Rajan's Wrong 'Un: Indian petulance is just another reason to hope they lose
India's politics is that of the playground and the verb to describe such behaviour, when the insecure biggest boy intimidates the others, is bullying
Monday 20 June 2011
it strikes me as both remarkable and dispiriting that one of cricket's governing bodies this week rigged the game in their favour and not a pip of protest was heard among the wronged – a herd of victims led, incidentally, by England.
Over the weekend, N Srinivasan, the obstinate secretary of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), reiterated the opposition of India's cricket wallahs to the Decision Review System (DRS).
"Nothing much has changed since we first opposed it", a sprightly Srinivasan told the Indian Express. "We welcome technology when it is 100 per cent error-free."
This argument is specious. My bicycle is not 100 per cent error-free; in fact, a few bus drivers have caused me to wish I had taken the Tube. But I still use it because the upside of doing so consistently outweighs the downside.
Srinivasan then added, for the umpteenth time, that not only does M S Dhoni share his position, but so too Sachin Tendulkar, whose word is holy in India. But this is not true. Tendulkar would vouchsafe DRS if it were augmented by the Snickometer and Hot Spot technology. Perhaps he came round to this view after India's World Cup semi-final against Pakistan, when he looked plumb and was given out against Saeed Ajmal, only for Hawk-Eye to reverse the decision. Tendulkar was on 23 and went on to score a match-winning 85.
But such nuance is at least too much for the determined Indian authorities, and their recalcitrance means the forthcoming series against England – in England – will be deprived of this benefit to the excitement, integrity and justice of the game. There will be weird moments when some fans, unaware of the Indians' refusal to act like grown-ups, are waiting for referrals that never come.
That the BCCI should get away with this mischief says as much about its arrogance as its now dominant position in the game, a function of the trillions of rupees swilling around the Indian Premier League. Theirs is the politics of the playground, and the verb invented to describe such behaviour, when the insecure biggest boy intimidates all the others, is bullying.
Why insecure? Largely because the bowler most likely to profit from DRS would be Graeme Swann. A superb analysis by S Rajesh, the peerless stats editor of espncricinfo.com, shows that spinners now benefit from referrals more than fast bowlers – a long overdue correction to the decades-long prejudice against them. And among spinners currently playing, Swann takes by far the biggest percentage of his wickets leg-before – 29.7 per cent – compared to Harbhajan Singh's much lower 21.2 per cent. The Indians' refusal to submit to DRS is born of fear that it will favour England's bowling attack more than their own. I trust English fans are sensitive to the irony of Indians running scared of English spin.
A single tantrum does not a bully prove but this is the continuation of a grim pattern. The England and Wales Cricket Board meekly succumbed on this issue because it is negotiating with children. For the past decade, the Indian authorities have packed them off to obscure grounds during England tours, rather than the massive grounds in big cities that England fans crave. They say this is because of a rotation policy among their 30 international venues; in fact, it is to ensure their fan base is as well looked after as possible. After protests, the BCCI reversed this policy for England's October tour.
This return to normality has been interpreted in some quarters as ending an unofficial cold war, when actually it is being used to legitimise war by other means. It is long since overdue that fans across the world stood up to this immaturity, and so taught the bully a lesson. I note that India's tourists land at Heathrow in a fortnight's time, and that seems as good a time as any to begin our campaign.
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