gems like you. So, all i wanna say is - Thanks for the read!


  9. Hi Jaideep,

    the Vic Marks article link

    Please note that he doesn't mention his involvement with ICL, but clearly eludes that self interest has played a significant role in Greig's career.

    India played 12 test matches last year. One against SA, 4 against England, 3 against WI and 4 v Aus. England played 10 which is the second highest in the calender year. My point is that it is not as if India do not take test matches seriously,but due the current schedule of cricket, and amount of ODI's and T20 it's hard for India to prepare properly for Test matches. This is the BCCI fault, and i totally agree with Tony Greig about the way the BCCI runs the game, but he should remember that England and Australia were just as bad when they ruled the game. There is an excellent article by Harsha Bhogle in cricinfo that highlights this.

    Tony Greig's comments on India commentary can be found on his twitter account on 17 November 2011. I agree that SA commentary is the best right now, but i think channel 9 is the most biased commentary. I agree the coverage for India series in India is bad but not as biased compared to other commentary feeds around the globe. I don't agree with your assertion about Sunil Gavaskar being biased. I think he is very neutral. I live in England, and if you hear Micheal Vaughan and Hussain then you know what biased commentary is. I think Ganguly is fairly biased though.

    I have read Tony Greig's lecture in full, and believe he made some relevant points, but i do believe he is not a man that is worthy of speaking on the spirit of the game. As he pointed out, he advocated sledging and his comment on making WI 'grovel' was a major clanger.

    I look forward to reading your future blogs!

  10. One more thing - i totally agree that the IPL is too long! It should be no longer than a month. There should also be opportunity for Indian players to play county cricket as well. This helped all the great Indian players such as Tendulkar, Dravid and Zhaheer Khan.

    I also agree that the amount of IPL and ODI's has had a major affect on test cricket. But i still believe there is a lot of interest for test matches, even though the crowds around the world don't reflect that.

    I believe there are several reasons why crowds in India are down. But if BCCI and people really want to get people in the grounds they could so. with better facilities, transport to the ground and more marketing they could easily fill the grounds again. What's wrong with trying to get these bollywood stars coming to test matches and flaunting their next movie, and doing a sing and dance at lunch. I'm sure that would bring crowds in. Also, why not get more college kids watch the game. The problem is the BCCI get their revenue from TV and are not bothered about the attendances of the crowd.

    Although, unlike England, i think the Indian fan does not have as much patience for test matches, and the world we live in now where everything is instant, test cricket has suffered from the introduction of IPL. This is something that needs to be addressed sooner rather than later. However, i would like to add it's global problem as with T20 played in all nations it's not just an Indian problem. But i do believe England is different. It's the only nation that really does not have much interest in ODI/T20, and test cricket is what the public loves.

    1. Yes i did read Harsha Bhogle's piece on Cricinfo about Australia and England's clout earlier. But do we need to replicate them or can we set a better example? That's the point i;m trying to make..i think i've mentioned that.

      I think you have something there when you say the BCCI does not care about match crowd as long as their coffers are filling through TV deals. You're spot on that there need to be better facilities to pull in the crowds. But the fact that we would need Bollywood stars to lure them in is just...well...pathetic. That's really shameful i'd say.

      But nonetheless, i think everything possible needs to be done to save Test cricket. Day-night matches and pink balls, better facilities, World Test Championship, Shah Rukh Khan....we need to keep the ball rolling. Yes, the scene is much better in England and Australia..even South Africa. I admire the crowds there for Test matches...lying down with their backs on the lawn, sipping a beer, enjoying the day's play. The sub-continent is where the problem lies.

    2. Btw, check out my latest blog entry - an interview with Nari Contractor. :)

    3. I'm not saying it is a 'must' to bring Bollywood stars to the test matches. However, it does add the appeal for the fans. Therefore, if it brings crowds in for them to walk around the ground for 15 mins and to get them doing some corporate events on the day i think it is worth it. The main goal is to get packed stadiums and to feed some energy. However,i still maintain that better facilities and infrastructure along with better transport to the grounds should be an absolute priority. I also think ex players should be used to as guest speakers in corporate events/dinners for the day on the matches. I think there is plenty of scope for the BBCI to earn more revenue on match days with a bit more of a open minded approach that will benefit everybody.

      Only England gets good crowds for test matches. Aus is okay for crowds for big series, and SA has gone drastically down. I would also add that crowds in Aud for international ODI and T20 are rarely full now and did not used to be the case a few years ago.