Cape Town – Maturity seems a lamentably missing ingredient
in the ongoing impasse between the respective cricket bosses of India and South
Africa over the endangered series on our shores this summer.
One thing in favour of the Board of Control for Cricket in
India (BCCI) at present is that they are at least making some public noises
about their predominantly hard-ball stance, which is more than can be said for Cricket
CSA’s stubborn silence on the dispute - some might interpret
it as simply having haplessly few cards to play against “old moneybags” -- is
not aiding the planning of domestic franchises and, even more importantly,
cricket enthusiasts who desperately wish to get their time-off ducks in a row
for attendance of matches.
It is disconcertingly only some 40 days before the disputed
itinerary, or at least CSA’s intended version of it, is due to commence: if you
go to the world’s premier cricket-specialist website, www.espncricinfo.com, that is the one
still in the public realm in procedural terms, for the relatively little it now
appears to matter.
The Indians are due to play a limb-loosener against a SA
Invitation XI at Potchefstroom on November 18, and then stick around for a
veritable orgy of bilateral combat between the world’s top Test and one-day
international powers respectively right up to the fifth day of the third Test
(we can only dream?) at the Wanderers on distant January 19.
Of course subsequent smoke signals suggest that at best the
tour will be slashed by around half, with the possibility that the entire
exercise will not come off – with mortal consequences for CSA’s coffers – not
yet wholly eliminated from the range of scenarios.
The steadfast argument from India – though is it actually
more personal, more daftly ego- and power-related? -- is that CSA
“unilaterally” issued the programme without proper Indian consent and, in
fairness, it remains to be seen where the truth really lies on that score.
Alarming me more than anything at this juncture, however, is
the frankly rather juvenile, playground-bully nature of public utterances from
the Indian side of the fence on the matter.
Chief protagonist in that regard, by my interpretation, has
been BCCI secretary Sanjay Patel, whose latest step has been to announce that
they have invited CSA president Chris Nenzani for discussions on the tottering
The invitation pointedly does not include CSA chief
executive Haroon Lorgat, and at least one Indian news website, www.dnaindia.com, on Tuesday got Patel to
place on record, when pressed to do so, specific resistance to Lorgat’s
presence: “No ... the invitation has only been extended to the president of
Cricket South Africa.”
He would not elaborate on the snub of an office-bearer
traditionally more crucially involved in essential, day-to-day running of a
national cricket body than the often more symbolic president.
Patel has been similarly terse and irritatingly
up-in-the-air before: “So we are waiting,” he said with particularly novel
ambiguity and thinly-veiled provocation a few weeks ago, after announcing that
CSA had breached protocol over the release of the itinerary.
Waiting for what? Waiting for Godot? The situation seemed,
and still seems, fittingly as absurd as Samuel Beckett’s legendary play.
Isn’t it rich, too, for Patel to brazenly opine: “My (sic)
boys are not machines... who are you (CSA) to tell them they should be on the
road for more than three to four months?”
More often than not in recent years, the Indians have been
wandering minstrels of world cricket, accepting series – many of them vacuous
ODI-fests -- far and wide and much closer to home, without any meaningful
regard for player burnout.
At least Lorgat, who so clearly has a rocky “history” with
the BCCI from his time at the International Cricket Council helm, had done the
publicly decent thing of saying after a mid-September Dubai rendezvous with
Patel that he was grateful for the friendly spirit of the discussions -- even
if they were possibly anything but that.
Events earlier this week have done to little to suggest
resolution to the damaging, depressing spat is notably closer.
India’s Supreme Court on Tuesday cleared the way for tycoon
N Srinivasan to assume his role as BCCI president after his re-election for a
third term recently; the situation surrounding his office had been clouded by a
spot-fixing probe into the lucrative Indian Premier League.
Widely branded the most powerful personality in cricket,
Srinivasan getting the go-ahead for resumption of duty is viewed as anything
but a helpful olive branch in the bilateral hoo-ha over the tour.
Hold tight, for unless there is some remarkable triumph for
diplomacy involving the relatively inexperienced Mr Nenzani and certain, sometimes
insufferably self-righteous Indian honchos who revel in holding veritable
clumps of aces, this ride may only be starting to get bumpy.
And all the while, cricket cries quietly over the
ludicrousness of it all.
Whoever said the game was bigger ...
*Follow our chief
writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing