Much like the Indian stock market, Indian cricket is moved more often by sen- timent than by fundamentals.
Consider the melodrama over the recent LG ICC Awards in London. Since no Indian featured in the main winners’ list, it was widely believed by fans that M.S. Dhoni’s team had done the right thing by boycotting the event. After all, weren’t India the World Cup champion and—till not too long back—also the world’s No. 1 Test team? How could players from a champion side not win anything?
Left Shashank Manohar, by Getty Images. Right Sharad Pawar. Photograph by Hindustan Times
On the face of it, this might seem a reasonable miff. But while India may have been top of the pops in the period under review (11 August 2010 to 2 August 2011), this does not necessarily mean that the players who constitute the team were also necessarily the best.
This contrast is best provided by the two Indians who have received the Cricketer of The Year awards in the past: In 2004, Rahul Dravid was the numero uno player according to the International Cricket Council (ICC), while India weren’t the best team in the world. But in 2010, when Sachin Tendulkar was the Cricketer of The Year and Virender Sehwag the best Test player, India had become the top-ranked Test team too.
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The Cricketer of The Year in this edition is Jonathan Trott, who scored 1,042 runs in Tests and 1,064 in One Day Internationals (ODIs). There’s no other player who comes even close to such prolific scoring in both formats. Tendulkar is probably next best, with 973 runs in 10 Tests, but because he frequently missed games, scored only 513 runs in ODIs.
Of the other Indian claimants, Gautam Gambhir had 471 in Tests, 722 in ODIs; Sehwag, 655 in Tests and 648 in ODIs. Zaheer Khan, with 31 and 32 wickets in Tests and ODIs, respectively, is among a cluster of bowlers with similar achievements, but clearly batsmen dominated this year.
Where judging the best Test batsman is concerned, Alistair Cook stands way ahead of all competition, with 1,302 runs from only 12 Tests, including 700-plus runs in the Ashes series which England won. Dravid, with 1,086 runs, and Tendulkar, with 973, were prolific too, but in my reckoning, Cook’s closest rival would be Jacques Kallis, who had a phenomenal 821 runs from just five Tests.
The South Africans had greater reason to be aggrieved than anybody else because Hashim Amla, with 1,091 ODI runs, made more runs than India’s Virat Kohli (1,071), Pakistan‘s Mohammad Hafeez (1,070) and the winner of The ODI Player of The Year Award Kumar Sangakkara (1,049). The fact that Sangakkara had catches and stumpings and that he led Sri Lanka into the World Cup final probably swayed the votes in his favour.
Yuvraj Singh, the Player of The World Cup, had 706 ODI runs and 27 wickets in the 12-month period—undeniably a strong case. But as in all awards, it is almost impossible to get a perfect fit which pleases everybody. All things considered, with four players in the Test Team of the Year and three in the ODI team—including Dhoni as captain—the Indians haven’t done badly at all. It is sublime irony too that Dhoni also won The ICC Spirit of Cricket Award.
Of course, this will not appease the diehards. There is a sense of xenophobia which prevails over New Age India, and not just in sport. My country, right or wrong, seems to be the emerging credo, which also finds frequent and peevish expression in the affairs of cricket: both in the establishment and among fans.
Why it should be so would require greater scope and space than is possible in these columns. In the context of the ICC Awards, suffice it to say that what was rank bad form by the Indian team was sought to be condoned as defence against alleged bias by the sport’s controlling body.
The second last word of the preceding sentence perhaps holds the key to the latest “conflict” in the cricket world. I doubt the players themselves were so unhappy they decided not to attend. Everything suggests they were instructed not to. It is no secret that the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) is locked in a cat-and-mouse game with the ICC over “control” of the sport, and where is this manifested better than in the annual awards, euphemistically called cricket’s Oscars?
The BCCI’s anti-ICC stand has got greater vigour over the past couple of years. It was assumed that after Sharad Pawar became president of the parent body, relations between the BCCI and the ICC would improve. Why they have not reflects perhaps the paradigm shift in power politics within the BCCI more than any external issue.
But of that, some other day.
(Disclosure: The writer was part of the panel which cast secret ballots for this year’s awards.)
Ayaz Memon is a senior columnist who writes on sports and other matters.
Write to Ayaz at beyondboundaries @livemint.com