Playing the heavy

In the preoccupation with the IPL, a minor matter appears to have escaped the collective attention of the media. Or maybe there was no space left over, after all the vapid columns ‘written’ by various ‘stars’ have been accomodated.

Dileep Premachandran finds the space, on his blog in the Guardian, to draw our attention to the BCCI’s latest display of misdirected muscle.

But that’s Sehwag. And this is the BCCI, whose behaviour increasingly resembles that of the playground bully. Resting Sehwag is not an issue. But why revoke the NOCs granted to Piyush Chawla, Yusuf Pathan and VVS Laxman?

Chawla was a fortunate addition to India’s Twenty20 squad for the Caribbean. He hasn’t been part of India’s Test or one-day international plans for a couple of years and is no more than a fringe player at best. Denying him an opportunity to play on a variety of surfaces in England is foolish in the extreme. As Dravid and many others have said, the county circuit is a good finishing school for developing talent. If Chawla spends the Zimbabwe triangular and the Asia Cup rotting on the bench, or not even in the squad, there’ll be a lot to answer for.

Pathan’s case is similar. For all his big hitting in the IPL, he has yet to find his niche at international level. Given his travails against the short ball, you can’t say if he ever will. A spell in England on pitches where the ball can do a bit would only have been beneficial.

The most perverse case is that of Laxman. He hasn’t been part of India’s limited-overs plans for years, and it’s doubtful whether he will get an IPL contract next season. To deny him a stint with Lancashire is nothing short of restraint of trade. In a recent interview, Dravid spoke of how difficult it had been to mentally adjust to not playing all the time after he was jettisoned from the one-day squad. For Laxman, who has played only Tests for years, any match practice is valuable. With (yet another) series in Sri Lanka scheduled for July-August, denying him a few hits in the early part of summer makes no sort of sense at all.

In Indian cricket, conspiracy theories are a dime a dozen — and much of it is just smoke. In this instance, though, I find myself agreeing with those who hold that the reason the BCCI suddenly revoked the NOCs to the Indian players is not because it wanted to give them a break, but because it would rather the ECB’s Twenty20 Cup does not gain much traction.

It is, points out Dileep, laughable to imagine the T20 Cup could threaten the behemoth the IPL has become — but the BCCI believes in taking no chances. Remember the ICL?

Trouble is, we can protest on blogs and newspaper articles and such — but what can you really do, to a body that has no heart to appeal to, and no ass to kick?