Mein Fuhrer Modi

In a recent think piece, Ian Chappell made some pertinent points about IPL fuhrer commissioner Lalit Modi:

Modi has had moments of brilliance interspersed with occasional lapses. His outstanding manoeuvres have resulted in IPL franchises, the IPL-Google deal and the BCCI’s finances rising exponentially. On the debit side there have been his indiscretions in the USA during his student days and a rampant ego massaged by appearing more often on the IPL television coverage than the sponsor logo.

Modi is an administrator for the modern game. He’s decisive and forward thinking. However, like Sehwag needs a steady opening partner to balance the combination, Modi requires a strong lieutenant to watch over him and temper his instinctive brilliance with a liberal dose of discipline.

Bang on. Such a person would also be able to rein in Modi’s instinct for playing dictator. Consider this example: players from South Africa asked for access to the security arrangements being put in place for IPL-3. It’s a reasonable request — with the idiot brigade(s) of the Shiv Sena, RSS et al talking of doing battle over the presence of players from certain countries, even a Jacques Kallis [who is so out of it generally that once, while walking on the beach with the late Bob Woolmer, famously asked the then coach how far they were above sea level] would have felt the odd niggle of concern.

No way, says Modi — as usual, not deigning to explain what the problem is with providing this detail. To add gratuitous insult to injury, Modi tells the players’ association that he does not recognize it, and will only deal with national boards [ironically, however, it is the Australian players association, not Cricket Australia, that is dealing with the IPL on matters of security, so Modi’s stance is not even consistent].

The attitude is both short-sighted, and untenable: the national boards and even the ICC have nothing to do with the IPL, which is a private league run in India. When it comes to bilateral tours, the national boards deal directly with each other on questions of security [while in the case of world level tournaments the ICC plays point on the question]. When it comes to the IPL, however, it is not the business of the national board to guarantee player safety; it is therefore up to individual players to look out for their own best interests. Given the number of international players participating, it makes eminent sense for one body — logically, the players’ association — to fill that role, and to play point on issues of security.

Modi does not see it that way — he is not too good at seeing anything that does not have a cash component attached. And he does not explain why — he never does. And it is precisely this kind of authoritarian, l’état c’est moi mindset that not only earns him a bad reputation and makes enemies for him within the BCCI hierarchy and outside, but also causes him to make monumental cock-ups, as for instance in the mishandling of the issue relating to Pakistan players in the IPL-3 auction.

#3. Thanks to Karun through the open thread of earlier today, found this interesting story on pitch preparation in general, and on the recent wicket at the Gangotri Glades that facilitated a crackling contest between Karnataka and Mumbai in the Ranji finals. First up, the problem:

The statistics are chilling. In the 2009-10 Ranji season, only 30 (36.14 per cent) matches out of 83 resulted in outright victories. In 2008-09, 53 out of 88 games (60.22 per cent) saw a team winning. And it was 51 out of 85 (60.00 per cent) in 2007-08.

On the rare occasions when the BCCI troubles itself over the issue, the solutions it comes up with are typical of the bureaucracy it is. And largely, this consists of announcing grandiose ‘visions’ and ‘plans’ — such as the ‘Green Revolution’, a BCCI announcement that gave me considerable grounds for amusement back in the early 2000s. It appointed Kasturirangan to spearhead the ‘initiative’; soon thereafter, he resigned. And spoke of why.

The BCCI went back to sleep. And then sometime in the mid-2000s, invited a Kiwi ‘expert’ to travel around the country, ‘studying’ Indian wickets and making recommendations. He studied, and recommended. Nothing happened. Then, like Abou Ben Adhem, the BCCI woke again from a deep dream of peace, sometime in 2008, and organized a ‘curators’ seminar’. Check this out for pomposity:

Board secretary Niranjan Shah said it was important to provide good playing surfaces to junior as well senior cricketers.

Right. Till Shah had that moment of epiphany, none of us was seized of the importance of providing good playing conditions. Anyway, so the curators met and Shah pontificated — and in the period since then, more than one ground has earned a bad rap for lousy wickets; a couple of them are this close to being banned [the BCCI lawyers are working on the Eden Gardens case; had the BCCI gotten its curators to do their work right, the lawyers wouldn’t have been needed in the first place].

