The late Mansur Ali Khan, former Nawab of Pataudi, was a stunning combination of elegance and erudition, etiquette and statesmanship. Dressed in spotless white kurta-pyjama, his reading glasses perched on the edge of his nose, his regal aura was there to experience and bask in, even when you met him in his well-appointed study in his Vasant Vihar home.
None of these qualities – elegance, erudition, etiquette and statesmanship, let alone respect — has been in evidence in the latest battle between the Committee of Administrators (CoA), appointed by the Supreme Court to oversee administrative changes in the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), or the last vestiges of the Board’s old guard.
It is a crying shame that both sides have dragged their ongoing fight to the BCCI’s MAK Pataudi Lecture — and in public domain. This is turning out to be longer and uglier soap opera than anyone, including the Supreme Court, would have envisaged. And it is getting worse with each decision that is being made by either the CoA or Board’s acting-secretary Amitabh Choudhary.
In extending even this skirmish in open space, it appears as if the CoA and Amitabh Choudhary have not paused for a moment to think of how they are affecting not only their own image but also those of MAK Pataudi and Kevin Pietersen, chosen by the Committee to deliver the lecture in Bengaluru on 12 June ahead of the choices suggested by Amitabh Choudhary.
It does not make for a pretty picture at all. It is appalling that neither side seems concerned about the disquieting echoes of its needlessly vocal and public stand.
If only they had been present at the silver jubilee of the Bishan Bedi Cricket Coaching Trust, a night that was brought together to celebrate MAK Pataudi’s cricket career and life, they would have experienced first-hand the legend and magic that his very name conjures even to this day, nearly seven years after he breathed his last.
In engaging in a public spat, they have both ignored the enormous respect that ‘Tiger’ — as he continues to be known — earned from the world cricket community. As a leader who brought the Indian cricket team together like few other captains had, he was revered in other nations as well. In their vain pursuit of one-upmanship, both sides have forgotten the dignity that he deserves.
Both sides have come across as petty and self-centred. Could they not have sat across the table, or even picked up the phone and spoken with one another, rather than share their conversations in public domain? Surely, this is not what the Supreme Court bench would have envisioned when it appointed the CoA 16 months ago.
The sooner CoA completes its primary assignment — of overseeing the constitutional change in BCCI — and moves on, the better it will be for Indian cricket. It should have realised that the Supreme Court did pay heed to its repeated requests, through various Status Reports, to have the elected officials cease to have any say in the running of BCCI.
Conversely, BCCI electorate must realise that it can delay, but not ignore, complying with the Supreme Court order to implement the Lodha Commission reforms. It must understand that by dragging its feet over the reforms, it has allowed CoA and some employees to drive Board’s agenda at home and overseas.
In the present instance, two wonderful people — the late Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi and Kevin Pietersen — could have been left out of the crossfire between the CoA-led BCCI and the remnants of the old guard in the Board. Pataudi’s persona and memory as well as Pietersen’s personality did not deserve to be in the centre of such acrimony.
For long, the CoA and the Board’s elected officials have been sparring, unhesitatingly leaking emails and sharing documents to bolster their side of the argument. They have rarely seen eye to eye, despite an awareness that they cannot do without one another. Their approach does not convince anyone that they truly respect the game they are supposed to administer.
Hopefully, the Supreme Court will bring this saga to a quick end when it reconvenes after summer recess. The CoA and the Board’s elected officials’ actions may not have mattered to the cricket fans thus far but when the slugfest has unwittingly involved the likes of the late MAK Pataudi and Pietersen, there is reason for the fans to get concerned.
The former India captain was someone who respected the legacy of the game and all those who played it with dignity and grace. It will be a good wager to say that Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi would have shrugged his shoulders and nodded in disapproval. It is very likely that he would have quietly made himself scarce from such an ungainly scene.
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