Posts Tagged ‘Suresh Menon’

Goutham Chakravarthi

Earlier today, Suresh Menon’s  article appeared in Wisden India with the heading ‘Tendulkar’s interests not same as India’s‘. This is not about my view on Tendulkar’s retirement or any retirement for that matter (of which I have already shared my view). This is more about the very headline of the article. While what much of the article around Suresh Menon’s well documented opinion of how Tendulkar’s career is now controlled by his commercial interests, I felt this time, it went from being just his opinion to a verdict or judgment of sorts – that he claims Tendulkar put his interests ahead of the India’s seemed not a mere inference of sequence of events or a likelihood. Menon was certain. He wrote, “clearly Tendulkar’s interests are no longer the same as the country’s, certainly not in one-day internationals.”

The sequence of events leading up to this article is fishy.

A sequence of events surrounding this article and coming from Wisden India now has got me thinking if there might have been an ulterior motive to him writing what he did. Read me out.

First, let’s start with Wisden India itself. Bloomsbury announced late last year their foray into India through Wisden India. This year they have now become fully functional. With an ambition ‘to be a single consolidated voice of Cricket, and to be known as the ‘Home of Indian Cricket.”, they seemed serious (It is a competitive market with Wisden India facing stiff competition from ESPNCricinfo and Yahoo! Cricket) and they roped in big names including the likes of Dileep Premachandran as Editor-in-Chief and Suresh Menon as Editor Cricketers’ Almanack.

So when almost exactly a month ago, Wisden India awarded Tendulkar with the Wisden India Outstanding Achievement award it seemed a good way market itself in the process. It was also announced that Wisden India would hold five more such dinner events involving Sachin Tendulkar over a period of three years. It was apparent that Wisden India had invested themselves in brand Tendulkar.

So when Tendulkar pulled out of the one-day series against Sri Lanka citing he needed to spend more time with his family, predictably, media space was abuzz if he ought to be able to pick and choose the series he plays in. Following the pull out, Wisden India’s when Editor-in-Chief Dileep Premachandran decided to write that selectors ought to be the ones that decided who should be picked and who shouldn’t. Here’s where things got a little fishy. At least, to me.

Surprisingly, the article appeared in the UAE based The National and not in Wisden India. Of course Dileep Premachandran contributes to The National and also The Sunday Guardian. But an article on Tendulkar and selection didn’t warrant a feature on the site that aspires to be known as the ‘Home of Indian Cricket.’

Perhaps the investors on the Tendulkar brand for three years didn’t want to jeopardize by carrying a story that seemed to sort of accept that it may not have been a wise investment. Or that it might jeopardize relationship with the player himself. Whatever it was, it appeared as though the investors got their way.

But it didn’t escape the fact that the article did appear on UAE based The National. Did it mean Wisden India would refrain from carrying out any ant-Tendulkar stories for another three years?

No, apparently not. At least from this article earlier today. Whether it means Wisden India do not want to be seen to be favouring a certain player, or if it was a case of a decorated and high-profile writer wanting to show that he couldn’t care less for his employer or their investment and would get his own back  against the both of them are all possibilities.

In any case, opinions are points-of-view based on facts and inferences. Like Suresh Menon disagreeing with Sanjay Manjrekar’s opinion that Dravid was not talented for example. Or his example that Dravid and Boycott were examples of  constructive and destructive selfishness respectively. Infering from shrewd observation like how the investment industry is linked with Tendulkar is what alalysts like Suresh Menon or Mike Atherton are very good at.

But to be certain of Tendulkar’s interest not in line with his country’s seems beyond a mere opinion. More a judgement of character. And it cannot be pinned on a player just because it appears the whole cricketing commerce revolves around him. And it sits uneasily on me more to do with the sequence of events leading up to this article.

While we want our writers to be unbiased and critique for what is best for the game, we wouldn’t want them to influence us with views that may be intended just to prove a point. Cricket is struggling enough to fight corruption, maladministration, and player agents and con men influencing player selection.

We don’t want the small circle of our best and honest writers use their power to fight their personal battles.


 Goutham Chakravarthi

 29 July 2011

It is now a power struggle. It is proving to be one mighty battle for power between England and India: BCCI vs. ECB, English press vs. Indian press, ESPNStar com box vs. Sky com box. Of course, also the small matter of battle for ICC’s no.1 ranking in Tests.

Michael Vaughn wrote a piece on how to get Tendulkar out at the beginning of the series. Now, one Test into the series, Nasser Hussain has written a piece on how Anderson is proving to be too smart for Tendulkar. Simon Hughes wrote an article on how to get the better of all Indian players (bordering on something like get the batsmen out and don’t lose wickets to Indian bowlers!). Scyld Berry swears Tendulkar wouldn’t have crossed his highest score of 37 at Lord’s had he even batted the whole of the last day of the first Test. Boycott calls it the beginning of the end for the Indian team as no.1, but, Botham is already convinced that England are the new kings.

A story such as this is what media is after.

Not to be outdone, Sourav Ganguly called the English attack pretty much the same as the one he faced in 2007 and how India will tough it out and win this series. One Test in to the series, he is convinced that India will get better – a thought reflected in another former captain Anil Kumble’s recent article. Meanwhile, Sunil Gavaskar has appealed to the Indian media to get behind the home team like the Australian press and stop being negative about them (in other words, you or I can’t have an opinion of our own).

Long gone are the days when journalists described batting as art and poetry or the art of re-constructing a bowler’s clever plot in beguiling a champion opposition bowler. It is hyperbole madness today with media looking for quotes and stories. A Manjrekar calling Dravid “not talented” is a bigger story than a gutsy, carefully engineered Dravid hundred. A journalist who ekes out “Ganguly divides the team” from the coach is put on a higher pedestal than a wonderful analyst reporter who picks a pattern to a team’s issues with leg-spin bowling.

Bloggers and journalists have been working overtime to prove their points-of-view. Some English writers have even put this English team on par with Clive Lloyd’s West Indians and Steve Waugh’s Australians. The health of their bowling riches is compared to the ancient flourishing civilizations on the banks of river Nile and their seemingly endless supply of talented young batsmen are expected to back-fill any holes in their batting should there be such a need. Some credit the African and Asian immigrants’ contribution in the English uprising in the world rankings. The standard of county cricket is apparently on the rise while simultaneously they are taking a swipe at the state schools for not contributing even one English player since Collingwood.

On the Indian side, cricket enthusiasts have been digging-up stats of tours where India start poorly and stacking the series end result to be convinced that there is going to be a turn around. Health and injury history of Zaheer Khan have been researched more than will the protein pattern matching at the Indian Institute of Science. A team’s seriousness of the first test is being questioned and even alleged to be used as match practice by Sanjay Manjrekar. Never the ones to miss an opportunity, the whole of England is hell bent to point at the IPL for every Indian failure anywhere else – from the player fitness to mental fatigue.

The same can be extended to how both the cricket boards operate. Both like power and both don’t have a history of being very affable when wielding it. Like ECB’s willing and what proved to be a fatal association with Standford and now the enormous urge to protect its players from theIPL, BCCI is no different with wanting its stars playing in IPL – even at the cost of an international tour – and not the other T20 leagues around the world. Both like taking pot-shots at each other, don’t expect it to be very different should one of the two teams lose on the field either on a dodgy umpiring decision or the proverbial “player integrity” over a match altering low catch.

The team that stands tall at the end of the series will be regarded as among the finest by its fans, ex-players and its media while the losing team will face the wrath of their fans, ex-players and media. You see, they all need the men on the field to give them the bragging rights over their counterparts.

God save the team that wins. God save the team that loses.