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Gaurav Kalra
Wednesday, June 02, 2010 at 10 : 15

Who let you snatch my medal?


In the Gavaskar household, the bragging rights on cricketing matters rest with Sunil Manohar. How do you retort an argument that goes along these lines; "10,000 Test runs, 34 Test centuries, Captain of India, World Cup winner, living legend etc etc". But what if I told you that Rohan does have a googly that even sneaks through the impenetrable defence of his dad. "I have done what you never have. "I played for India in Kuala Lumpur at the 1998 Commonwealth Games, Did you dad, do anything similar in your 2-decade-long career?." I have it from the great man himself that he is yet to find a counter.

Sport is played by grown men not just to find a place in history. Not just to experience the thrill of victory. Not just to bloat bank balances. Not merely to test their skill against equally formidable foes. Sport is also played so the millions who invest pride and passion in the pursuit of a combatant can claim their share in his glory. Can sniff the uncorking of the champagne. Can experience the agony of a twisted ankle. Perhaps sport is a trivial pursuit for some. But only the naive can deny its role in lifting or indeed dampening the collective mood of a nation.

It is why to my mind India's cricket bosses have committed an act that is both crass and disgraceful by deciding not to send a team to the Asian Games. "We have no time", they churlishly argue. In private they boast, "We don't need the Asian Games or the Olympics". Perhaps, for those who measure success in terms of TV rights deals and new franchise bids that argument holds water. For the vast majority of cricket fans, this is a bogus canard. Who let you goons snatch my medal away?

A medal at an Olympics or an Asian Games goes beyond mere sporting achievement. Abhinav Bindra's gold at Beijing created no greater interest or following for the sport of shooting than already existed. Neither did it create a wave of shooting champions. Infact, a vast majority of Indians would struggle to name the category that Bindra won his medal in. But that's the beauty of a medal. Its joy rests not in the detail, but in the collective delight of its sharing. It becomes India's medal. It has a magical drawing power. It symbolises triumph over not one but a litany of vicious opponents, all after the same glory. It isn't a monster cheque created to please a sponsor. It isn't a trophy crafted for a moment on television. It's just a ribbon and rounded metal, yet in its glow we feel for a few fleeting moments atleast, that all is indeed well.

Cricket lives in a cocoon. And does rather well there. It travels to familiar destinations. Its players perform in theatres they know best. They chase known targets. A series here. A world cup there. But Cricketers never quite experience the uniqueness of a games village. Where a judoka shares the tricks of his trade with a sailor. Where a boxer learns a thing or two from a badminton player. Where hockey players engage top athletes in chats on fitness training. Where when one of your contingent wins a medal, you swoop with joy and sing the national anthem with a tiny Tricolour in hand that you wave with glee. Who let the BCCI decide that for 15 days, and that's all it is, we are to be denied the chance to witness such scenes? That instead, to fulfill the demands of their TV deal, the Indian cricket team must play yet another meaningless One-day tri-series. Or that a Test match can't be adjusted, when dates of the itinerary for the scheduled series at the time haven't even been announced.

I wonder if any of the players themselves were engaged in this conversation? Or was the decision made for them? Does Dhoni want to play in Guanghzhou and try and lead India to victory there? Where would he rate that moment if it were to happen? Higher than leading the Chennai Super Kings to the IPL crown? Higher than the 2007 World T20 win? Will we ever know? Would Tendulkar consider stepping out of T20 retirement if the chance to win a medal present itself? Will we ever know?

The BCCI had a chance to do the right thing for a change and they blew it. Oblivious and perhaps even disdainful of the public view, they arrogantly brush away all dissent. Caught in a ridiculous cross-fire of show cause notices with a former insider, India's cricket administration is now vile and derelict. They can have their squabbles and their tardy side shows but in this case they must not be allowed to succeed. We must find a way to snatch their right away to choose whether we can covet and desire our stake in glory. These games only come once every four years. They have no right to snatch away your chance for a medal. My medal. Our medal.


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More about Gaurav Kalra

Gaurav Kalra has been producing sports content on television for over a decade. He started his career at Trans World International where for four years he worked on a variety of programming including magazine shows, news bulletins and live broadcasts. In his next role at Quintus, Gaurav produced a series of programming under the Wisden brand name, including the Wisden Indian cricketer of the century and the Wisden Awards. Gaurav joined CNN-IBN as Sports Editor in 2005.


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