By Sanjay Jha
Every sport has controversies. But Indian cricket has perfected it into an art of the possible. Serious allegations remain unresolved. Because we in the Indian media have chosen to be happily mum about it. Why? Then why are we so prodigiously stunned about the enormous power and towering influence of lobbyists like Niira Radia who exploits media’s dodgy, dubious chicanery in not calling a spade a spade?
I have updated some of my earlier issues from my book ELEVEN with some relevant and contemporary new material .
1. At the peak of the IPL Kochi drama that led to Congress MP Shashi Tharoor’s resignation from the Union Cabinet, Shailendra Gaikwad made a sensational claim on national television that Lalit Modi had made an offer of USD 50 million pay-off to withdraw his franchise proposal. Why did no one follow-up to verify that grave allegation? If true, it smacked of a massive black-money transaction ( who can create unaccounted cash of Rs 200 crores overnight) ? If not true, why didn’t Modi sue him legally for defamation as he had promised?
2. How come in the first round of IPL 2008 “ auctions” the large corporate owners conveniently if not almost miraculously got the franchise of their choice and at their personal location unless it was a pre-decided allocation? Mumbai ( Mukesh Ambani), Banglaore ( Vijay Mallya) , Chennai ( N Srinivasan), Delhi ( GMR), Hyderabad ( Deccan Chronicle) ???? Transparency indeed??? We all fell for it hook, line and sinker.
3. It was rumored that the real reason why Lalit Modi tweeted about Tharoor was the latter’s refusal to cancel a visa request at the behest of Modi from a popular fashion model from South Africa called Gabriella Demetriades . Why did Modi want her visa cancelled anyway ? Shouldn’t that have been thoroughly probed as it sounds bizarre and perhaps unwittingly led to the expose of the great IPL scam?
4. The media went berserk when news broke out about former BCCI head, current ICC boss and India’s Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar’s equity stake in one firm, a bidder for the Pune IPL franchise. Understandable ! But what no one asked further is what was Pawar doing holding a financial stake in a realty-entity called City Corporation running large real estate projects ? Given the fact that land deals and political involvement has been the special dessert of the year, was not that a logical next course of inquisition?
5. Let me keep this simple: was our dear endearing hot-head, the maverick cheek-slapping Harbhajan Singh really speaking the truth in that great Monkeygate affair? Did Sachin Tendulkar simply play ball to prevent a serious racial conflict? Was the entire hearing essentially a sham , with BCCI’s cash-muscle finally deciding the verdict? Did it suit the Indian media to go on a jingoistic nationalistic call for quick gains? One day, a retired Aussie cricketer might just spill the beans on that one. Be prepared.
6. When news leaked about “ player fixing” by N Srinivasan of BCCI , in a surprisingly intimate exchange of e-mails with his nemesis Modi, the first response was “ who leaked it?”. In which case, their authenticity was not being initially challenged. Later, of course, a whole contingent of Srinivasan’s team called it “ fabricated”. But what is the real truth ? Till today, no one knows. Again, why has Srinivasan not sued Modi for serious defamation as this ought to have been the case ?
7. In 1982, Dilip Vengsarkar was humiliated at Dubai airport and deported in ignominious fashion for raising a valid objection to the way the Indian cricketers were treated. Why didn’t the Indian players stand up for him? Did that incident create a permanent breach between Gavaskar and the Colonel? Whatever happened to the great national solidarity especially on foreign soil? No one ever raises this lamentable episode which smacks of pathetic team standards.
8. Barring a fleeting reference to the rumored Sourav Ganguly-Naghma affair , the Indian media has treated the Indian cricketers as paragons of enlightening virtue, possessing a virginal spotless character. Everything is bereft of any innuendo to nocturnal whereabouts and some discreet fun by the side. But is that really true, or is that the typical “ we will not write about their personal lives” flaky principle? Then why waste reams of newsprint on Tiger Wood’s 18th conquest? Double-standards! And does that not give a free license to our impressionable cricketers to run wild at IPL parties? Then are we justified in thereafter rebuking them for their errant ways? I am not so sure.
9. Who actually did leak that famous Greg Chappell e-mail on Sourav Ganguly that was to unleash cricket’s darkest days and split Rahul Dravid and his former captain? Apparently, it was a journalist “ close “ to Chappell. Many names were fervently speculated on , but the matter was allowed to quietly wither away. Have we not encouraged the veiled secrecy of duplicitous sources who besides their “by-lines” have no real love for Indian cricket?
