|Tony Greig (Pic Courtesy: www.smh.com.au)|
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.
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.