GAME PLAN: In cricket, money negates anger

Jaideep Ghosh

Kolkata: England's Ben Stokes is consoled by his captain Eion Morgan following their loss to the West Indies in the final of the ICC World Twenty20 2016 cricket tournament at Eden Gardens in Kolkata on Sunday, April 3, 2016. Photo: PTI

Kolkata: England’s Ben Stokes is consoled by his captain Eion Morgan following their loss to the West Indies in the final of the ICC World Twenty20 2016 cricket tournament at Eden Gardens in Kolkata on Sunday, April 3, 2016.
Photo: PTI

The noise, dust and sheer incredulity of Carlos Brathwaite’s 24 runs off the first four balls of the last over of the tournament are now history. What isn’t going away is the angst and anger that has festered and permeated, not just with the West Indies.

The T20 World Cup was exhilarating in it sheer quality. The batting of some of the players, not least Virat Kohli, was sensational. In fact, Kohli’s knock against Australia in the last league game, to gain India a slot in the semi-finals, is one of the best I’ve seen in a long time.

Equally sensational were Joe Root, against South Africa, or Marlon Samuels in the final. Some logic defying grafting and hitting all combined into one as they made the tournament their own.

The bowling too had its winners, more among the spinners. Samuel Badree, possibly the quietest of the West Indians, was the best with the ball, while Mitchell Santner, Ish Sodhi, Adil Rashid and Suleiman Benn too came to the party.

India lost out because Ravichandran Ashwin and Hardik Pandya couldn’t do the basic job of keeping the front foot within the crease. Irrespective of what other excuses or reasons are put forward, that squarely was the reason why India went down to the West Indies.

But when the Caribbean outfit won, no one begrudged their success. They had indeed won it, fair and square, pulling off a victory that wasn’t theirs till 118th legal delivery when they were batting.

But what followed was equally gripping for the neutral follower. The tirade that followed, from skipper Darren Sammy, Samuels and thereafter Dwayne Bravo, who only stopped dancing and singing “Champions” to take a pot shot at the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB).

Kolkata: West Indies Captain Darren Sammy kisses ICC T20 World cup trophy in front of Victoria Memorial in Kolkata on Monday, April 4, 2016. Photo: PTI

Kolkata: West Indies Captain Darren Sammy kisses ICC T20 World cup trophy in front of Victoria Memorial in Kolkata on Monday, April 4, 2016.
Photo: PTI

Sammy’s victory speech wasn’t happy. It was angry – at commentators like Mark Nicholas, who had questioned the intelligence of the Windies team; at Shane Warne, the WICB.

Samuels keeps his fights in cold storage, to be brought out when he is at a position of strength. He’s not the one to forget any scrap he ever had with Ben Stokes, and was in the bowler’s ears when Brathwaite was hammering away.
Samuels also remembers his argument and near-fisticuffs with Warne during the Big Bash League. He had words for the Australian during his Man of the Match speech, as well as the post-match press briefing.

Then of course, there is Bravo, who had his lot of vitriol for the WICB president, Dave Cameron, who was termed “immature”, “small-minded” and “arrogant”.

Essentially, the scrap between the WICB and the players was brought out into the forefront again. And it’s not always the players who are the aggrieved party.

The WICB has insisted that those playing Test cricket for the West Indies would be eligible for the financial rewards. Many of the players who are currently taking pot shots at the board have opted to pull out of Test matches to focus on the high-paying leagues like the Caribbean Premier League, the IPL or the Big Bash League.

That is what results in the yawning chasm between West Indies’ T20 or ODI side and the Test outfit. There is no doubt that the WICB hasn’t handled the issue well either, so there is blame to be apportioned to either side.

FILE: Mumbai: Indian Cricket Captain M S Dhoni speaks during a press conference. Photo-PTI

FILE: Mumbai: Indian Cricket Captain M S Dhoni speaks during a press conference.
Photo-PTI

The contrast: There are boards like the WICB, who are at odds with the players. Then there are bodies like the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).

BCCI makes immense amounts of money. Much of it goes to the players. They also tend to get the board’s blessings and additional riches when they go and play the IPL. But there is only one clause – silence. Never will you hear of any real protest against BCCI from any player. They are more than happy with their arrangement.

BCCI allows Mahendra Singh Dhoni to make a spectacle of a press briefing, dragging journalists onto the stage to inflict his brand of humour on them. They also allow him, or other office-bearers, to be defiant in defeat and graceless in victory.

The BCCI’s issues are with the country’s other agencies, including the Honourable Supreme Court. They are eternally at odds with authority and no sooner than the T20 World Cup ended, the scrap resumed.

The West Indian boys, most of them at least will stay on for the Indian Premier League, as they join all the rest from around the world to resume the tamasha.

All the anger will dissipate, as ball hits bat again, on tired, broken pitches under intense heat and possibly rain. But those are all fine, since quality of cricket isn’t what makes the IPL wheel turn.

Money is the greatest stress-buster, after all.