10. At the peak of the IPL 3 hype , Kings XI Punjab announced that they would be off-loading their full stake? Whew! Given the fact that everyone was raving mad about increasing IPL valuations, what prompted the Mohali owners to make for such a rapid exit despite getting a windfall gain? Wouldn’t they make a bigger haul for an extended ownership of the franchise? Did they know something that the others did not? Remember, Modi’s relatives have a direct interest in the venture.
11. Why did Sunil Gavaskar take 60 overs to score 36 runs in a World Cup one-day match? Surely, there was a compelling reason behind the true blue inheritor of ‘strokeless wonder’ (sorry Navjot Singh Sidhu)? We still do not have the “ real “ answers.
12. What really happened in a hotel in Sri Lanka where Manoj Prabhakar allegedly received a Rs 25 lakhs verbal offer for match-fixing from Kapil Dev? While the case has since been closed, the mystery still lurks insidiously behind us. What prompted Mr IS Bindra to make that accusation public? Mysterious !
13. Why did Kapil Dev advise Sachin Tendulkar to not enforce the follow-on in the Ahmedabad Test against New Zealand when it seemed like a foregone conclusion that NZ would almost certainly crumble. Worse, India batted a second time, scored at an unhurried, leisurely pace (even J Srinath got an opportunity to bat), and a completely stunned Stephen Fleming could not believe his luck as NZ crawled to a safe draw.
14. What really provoked Navjot Singh Sidhu to overnight abandon the Indian team and return to India from the tour of England? Was it just a practical joke that boomeranged or was something brewing on for some time which finally exploded? Even today, no one knows.
15. Why did Rahul Dravid declare the Indian innings against Pakistan in Multan, Pakistan with Sachin Tendulkar stranded on 194? Considering these guys spend more time with each other than their wives, and a quick notice could always have been sent to the Little Master on the ground, what really precipitated such a hasty action? It was clearly something intriguing! Especially, as it led to Tendulkar for the first time in his career taking his personal angst into the public arena. Or was Sourav Ganguly calling the shots from the background?
16. When the World Cup 2003 Indian squad was announced, the Indians were being annihilated on the bouncy tracks of New Zealand in a most forgettable series. One man’s omission from the squad bound for South Africa stood out, VVS Laxman. Strangely, none of his illustrious colleagues even bothered to communicate with the man and Laxman was left to discover his bad fortune and handle his personal dejection all by himself. Very very strange! And to believe this man had made a heroic 281 runs in the Kolkata Test against the Australians not so long ago. Just why are our senior players so tight-lipped about their own fellow team-mates? Till today VVS nurses a deep anguish about that shoddy treatment from his more celebrated seniors.
17. Was the Nagpur Test match of 2004 deliberately given to the Australians on a golden platter , as a result of bitter warring factions in the BCCI battle-fields? Sourav Ganguly dropped out , and a lively bouncy green-top that served as Perth’s second cousin ensured India’s rout and the collapse of the Final Frontier. The head honcho of the local association at Nagpur is now President of BCCI—-Shashank Manohar. So did India’s officials engineer the country’s defeat for petty political reasons? Did we flagrantly “ fix” our own fortunes?
18. Is it true that Tendulkar vowed to finish Nayan Mongia’s career for playing a ridiculous shot and getting out when chasing Pakistan’s target in the famous Chepauk Test at Chennai? Rumors were rife that Sachin wept inconsolably and never forgave Mongia for that indiscretion. His writ on dumping Mongia apparently ran large. Mongia quietly disappeared from the scene soon thereafter.
19. Abhijit Kale apologized for making allegations of bribery against the national selectors, and the BCCI condescendingly forgave him. But what exactly transpired? Kale’s aspirations of playing international cricket were permanently frozen, but the speculation on that event is still fluid. Why was a full-scale enquiry never done and disclosed publicly?
20. What made Manoj Prabhakar and Nayan Mongia crawl towards a target (apparently, the team management just advised them to come “close to the target”) in the 1994 one day match in Kanpur, which was a blatant mockery of the game? In fact, it led to their suspension from the next match for ‘slow batting’. Now what do you make of that?