Conventional wisdom is we don’t make good pitches because we don’t know how — hence the constant spam in the BCCI mailbox from foreign ‘experts’ wanting out of the goodness of their hearts lured by the prospect of a hefty pay-check to help. [Terry McAuliffe is not the first, merely the latest].

The thing though is, curators right here in this country are perfectly capable of producing lively wickets that can stand comparison with the best, worldwide — if they are left alone to do their jobs without interference, that is. On a different avtaar of this blog, I’d written of one such curator and his experiences. Nagaraj, the curator at the Gangotri Glades, is another. From the same Hindu story:

And preparing a sporting track is no rocket science. N. Nagaraj of Mysore University, a soft-spoken curator, has come up with an absolute gem at the serene Gangothri Glades ground.

When Australian legend Greg Chappell visited the arena with a bunch of budding cricketers from down under last year, he was pleased with the good and consistent bounce in the surface. “He walked up to me and congratulated me,” remembers Nagaraj.

“The foundation is strong. We have strived to make the surface hard and firm,” says Nagaraj. This unassuming man is a hero for his outstanding preparation of the pitch.

Talking about the surface, Nagaraj reveals, “We have one and a half inches of boulder, six inches of jelly stone, eight inches of gravel, six inches of clean sand, eight inches of red soil, and the right amount of bricks and black soil. Then the surface is rolled well. How and how much the surface is rolled is extremely important for making a hard wicket.”

The watering of the pitch is looked after closely by him. “A week before a big match, we stop the watering of the pitch with sprinklers. We water, with a can, only those areas that need to be watered. The live grass that sprouts from the pitch is from Srirangapatna. The pitch is a combination of different ingredients.”

Oh by the way — we are heading full-on into a hectic schedule, with South Africa here already, with the IPL to follow, et cetera. The BCCI had unceremoniously sacked its entire Pitches and Grounds Committee including its autocratic chairman Daljit Singh, after the abandonment of the India-Sri Lanka one dayer. Do you recall reading anyplace that the BCCI had identified replacements so pitch preparation can proceed unhindered, and we have wickets ready in time for the IPL? No? Thought not — most likely, the “issue” will be “taken up” at the next “working committee” meeting before being “tabled” before the “executive committee” for its recommendations, which can then be “placed before” the “general body”.

#3: Unrelated reading matter: Peter Roebuck on racism in Australia; Rob Steen on redefining the role of the third umpire.

17 thoughts on “Mein Fuhrer Modi

  1. The PR rant was in the herald, there it was trying to be the all encompassing summer summary, the type of piece one could discuss at a Union rally or over a cappuccino as of being a good fair article. It’s interesting how they can alter just the title for the cricinfo peanut gallery and get the tinfoil hat brigade start linking to it as an article on “racism in oz”. Probably says more about what PR has come to represent than anything. Thank you for the link though, the comment section there was gold.

  2. Mr. Panicker, the morons that form the Shiv Sena have said something about disrupting the games, but can you point me to a relevant and reliable source where RSS guys have said “anything” about disrupting the IPL games because of the racism issue?

    • in accusing rss of disrupting matches and calling lalit modi as fuhrer, you are just being lazy!! rss did not disrupt any matches and modi is no fascist.

      • I referred to the possibility of future disruptions, not precedent. For instance, the Sena and RSS have been talking of going head to head over certain issues — there is a logical presumption that if the conflict escalates, it could spill over into the cricket field. Besides, as a player, I can be expected to feel a degree of concern — will the conflict create law and order problems in the city I am based in, for instance, and could I become an unwitting casualty.

        • “with the idiot brigade(s) of the Shiv Sena, RSS et al talking of doing battle over the presence of players from certain countries”
          It is ok Prem, your subscription to secularism has been renewed. Nobody is going to call you communal now.
          rss talked of protecting north-indians, I have not seen a single comment coming from RSS regarding the IPL.

    • Where did I say the RSS has said something about disrupting games over the racism issue? What I apprehend, and point to, is any RSS-Sena war spilling beyond the confines of the issues at hand [as for instance a simple issue of Shah Rukh’s statements over Pakistan players have somehow gotten escalated into a north-versus-Mumbai battle, for no reason apparent to me] and hence causing in the minds of players an apprehension of their personal safety. Not necessarily because they are in the vortex of the controversy, but even as collateral damage if there are clashes in the city I have to be based in and work out of.

