Last week, we witnessed the careers of two immensely entertaining, successful cricketers of the past decade hitting a roadblock due to differences with their respective cricket boards. While both Chris Gayle and Shahid Afridi are cooling their number 12-sized shoes at the moment, we knowledgeable cricket lovers have tough questions to ask ourselves. After all, how much can we allow grey-haired men in blazers to intervene in current cricketing matters? How would they even know what a 22-year-old cricketer goes through when post-match parties are abruptly called off? Are cricket boards simply around to make a ‘club v/s club’ debate sound like a ‘club v/s country’ one?
Let’s first understand the punching bags we’re padding ourselves up against here. A cricket board is like a Board of Directors of a public sector company – comprising heads of supplies, marketing, secretaries and so on, basically everyone but the shareholders because of whom the company exists. Apart from having annual, interim and Modi-fied meetings round the year, the blazers also meet to select the ‘best possible combinations’ of men to regularly go out on bouncy tracks to return favours of other boards, give value to telecaster clients, upkeep the morals of the game and if possible, win matches while doing all this. While this necessary evils-laden system was trudging along, the row of Afridi and Gayle with the PCB and the WICB has forced us to think whether we need country-wise boards at all. Especially when we have the apex cricketing body - the BCCI – efficiently controlling the world cricket?
A major function of the world’s boards is to fill up the cricketing calendar – the 10 non-IPL-playing months – with well-balanced international encounters. But wait, with less than six major cricket-playing countries to pick from – not considering half a dozen minnows – and certain regular tournaments, considering the Ashes every two years and a T20 world cup every year, this cannot be a tough call, no? All we need is a Google doc open to editing by all players who’d fill in their dates and we’d have a game on our hands.
The next doubt purists will have at this proposition is "who will select the teams"? Most of them already know the answer – who else but the IPL franchisees? Clearly, the most well-acquainted, judicious and constantly researching men and women on the planet when it comes to picking the right cricketers, the team owners must appoint among themselves selection panels for each country – and shuffle themselves regularly for impartiality – to select perfect international sides, those "right combinations". This way, the pointless ‘country v/s club’ debate would be laid to rest and will also curb instances of ugly rebellions such as those in Zimbabwe cricket. Moreover, to be fair, only after an upcoming cricketer proves his mettle in a high-pressure, strategic timeout-infested, three-hour encounter will he fairly be chosen to play for an ODI or a test.
As for those worrying as to how sponsors, telecasters and the hundreds of other bees feeding off the cricket pie would function, you need to trust our cricketers more. After all, if one is capable of signing endorsement deals, getting a haircut, shooting a commercial and flying to one’s hometown to seek the local deity’s blessings in a single day, one can handle even more. Top-graded Indian players are nurtured to do all this prior to their debut – and players of other nations won’t have so much of work, anyway. After all, this is about removing ‘managers’ of a company who thwart go-getting employees with too many protocols.
Agreed, this no-blazer movement, if implemented, might render dozens of senior ex-cricketers jobless, but surely they won’t struggle finding alternative sources of income/venting. (The folks at ACB can join the IPL; the Lankans could find Indian endorsement offers like Ranatunga has while the PCB sahibs have day jobs as politicians anyway. Only the Carribeans will unfortunately have to return to their hammocks.)
To borrow a line from Rang de Basanti, ‘koi game perfect nahi hota, usey perfect banana padta hai.’ We have the opportunity now to do this, at least till Afridi patches up with his Board and revokes his retirement.