Thursday, January 17, 2008

A cricket historian digs up the past

And what results ain't pretty.

In a classy denunciation, Gideon Haigh sticks it to Sunil Gavaskar for his divisive column, in which Gavaskar breezily surmised that since Sachin Tendulkar's version of events had not convinced the match referee, his reputation was in doubt. First the provocation:

"This is what has incensed the millions of Indians who are flabbergasted that the word of one of the greatest players in the history of the game, Sachin Tendulkar, was not accepted. In effect, Tendulkar has been branded a liar by the match referee."

And Haigh's response:

"Again with the "millions of Indians"! It's not me folks - it's those "millions of Indians". In fact, this debating point is a much less impressive notion that it seems. India has a population of 1.13 billion. There's probably at least a few million who believe in flying saucers. Should we really pay them serious heed?"

The part of his response I've posted isn't the best bit, but it highlights Gavaskar's manner of presenting his opinions and biases. It's something I've noticed about Gavaskar on television - he says things you've heard before, things that are safe, things that fit in with the sensibilities of a majority. Case in point, the first day's play at Perth, and Sehwag on strike. Gavaskar: "There's no footwork there." Heck, I'm a half-assed cricket writer and even I could tell you that Sehwag doesn't have footwork in the traditional sense, but then, surely, we could be told how exactly he plays. But no, don't expect much insight, because for that a commentator needs to think about commentary and put some work in to it. The last time I spoke to them, the folks at ESPN-Star weren't happy with Gavaskar's work ethic.

Anyway. Haigh goes on to say, quite rightly, that Gavaskar's role as a columnist is at odds with his post as an administrator for the ICC. He also picks up a few passages from a book by Gavaskar to illustrate the man's own thoughts on race. Here's one bit:

"To call the crowd a 'crowd' in Jamaica is a misnomer. It should be called a 'mob'. The way they shrieked and howled every time Holding bowled was positively horrible. They encouraged him with shouts of 'Kill him, Maaaan!' 'Hit im Maan!', 'Knock his head off Mike!' All this proved beyond a shadow of doubt that these people still belonged to the jungles and forests, instead of a civilised country.... "

Read the whole thing. It's excellent. Reasoned, well-researched cricket writing like this is pretty rare today - is there anyone but him and Guha? - and, additionally, this particular piece is more satisfying because it delves on an issue Indian administrators studiously ignore: precisely what value does Gavaskar bring to the administration and growth of cricket?

A note on the reader comments in Haigh's article. What is it about Indian comment posters? You'd imagine that these are the "millions of Indians" Gavaskar talks about - a witless mob led by a crank. Haigh'll probably cry himself to sleep beside Trumper after reading the comments, because it's all so pointless in these message boards.

1 comment:

Rahul said...

Ahh! Thank God! For another person who can see through Gavaskar the commentator!! I had once written about it here:

Of course there are people who miss the point that our assessment of Gavaskar -- the commentator -- is independent of our assessment of Gavaskar -- the player!