(FACT: The author's first real favorite cricketer was Sunil Manohar Gavaskar).
They say a week is a long time in politics. In cricket, it is like eternity. Just about anything unimaginable can happen. Lalit Modi , ex-IPL Commissioner facing a blue-colored international alert for alleged egregious embezzlement could become a consul-general of corruption-free Iceland ! That indeed would be Modi's ultimate comeuppance! Or N Srinivasan , BCCI bigwig could just usurp another dethroned IPL team by ensuring a constitutional amendment. Or as has genuinely transpired Sunil Gavaskar would break no sweat , unlike celebrated Sunanda Pushkar to acquire some hard-earned " equity" in the struggling, divided IPL Kochi franchise. At least that has finally put to rest the wild speculation on the mysterious senior cricketer who had surreptitiously backed the controversial IPL Kochi franchise. The Kochi consortium has the uncanny knack of terminating professional careers of all those who have rendezvoused with them. Some Ramsay Brothers /RGV kind of voodoo stuff out there, I guess.
What I cannot fathom is the ludicrous presumption of several stalwarts ( ex-cricketers) who believe their indirect ambiguous business partnerships with high-profile entities will never surface in the public domain. Most unnecessarily, they keep everything obfuscated, shrouded in a dark veil. Why the huge reluctance to just own up and say-Hey guys, IPL is big-money, and I deserve a financial reward for my " services" to any entity that is spending millions of dollars. No charity blah blah " Suresh Kalmadi of CWG infamy and Lalit Modi for one will not disagree with the philosophy of private profiteering in a capitalist venture
I think the labored posture of some ex-cricketers ( not just Sunny) of self-righteousness ( " for the love of the game") put them in a self-created state of acute discomfiture. Principally, there is nothing wrong with personal asset accumulation as every individual has a right to put a commercial tag on their brand power. But what is important is to recognize the delicate nebulous gray lines between accepting monetary compensation , holding a conflicting position of " interest" in different ventures and espousing an official line in a quid pro quo deal. Like meekly following an official diktat. Like the venerable commentary box mouthing brand names every three and a half seconds, and discussing threadbare the "innovative breakthrough" called strategic time-outs . It was really a pathetic experience hearing your yesteryear heroes make a commercial spectacle of themselves instead of being the game's conscience-keepers. Then it becomes a question of personal morality, some fundamental values. Some things remain , unfortunately, old-fashioned.
There were rumors that Gavaskar had asked for Rs 5 crores to be part of the reconstituted IPL Governing Council , which was outright rejected by the BCCI . But why not be straightforward about it? . There is nothing wrong with making money whatsoever as long as the reward matches the contributions, and the means are transparent and crystal clear. The lack of transparency creates a vicious rumor-mill , which hurts all and sundry. Just why are we becoming masters in " dubious deal-making"? . Earlier several critics were rightfully flabbergasted to know that Ravi Shastri, Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi and Sunil Gavaskar were receiving a handsome pay-cheque for attending IPL Governing Council meetings, and that too in various stages of comatose . They are highly fortunate to have escaped free when actually they all ought to be primary culprits for casually allowing Modi his severe omissions and hefty commissions. Collective responsibility, right? Cynics have an equal right to ask Gavaskar & Co----Shouldn't you refund the Rs 1 crore that you earned for practically doing nothing, and also face the music for being a silent accessory to multiple day-light financial crimes?
The bottom-line is that cricket is experiencing a virtual monopoly on corporate spending in a strong economy. The trend has remained unchanged for several decades now, and continues unabated with the World Cup/IPL round the corner. With every passing generation , just like Bollywood, the new breed earns an exponentially tangential sum compared to their immediate predecessors. The divide typically widens into an unbridgeable gulf. I think ex-cricketers are therefore understandably feeling short-charged that newborn kids on the block who do not even know the difference between Bradman and Batman earn triple digit multiples of their annual earnings for merely dancing on a reality TV show. Or for playing gilli danda under summer floodlights under Modi's suzerainty. Or their hefty guaranteed annual contracts, large prize money , bonuses and of course those exasperating commercials. But hang on, isn't that a natural corollary of an evolving growing society on a vertical ascension ? Sadly though amidst the financial splurge, we forget even some basic human decencies. I remember the late former captain GS Ramchand who died a lonely figure in September of 2003. The BCCI gave him a measly medical assistance of just Rs 2 lakhs. And the Indians then playing in Sri Lanka did not even wear a black band. You bet life is unfair! Ramchand led India to its first-ever Test win against Australia, you know!
The truth is that when I worked briefly for a multinational asset management firm , my own annual salary ( without performance bonus) was an obscene amount , almost double of my father's post-retirement benefits package. It was astronomically embarrassing. But the good old Professor of Economics had an immaculate rational argument : Price is a function of demand and supply, but with economic growth the price-point enhances up a rising curve. The steeper the rise, the larger the gap with the preceding generation. You are a beneficiary of India's economic growth. Tomorrow my grand-daughter will earn more than you. And that's how it should be ".
We should not grudge the current crop of MS Dhoni and his boys their sudden windfalls. It is pure market forces of laissez faire at work. As for the ex-cricketers they need to recognize that they are doing much better than their forerunners , and actually even some active foreign players.
It gets even tougher though when you are a role model, a living legend, the ultimate icon , and when no sentence mentioning you is ever complete without uttering the word " great". Now who the hell asked Sunil Gavaskar to score those damn 10, 000 runs in that stylish fashion ?