12 June, 2010.
India’s decision not to send a team to the Asian Games soon to get underway in China is short-sighted. Here was a rare opportunity for the two great and growing powers of the sporting and wider world to join forces on a cricket field. And it was spurned. China worked hard, built a stadium and began to study this strange game. A trading partner, a fellow member of BRIC, was invited to play the game it knows so well and it shook its head.
Opportunities of that sort come along once in a blue moon. China! And cricket’s mightiest force stayed away?
At such times the powerhouse is supposed to inspire the newcomer with brilliant displays calculated to show the game in the best light.
Indian athletes during the opening ceremony of the First Asian Games, held in Delhi, India.
The ICC recognises that stagnation is death. To that end it is introducing new forms of the game, juggled with the rules and sought fresh pastures. Sceptics suggest it’s a waste of money, that cricket cannot be exported. Flat earthers still expect to fall off the edge whilst others say Neil Armstrong landed not on the moon but in the Mojave Desert. No one knows what can be achieved till it has been tried. Did anyone predict that mountainous and war-ravaged Afghanistan might so soon become the 12th strongest cricket nation in the world?
Over the last few years it has fallen to India to lead cricket onwards, into a business orientated and post colonial phase. Locals may baulk at the ensuing criticism but that is the price of power. At such times it is worth remembering Nelson Mandela’s remark when the ANC complained about the newspapers. “Yes,” replied the sage, “I sometimes get annoyed about what they say as well, but only when it is true.”
The BCCI looked a gift horse in the mouth. Pleading prior commitments and a packed programme and exhaustion they refused to send a team to the Asian Games. But these Games were not organised last week. They’ve been in the programme for years. Staging them is a responsibility and taking part is an honour. Alas China and its cricketing enthusiasts have been ignored.
Hopefully they will not respond like a scorned lover. Excuses about commitments do not hold water. These same players are available for every IPL match, and that is a domestic tournament. But, then, it is lucrative.
Nor can the BCCI claim that the calendar is packed. Apart from anything else, it arranges the fixtures. China will not be fooled by lame excuses. Instead they will ponder upon cricket’s commitment.
In any case there was no need to send the top team. India could have been represented by an under-25 side. It’s not always a case of all or nothing.
The shadow side spent last week making a hash of things in Zimbabwe. Evidently they need more cricket and more exposure, not less.
Now do suggestions that cricket does not belong in primarily athletic gatherings quite carry the day. These events are called Games. Doubtless it is for a reason. Admittedly tennis, soccer, rugby and golf and other recreations with other priorities can look out of place.
Most of them have their own great championships. But these formal Games long ago left their original confines.
In any case cricket cannot afford niceties. It is striving to emerge from the post colonial limitations that cause so many complications. Moreover the competition will fight for its part of this vast market.
Already Chinese players have been signed by top soccer clubs, and basketball teams. Does anyone suppose it is by chance? Cricket needs to stop talking to itself.