People’s ballot or breathless Baba?

After the epic proportions of the excitement of the Cricket World Cup final on April 2, the Indian Premier League-4 final on May 2 was a disappointing affair. Chennai Super Kings defeated Royal Challengers Bangalore by a margin of more than 50 runs.

This year’s cricket doesn’t seem to have end and the fatigue is beginning to show everywhere — in the TRPs, public enthusiasm and cricketers’ health.
Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir, for example, have reported shoulder injuries and dropped out of the West Indies tour; Yuvraj Singh has chest infection and won’t be going to West Indies; Sachin Tendulkar will stay at home and rest; M.S. Dhoni, who has said that he needs rest, will only play the Test matches. After playing cricket for more than two months, this was bound to happen.
The IPL is a gladiatorial sport. While no swords, spears or other weapons of destruction are used, and, in fact, all sorts of protective gear are available and encouraged, the high standards of the game require a great deal of athleticism, and physical injuries are par for the course. In fact, after watching Gayle’s batting, I think insurance companies might just start selling insurance to spectators as well.
But the fact is that without the cricketing stars, viewer interest and, hence, the commercial prospects of the West Indies series will be impacted.
I have watched Test cricket now for close to 50 years and I recall that in every series played in India, some top players from England or Australia would withdraw citing issues of food or accommodation. India was not a favoured destination for these countries.
But this never happened with the West Indians. I remember watching three Test matches starring Sir Gary Sobers, Rohan Kanhai, Basil Butcher, Joe Solomon and Cammie Smith, and later, watching with awe the explosive genius of Vivian Richards.
We should have returned the courtesy and sent our best players to West Indies and, if necessary, increased the financial benefits to our players and made the tour more attractive!
As we have seen during the recent Commonwealth Games and other sporting events, prejudices of the past linger and colonial mindset still exists. But every time a player or a team chooses to drop out for reasons extraneous to the sport, it is their loss.
The Caribbean team is not playing good cricket these days, but we cannot take them lightly. With West Indies star batsman Chris Gayle out of one-day internationals and Twenty20 matches, the series will be a good opportunity for the young Indian team to show its credibility. With players like Virat Kohli, S. Badrinath, Suresh Raina and Murali Vijay ready for a place in the Test team, the West Indies tour may well create some new superstars of Indian cricket.

WE HAVE interesting times ahead as the 2G octopus continues to asphyxiate the extended Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) family. Now, Union textile minister Dayanidhi Maran, the billionaire nephew, is under the scanner. While the Congress is ducking for cover, the DMK family wars have begun. Many action-packed days lie ahead.
Anna Hazare means well but projects anarchy, while Baba Ramdev — who uses corporate jets and, according to media reports, a Rolls Royce — has political ambitions. All this may be fine in our democratic system but would these people be in a position to threaten the government if we had firm and good governance at the Centre? My thoughts wander to 1985 when regime changes had taken place both in India and the USSR. Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi had won 409 seats in the Lok Sabha elections and secretary-general Mikhail Gorbachev had emerged as the power centre in the Kremlin. Our first visit to Moscow was a splendid affair, as both sides were looking for “change”. This was not the time for doubts but I remember in our late night strategy sessions doubts were expressed as to how India and the USSR would manage the “reform” agenda. The old system was entrenched and yet no one on either side was in the mood to accept things as they were. Change became visible within two years. When I visited the USSR again in 1990 as the commerce minister to discuss issues not strictly related to commerce, there was visible chaos — the entire system had come to a halt! In India too we had had a period of political instability for a decade as many governments came and went, but the “system” survived and economic reform and growth continued. But in the USSR there was utter chaos for over a decade as President Gorbachev pressed forward his movement towards greater democracy, dismantled the old system but did not have an alternative in place. Anarchy followed, and within a short period the USSR itself ceased to exist.
We have a rotten system here and are aware that change is necessary. But in India, people can effect change with the ballot. Power corrupts and no one is immune to its charms. Yet I feel sad to see senior ministers running around the airport waiting for Baba Ramdev to alight from his corporate jet. We all have a vote and I will use my vote against any government that makes a mockery of governance.

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