Superstar syndrome. Superstar culture. Culture and syndrome, in isolation, are not synonymous, or convey remotely the same meaning. But both words acquire an almost identical colouring when eminent historian Ramachandra Guha, who as recent as Thursday ended his brief administrative stint with the board, conjoins both with the word “superstar.” Superstar syndrome, he says, distorts the contractual disbursement of the board. The example is former skipper MS Dhoni, who despite having forsook Test cricket nearly 30 months ago, continues to be in the A contract and enjoys its privileges.
Superstar culture, he points out, has manifested in the kitschy manner the whole Anil Kumble-Virat Kohli saga is rolling out. Guha seems to be confounded rather than appalled at how “a group of senior players” can decide or dictate the future of a coach, who has not only been highly successful in his recent venture but also a staggeringly prolific (though not worshipped) cricketer in his days. “Does it happen in any other sport in any other country?” he asks.
Yes it does. The deification, be it of sportsmen, film stars or politicians, is a subconscious, everyday reality of our lives, deeply entrenched as it is in our psyche. Even more so in Indian cricket, and this emotion, or culture, pervades and obscures the reasoning of even Supreme Court judges. If not, the Court wouldn’t have included Sunil Gavaskar in the IPL governing council committee. While his cricketing credibility is indisputable, his vocation as BCCI’s paid commentator and his stakes with a player management group make this a clear conflict-of-interest-case.
Guha had pointed this out to his fellow members in the COA, but, inevitably, fell on deaf ears. While the BCCI office bearers, present or past, wouldn’t have initiated stern action against such discrepancies, because they are in awe of superstars, the COA, an independent committee armed with powers by the court and seemingly without affiliations to any cricketers or state cricket boards, could have. They didn’t. Guha’s resignation letter is a lament in helplessness.
In that sense, the COA has only proved what some cynics had feared and some ousted BCCI office-bearers had indignantly ventilated about in the past. Which is, that alienating and replacing the BCCI with people of little experience despite their worthy pedigree, is bound to invite more confusion and commotion. The attempt at unshackling cricket from its seasoned, gnarly administrators has only shackled the game’s administration further.
Now it can mutate into a cure-turns-cancer scenario. Guha’s resignation was but a symptom. Guha’s own quote from his colossal work “India after Gandhi” sums up the situation best: “Bhakti in religion may be the road to the salvation of a soul. But in politics Bhakti or hero worship is a sure road to degradation and to eventual dictatorship.”
Replace politics with cricket in the country. It rings equally true.