It's the start of the festive season in India and Kolkata is abuzz with Durga Puja activity. The city played host to India and New Zealand a few days ago as the two teams squared off in a Test match. It was India's 250th match played at home and there perhaps couldn't have been a better venue for it than the historic Eden Gardens, where the crowd has always passionately supported cricket the Indian team.
Virat Kohli and his boys gifted the fans a reason to cheer, with a comprehensive win over the Kiwis, and what's more, regained their number one Test ranking.
There is palpable excitement as it seems Kohli's team can hold on to the top ranking for a while this time around. There has been considerable banter on social media, with fans of other teams pointing out that India hasn't won much overseas. For an Indian fan though, this only adds to the fun. After all, what good is a win if there aren't a few grumpy people to begrudge your achievement?
Indian fans have often had reality checks soon after achieving landmarks. The euphoria of the World Cup victory in 1983 was followed by a 0-5 rout at home at the hands of the West Indies, the team India beat in the World Cup final. India didn't fare any better in the Test series, going down 0-3 to the Caribbeans.
It clearly proved that the West Indies were the better team and the World Cup final loss was just a bad day for them.
Even the high of the World Cup win in 2011 was followed by an extremely poor run in Test cricket when we were whitewashed 0-4 in both England and Australia.
This time, though, the reality check has almost been immediate and has come in the form of administrative turmoil, and no sooner had India regained its number one position in Tests, that the BCCI got into a bitter spat with the Supreme Court-appointed Lodha Committee, which had been tasked with suggesting ways to clean up the running of cricket in India.
BCCI brazenly refused to implement the Supreme Court's recommendations for cleaning up Indian cricket, quoting "practical and legal" difficulties. They even appointed a new selection panel comprising five members when the court had asked them to do away with five zonal selectors and have a three-member selection panel instead.
Former Chief Justice of India and the cleaner-in-chief of the BCCI, Justice RM Lodha, didn't take kindly to it and asked banks to freeze payments that the BCCI had made to a few state boards. BCCI president Anurag Thakur, who wears several hats, counter-punched by giving a veiled threat to cancel the ongoing Test series against New Zealand and casting a shadow over the possibility of hosting England and Australia later in the season.
Things settled down somewhat when Justice Lodha assured everyone that the matches will go on as scheduled but we should be braced for a long battle in court with several hearings during what promises to be an exciting home season for India.
It's disheartening to see all of this, but we, as Indian cricket fans, are used to it now. Just another day in the life of the Indian cricket fan, or as they say in military parlance, SNAFU (Situation normal, all f****d up).
Keeping politics away from sports is a cliched argument, but history tells us that it's never practically possible. Even the world's biggest sports extravaganza was held hostage to political posturing when the US boycotted the 1980 Moscow Olympics and the erstwhile USSR retaliated by boycotting the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.
Closer home, cricket diplomacy had been used for improving relations with Pakistan and there have been Cabinet ministers holding important positions in the BCCI, who have had their political careers threatened as a result of cricketing matters. Even the question of Sourav Ganguly's selection during the Greg Chappell era was once discussed in Parliament.
As a fan of Indian cricket, I often face the dilemma of choosing sides in the politics of sport. Ideally, and I am sure I speak for other Indian cricket fans as well, I don't want to be ever bothered by having to keep up with politics in sport.
Cricket is often an escape for me. I turn on a sports channel when I come back home from work to avoid listening to political discussions. I even keep my Twitter and Facebook feed free of people who bring politics into every discussion. I am not averse to politics. In fact, I am keenly interested in it. But I don't want any interference in my love affair with cricket, just like I don't want to attend to any calls or messages when I am on a date.
In Anurag Thakur, the current BCCI head, Justice Lodha has a formidable opponent. Ironically, the focus of Lodha's recommendation is to keep the clout of men like him under check. Born into a political family, Thakur, who was a former state selector for Himachal Pradesh while his father was the chief minister of the state, holds the infamous distinction of selecting himself as captain of a state team in his only first-class match ever, having never played any inter-district match.
This made him eligible for serving as a national junior selector for three years as a "former first class player". These are exactly the kind of cases that Justice Lodha wants to put an end to. One can't allow people with questionable credentials in cricket administration using political power to find an entry. With a stronger constitution, with stricter and well spelled-out laws, the BCCI can ensure that.
The current battle between the BCCI and Justice Lodha promises to clean up Indian cricket and make the BCCI more accountable to the fans. It is something that should normally have the fans extending their full support, but if it threatens our daily appetite for watching cricket, then our stand becomes slightly dicey. As an eternal optimist, the only thing I can hope is to see "cricket emerge as the real winner at the end".
First Published On : Oct 6, 2016 14:00 IST