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The India v/s bharat test


Indian cricket is symbolic of the struggle going on between the big city English speaking elite who prefer status quo and small town apsirants who want change
SUTANU GURU, MANAGING EDITOR, THE SUNDAY INDIAN | Issue Dated: March 24, 2013, New Delhi
Tags : World Cup1983 | Kapil Dev | Sunil Gavaskar | Virender Sehwag | Indian cricket team |

If I am not mistaken, it happened in 1984, arguably one of the most tumultuous and violent years in the history of independent India. Soon after winning the cricket World Cup in 1983, the Indian team led by the small town-broken English Kapil Dev was thrashed and humiliated by a rampaging West Indies team bent on vengeance for the World Cup loss. Predictably, Kapil lost his captaincy to the big city-flawless English Sunil Gavaskar. Subsequently, India lost a test match in Delhi to a visiting England team. Some people blamed Kapil for playing an "irresponsible" shot and getting out. The selectors and the captain Gavaskar dropped Kapil from the next Test to be played at Eden Gardens in then Calcutta. All hell broke loose and conspiracy theories started flying thick and fast. Just imagine what would have happened if we had dozens of 24X7 news channels back then! Cricket fans at Eden Gardens responded by hooting, booing and shellacking Sunil Gavaskar.

What, you may ask, is the relevance of this slice of history to the controversy over Virender Sehwag? Well, the fact is that the battle between Bharat and India as symbolized by the Indian cricket team is decades old and will not end with the axing of Sehwag. Just like Kapil Dev, Sehwag is raw and unvarnished talent that often refuses to play by the rule book. Like Kapil, Sehwag is not comfortable with English and yet has an uncanny ability to score runs, take wickets and yes, earn a lot of money. Like Kapil, Sehwag has been often slammed for his unconventional and "irresponsible" ways. Both represent the gradual but sure emergence of the small town India that is in a hurry to destroy the existing citadels of elitism that English-speaking India has so carefully nurtured. Soon after he retired, Sunil Gavaskar became a commentator on the idiot box and remains so. Soon after he retired, Kapil Dev tried becoming a commentator on English sports channels. It was embarrassing and he dropped out. But Bharat will have its way, no matter what India thinks and wants. So, the Star Network now has two channels devoted to Test and one day cricket in India. Gavaskar is the star in the English one and Kapil is the star in the Hindi one. It is a rare Navjot Singh Sidhu who can straddle both language channels with effortless verbosity. When Sehwag finally drops his swashbuckling cricket bat and decides to sit in front of a microphone, you know in which language he will be delivering commentary.

Who knows, Sehwag, like Kapil before him will do a thing or two that might anger both the Establishment and the cricket Establishment. Surely you must remember the genesis of the IPL? Well, it owes its birth and success to two small town Indians named Subhash  Chandra and Kapil Dev. The promotor of the Zee Network Chandra was so frustrated by the BCCI repeatedly refusing to give telecast rights to his channels that he launched the Indian Cricket League and appointed Kapil Dev as the CEO. A number of has-been and wannabe players were signed up to play 20 over matches. The BCCI struck back with a vengeance and basically told players that anyone playing in ICL will incur the wrath of the Establishment. In a brazen show of pettiness that only English speaking elitist India is capable of, the BCCI even stopped the pension it was paying to Kapil Dev. And of course, it created and launched the IPL, now the centre of allegations of money laundering and what not.   

Quite ironically, it is two fluent in English elitist cricketers who have promoted the rise and rise of small town talent and an an in-your-face take-no-losses attitude. The first was the late MAK Pataudi, a blue-blooded royal who could have played Test cricket for England if he wanted to. He constantly battled against the Establishment and encouraged 'rebel' players like Erapalli Prasanna. His last comeback is the stuff of legend. In 1975, India had already lost two consecutive Test matches to a visiting West Indies team. The two Tests had incidentally heralded the arrival ot the global stage of the now legendary Viv Richards. Public outcry and demand forced the selectors to appoint Pataudi as the captain. He delivered two successive test victories in then Calcutta and Madras. The other elitist who has encouraged small town Bharat is Sourav Ganguly. Indian cricket was in a shambles when Ganguly was made the captain in the wake of the match mixing scam and a series of humiliating defeats under Sachin Tendulkar as captain. And he created magic with the help of small town wonders like Zaheer Khan, Harbhajan Singh, Mohammed Kaif, Virender Sehwag and Irfan Pathan. Do remember, thanks to his efforts, Pataudi was always given a raw deal by the Establishment. And the manner in which India's most successful captain Ganguly was humiliated is sordid.

So will this battle between small town Bharat and big city India ever end? Not in a hurry. India represents status quo and the cosy comforts and benefits that naturally come your way when you belong to the club. Bharat finds entry into this club very difficult. And only huge success, performance and talent apart from the ability to break rules allows the English speaking Establishment to grudgingly accept it.

Big city, English speaking India also patronizingly mocks at small town wonders. You see, Sheila Dixit and J. Jayalalitha represent big city India. Narendra Modi and Mayawati represent small town Bharat. Ever noticed how differently the English media treats them? No one talks about the brand name of bags or the love life of Sheila Dixit or Jayalalitha. But small town Uma Bharti and Mayawati are fair game. 

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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017