  3. Prem,
    I have always wondered. Why do you, and few others, use french word or phrases, as in “l’état c’est moi” ? If you will, can you tell me just how and when did you pick up this habit? I do know that english borrows words from a lot of languages (naturally they are anglicized) but the way you used it breaks the flow. By the way, I live in french part of Switzerland and am trying to learn french 🙂
    p.s. I am regular follower of your blog and find your opinions/arguments “très agréable” 🙂

    • Yogesh, sometimes a word or phrase, from whatever language, seems peculiarly apt to convey what you wish to. Louis XVI’s famous ‘The state, it’s I’ defines authoritarianism far better than an essay could. I don’t use it to sound erudite, nor do I look these things up when writing — the only words and phrases I use are those I am familiar with, understand the meaning of, and those that have over time become part of my working vocabulary. Louis’ classic comment, incidentally, has stayed with me since college days, specifically the year I spent studying absolute monarchy.

  4. issue taken up by working committee tabled for executive committee and placed before the general body 😉 Good one!

  5. Prem,
    Nothing wrong in Modi justifying or not justifying his actions.As a blog writer you reserve your opinion,Modi runs the show and he can’t be blamed for everything which happens.
    If a Laxman goes to play county cricket,it is his responsibility and the county which he plays for.Let us accept each Franchise would make its own security arrangments for its players and its home ground.The ticket prices would include the security spendat each vene,so it would make sense for the contracted players to check with their individual franchise.If it was the Test or International series then the respective boards come into play.

    • Er, dude, I don’t blame Modi for +everything+ that happens. I merely question him on areas where a question seems apt.

      When Laxman goes to play county cricket, he or his agent is at full liberty to inquire into any security concerns he may have. Same difference — here, contracted players coming here are merely, through their agents, inquiring into the security aspect. You can’t arbitrarily decide not to recognize an authorized agent.

      • You are equating him with Fuhrer?Unlike the Nazis we have a choice,we can either ignore him and his band of cricket or lap it up,or the BCCI has a choice to replace him.
        Laxman or any player or agent can ask about the security but they should ask the County for which they are playing or the franchise rather than the ECB or in this case the IPL Chief.Every Mumbai Indian player can’t complain to Mukesh,there are administrators in the team who can attend to such issues.

        • Equating? Come on — Modi is a dictator within his realm, and Fuhrer has become a generic term for that class of person. Oh and incidentally, the Nazis had a choice, too, only they didn’t take it.

          You might want to check with Laxman on that — any and all queries players have are addressed both to the county in question AND to the ECB. Apples and oranges anyway: the English county circuit is an official part of the functioning of the ECB, and it is the ECB, not the counties, that takes responsibility for security and other concerns. The IPL, on the contrary, is a +private+ league — played under the BCCI umbrella, but constitutionally the BCCI has neither authority nor control, both of which rest in the hands of the commissioner and the governing council.

          Therefore, any questions I have need to be addressed to the authority concerned — to wit, the counsellor. Incidentally, the Ambani analogy is disingenuous. The players don’t expect Modi to personally sit there and brief them on security — they merely seek guidance from the organizing body, which is the IPL.

          Finally, and to make this point for the last time, you on the one hand say you don’t recognize player bodies; on the other hand you have no problem talking to the Australian player body and not to the Australian board?

  6. Hi Prem, sorry to be pedantic, but wasn’t it Darren Gough who asked that sea level question? Or is it a well worn anecdote which is attributable kalahari types?

    • I heard it as coming from Kallis. I guess it is one of those one size fits all types? Kallis, though, is a shoo-in for a remake of dumb and dumber

  7. Prem, This is the reason why Lalit Modi is a great administrator. Its simple. Security is a serious matter. You don’t reveal it to every tom, dick and harry. Lalit Modi has clearly said that it will be revealed to the cricket boards of the respective countries. And that is how it should be. Now Get it ?

    So don’t just criticize a successful administrator just because it has become fashion of the western press to critisize anything to do with IPL. Get a holistic view and write it

    • Oh wow! Now I get it — that you don’t read the post before venting. This is a private league, dude, the national boards have nothing to do with it. Incidentally, if your premise is correct, why is Modi then talking to the Australian PLAYERS’ association and not to the Australian board?

      I criticize where +I+ think it is merited, not because someone else is doing it — as you would likely have known had you been following this blog for a while. Incidentally, no one else has raised this point — so much for being in fashion.

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