GAME PLAN – Cricketing ‘fix’tures to wrestling ridicules

Jaideep Ghosh

FILE | Rio de Janeiro: The Rio 2016 Olympics mascots parade during Carnival celebrations at the Sambadrome in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2016. Photo: AP/PTI

FILE | Rio de Janeiro: The Rio 2016 Olympics mascots parade during Carnival celebrations at the Sambadrome in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2016.
Photo: AP/PTI

Ironic, isn’t it that we already know that India will play Pakistan in exactly one year and two days, but still don’t know who will be representing India in the 74-kg class freestyle wrestling at Rio de Janeiro Olympics, beginning in exactly two months and three days.

This sordid tale of egos, self-interest and mercenary avarice are classic examples of how rules, regulations, traditions and propriety are all being violated in both case. With not even an apology.

The International Cricket Council (ICC), with its new, ‘incorruptible’ boss in Shashank Manohar, promptly went ahead to fix the schedule for the Champions Trophy, to be played in the UK from June 1, 2017.

Now, I’m sure most of you would have noticed the ‘coincidence’, a happy on for India invariably, of us and our esteemed neighbours (to the West) ending up in the same group of all ICC and Asian Cricket Council events.

It used to be just the men’s tournaments earlier. But then, women and children weren’t allowed to play too cricket those days, and Pakistan only recently allowed their women to come out and represent their nation.

So now, we have ‘coincidental’ draws, where India and Pakistan always meet up, at under-19 level, in women’s tournaments and all of the men’s contests.

This, from a body that harps about how ‘clean’ they have been trying to keep the game. It’s a joke, frankly.

The other facet isn’t half as funny. The only change in the Sushil Kumar-Narsingh Yadav clash for the Rio berth is that the wrestlers have vanished from the scene and the coaches and now the lawyers have taken over the fight.

Things don’t look too good for Sushil, but since when was a bad performance a dampener for Indian athletes?

It’s a shame. As things stand, neither wrester will do too well at the Games, given the constant interruptions in the practice regimes. This will end as the sham it is.

As will efforts to get M.C. Mary Kom a wild card for Rio.

We as a nation will never get beyond hero worship. Even if the heroes do not stand a ghost of a chance. But that’s sports, politics and everything else in India for you.

File photo of Prabir Mukherjee. Photo: PTI

File photo of Prabir Mukherjee.
Photo: PTI

RIP Prabir Mukherjee: The death on Tuesday of Prabir Mukherjee, the chief curator of Eden Gardens on Kolkata till last year, brought the curtain down on the life of one of the strongest characters in Indian cricket.

Prabirda, a no-nonsense man who had told off many people – ranging from Jagmohan Dalmiya to Sourav Ganguly, Ricky Ponting and Michael Atherton — was a man who was finally broken, but never bent.

His tiffs with Ganguly after the washed out T20 match between India and South Africa at Eden in October last year ended Prabirda’s 36-year association with the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB).

He had walked out, vowing never to return to his beloved Eden. Tragically, this vow has come true.

I too came across Prabirda during my tenure as a reporter with The Statesman in Kolkata in the mid-90s.

One of the lasting impressions was of a Ranji Trophy match between Bengal and Delhi.

Raman Lamba returned to the dressing room, fuming at having been adjudged lbw.

Soon after, the relatively quiet Eden reverberated with the sound of breaking glass as his bat, thrown in a fit of anger, smashed through one of the French windows that adorned the plush Eden dressing rooms.

As we charged down to see what had happened, Delhi manager Surinder Khanna was already in damage control mode. “Just an accident,” he said.

But Prabirda had reached the spot by then, and immediately took Khanna to task. “This is not the way. Lamba will have to apologise to CAB and DDCA will have to pay for the glass,” he thundered in his typical, throaty voice.

Things were brought under control by the diplomatic skills of Dalmiya, as had been the case with Prabirda, then and at other times in future.

At another time, a tentative question about the soil on the Eden square had put yours truly plumb in the middle of a probing line of questions about what I knew about the subject.

“Not much,” was my tentative response. “But my father, who is a horticulturist and soil scientist, has given me a little insight.”

Which is true. He was also a close friend of G. Kasturi Rangan, who was the head of the BCCI pitches and grounds committee for a while.

Not sure if Prabirda was impressed. But he did ask me to invite my dad to meet him and watch a Test at Eden.

Sadly, neither of those things happened.

Prabir Mukherjee’s cricketing career was ended by a road accident and his tenure as curator began after 1996 World Cup fiasco, when India lost to Sri Lanka.

He was one of the people who gave character to Indian cricket. It is indeed a pity that his association with the venue and the game he loved so much ended so badly.

One only hopes that his legacy is not forgotten.