It was faintly amusing to read and hear, earlier in the week, all the combative rhetoric spewed by Kolkata&’s local luminaries after the cricket control board&’s annual general meeting in Chennai had left them with very little in terms even of panel-specific representational importance. Not unlike a kid in a Little Lord Fauntleroy suit ordering his imagined army of non-existent soldiers into battle against fairy-tale monsters.
They matter a lot in childhoods and are perceived to be popping up again in due season in up-to-date garbs, bellowing fresh threats. And Jagmohan Dalmiya, Bengal&’s best bet, such as it is, circa 213, was reduced to leading only the board&’s North-Eastern development committee.
The man who had virtually single-handedly commercialised Indian cricket before cracking the global administrative whip from Lord&’s was just this, and short trips down memory lane served to ferret out the long-simmering, just-below-the-surface tales of traditional Bengal-baiting. If past regrets had been about players not let into, or allowed but infrequent appearances in, Test cricket, at the core of the new sob story was denied rides on the gravy train. There was anger. Gandhigiri, we were told, was out; “We’ll henceforth give as good as we get” was the warning. No one asked how, which was just as well because, in the short term, that would have been the end of a story with a potentially screaming headline across the top of it. A constituent unit can’t really go angrily up against the central authority, which is quite a few feet taller and a few more kilos weightier.
Over the long one, intransigence could cost a lot – oodles of cash, match allotments, bonanzas in the form of tour management inclusions and, of course, player selection – if a state association deviated from the official line to such an extent as to speak what it felt. It is part of our metaphysical re-education in the fast-changing world where everyone, willingly enough for obvious reasons, plays on the same field in accordance with the new rules.
Fast-learners stand a good chance of reaping rich rewards too. And what the Cricket Association of Bengal felt – “We’d stood by N Srinivasan in his hour of crisis and then he let us down” – indicated neither functional intelligence nor a particularly active sense of probity.
Srnivasan, up against it legally, pulled it off within the board because he had the whole of southern India eventually siding solidly with him despite some real initial snags. Also, he went completely unchallenged when it came to the crunch, which emphasised the success of his own style of doing things.
The gift of the Indian Premier League chairmanship to Orissa is aimed at the East Zone&’s support for his next spell in power.
The CAB is not a walking stick Srinivasan is wobbly without: the moment Arun Jaitley pulled out of the equations, Dalmiya, without the Bharatiya Janata Party leader&’s protective influence, was reliably said to have become surplus to the board chief&’s requirements.
The duo met each other even after that all right but if the talks fell short of fulfilling Bengal&’s aspirations, not too many people would ever get to know who wanted what.
Bengal&’s predictable emotional volatility touches off familiar soap-box oratory but if Srinivasan were simply parochially motivated, MS Dhoni, of Jharkhand, would never have been his favourite: southern India abounds in suitably boys, after all. The fact that the little matter of the allegedly disproportionate electoral importance held by the long-dormant National Cricket Club, with their Eden Gardens address, was reportedly raised by some East Zone states highlighted Bengal&’s growing isolation too, exposing Bengal&’s considerably diminished status in the board&’s scheme of things.
Time was when Bengal were the best in these parts; that was when they were deferred to as well.
It was in Dalmiya&’s time, when his ever-soaring administrative ambitions made him virtually a larger-than-life character in the context of Bengal cricket, that this state&’s priorities altered almost imperceptibly, with the rise and rise of Sourav Ganguly serving to screen its essential hollowness.
The Great Perhaps could now be its game-centric objective if optimism surged in its bosom but that, after all, was not its stalwarts’ chief cerebral concern going into the nationwide show. And haven’t we heard, quite often, that the rot usually sets in at the top?