Friday, November 18, 2011

Kambli no doubt inspired by the quality of political discourse….

Fifteen years after the match took place, Vinod Kambli has decided to rake up a new controversy around it. According to him – the match was fixed. Given the way Indian debates happen these days, it was not surprising then that the story got flashed across all TV channels and all newspaper front pages.

In today’s India, it’s alright for anyone – even a lightweight ex-sportsman like Kambli to make any random accusation against someone. There is no onus to give any evidence of anything. The mere possibility of the charge being true is enough to fuel extensive debates on the subject. If the accuser is good at drama – like Kambli clearly is – the story gathers fire and spreads quickly. In this particular instance, Kambli cried on TV and Ekta Kapoor will tell you that crying on TV is the surest way to get TRPs! So last night, on prime time, all three prominent English news channels (and I am sure all Hindi channels as well) were playing the exact same story. And playing it for a very long time. I had no option but to switch off and go away to my DVDs!

Of course, there have been strong denials from everyone concerned. The captain of the squad then – Azaruddin – has been at pains to say that he’s not guilty and to ask that someone should please ask Kambli for some evidence. Most cricket experts have come out criticizing Kambli as a publicity-hungry loser. But there’s that element of doubt that has stuck in the minds of many suspecting people. Many disgruntled people no doubt believe that Kambli’s allegations are true. After all, Azhar had left Indian cricket under suspicious circumstances – accused as he was of match fixing charges. Kambli of course knows of this – and knows that his accusations against Azharwill carry weight because of Azhar’s past.

In all of this, the only “evidence” is the question: “Why did India bat second”? Now this question has no meaning. Captains often choose to bat second (bowl first) if they feel the pitch would favor the bowling side first. There is not enough to suspect that Azhar intentionally made the wrong decision so as to make money on the side. Many of his team players have said that the decision was a team decision; not just the captain’s.

This is akin to what we see in the cash-for-votes scam that’s also hogging prime time these days. Sudheendra Kulkarni has been released on bail – and the court has gone so far as to say that there doesn’t appear to be any evidence against him. That’s very good. That’s the way this country should work. All of us should wait for the courts to pronounce their verdicts. Once the court gives its final verdict, there will be no doubt in anyone’s mind that Sudheendra Kulkarni was not the perpetrator of this crime. He was indeed only a whistleblower. An overactive whistleblower, but a whistleblower nonetheless. But what about the charge that he has made? That the one who gained from the crime must have committed it. So since Amar Singh had nothing to gain – and the Congress had everything to gain – the Congress must have paid the money. This is the kind of logic that Kambli must no doubt have been inspired by. Make an accusation – make it slightly (only slightly) logical – and the country will lap it up. In Kambli’s case, Azhar’s chequered background helped him make his allegation slightly believable. In Sudheendra Kulkarni’s case, the Congress’s recent troubles helped him. But like some others have said: Even the BJP stood to gain politically if the Congress was shown to be engaged in buying votes. So maybe, they decided to “set up” the Congress? Maybe it was entrapment after all? In fact, “Tehelka” has gone on record to show that it was the BJP that was soliciting “buyers” for their MPs rather than the Congress soliciting “sellers”. In the Kambli case also, there is a point of view that the Sri Lankans at that time were very good chasers of runs; and that must have been a factor in making them bat first. But in the surcharged environment we live in these days, the evidence comes only last – and by the time it is perused, the matter has already been settled in the people’s court!

This episode also shows that we are poor losers. Kambli’s accusation almost looks like India had a right to win the match – or rather Sri Lanka had to lose it if it was played fairly. The loss itself is the scandle. What kind of attitude is this? Sri Lanka was a very good side in those days and in fact, it went on to win that world cup by beating England convincingly (they had nearly 10 overs to spare in their finals). But the fact that India lost was difficult for many to digest. Very few people care to understand that losing and winning are part of a game. Sanjay Manjrekar put it very well: “The decision to field first may have turned out to be a wrong decision; but it was an honest decision”. Hopefully that will settle the matter. But in politics, it is never ok to accept that a decision may have been a wrong decision, even if it was an honest decision. We expect ALL decisions taken to be right decisions. When the PM said that all decisions cannot be right, he made the mistake of. He forgot that in politics, opponents have only one intention – make the ruling politicians looks stupid or corrupt!

There is of course a personal side to Kambli’s ramblings. The story of Kambli being sacked soon after the worldcup. That must hurt. Maybe that’s the reason he’s been harboring anger in his heart against Azhar? Here’s an interesting part of human nature. When an less powerful accuser makes an accusation against a more powerful accused, society puts an automatic protective shield around him. Take Subramaniam Swamy’s attempts to get Chidambaram involved. There are some who say that Subramaniam Swamy is acting on behalf of another big politician from the South who has had a long-running feud with Chidambaram. But because Subramaniam Swamy is seen as a relatively less powerful person in comparison to Chidambaram, no one is interested in questioning this. There’s a protective cover around Subramaniam Swamy. It is assumed that anyone who raises this question at this point must necessary be a part of the “bad gang”!

I think its important that Kambli either substantiate his claim or apologize to Azhar. Media must put pressure on Kambli to reveal his sources of such information. If its only based on his “gut”, then he should be penalized.

The real truth is that drama is what drives our society. We see it all the time on our TV channels (news; non news!). We see it in our politics. We see it in our everyday life also. Kambli’s ramblings are inspired by this truism about our society……

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