ASHWINI A. writes from Bangalore: There is good news and bad news for cricket fans in Mysore. The good news first: the Board of Control for Cricket in India is to hold a five-day camp for bowlers from June 4 in preparation for the upcoming tours of England and Ireland.
Followers of the game in the City of Palaces can look forward to seeing in flesh and blood their sultans of swing, and the wizards of the wobble and weave: 14 of them including Zaheer Khan and Irfan Pathan, S. Sreesanth and Munaf Patel, Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh.
Well, dream on.
The bad news is that the camp is to be held at a fortress that rivals a nearby nuclear establishment in its impenetrable security: namely, the Infosys Global Training Centre in Hebbal Industrial Area.
Timely note: this piece is not about Infosys. It is about BCCI. Yes, not about Infosys, about BCCI.
The bowlers’ camp may be great education for the hundreds of Infosys trainees living on the campus, if they are allowed to go out and see, that is. But for Mysore’s cricket fans, fanatics and followers, the camp is a letdown because a camp at Infosys is a case of so near and yet so far.
Why, you wonder, is the richest cricket body in the world so openly obliged to a private software company for hospitality and facilities? When the Karnataka State Cricket Association (KSCA) has leased the Gangothri Glades stadium from the University of Mysore for a pittance in the heart of the City, why does BCCI want to conduct the camp in a secluded place?
Maybe there are good reasons for both those questions. In Baroda, for instance, BCCI makes use of the hospitality of IPCL, the Reliance-owned petrochemical company. And in Jameshedpur, it banks on the Tatas. If that is OK, what is wrong in using Infosys’ help, you may ask.
The problem is two-fold.
Problem One: Infosys bought those hundreds of acres for a song to build a training centre that is quickly morphing into a software centre. Its cricket stadium is magnificent, yes, but it is a white elephant trampling on farmers’ land. How morally right is that?
Problem Two: The Infosys stadium is inaccessible and spectator-unfriendly as the only two matches of note held there (women’s World Cup and a Ranji Trophy tie between Karnataka and Bengal) showed.
It’s not at a distance where a young boy interested can cycle up to. Worse, ordinary fans are not allowed to go inside. Matches and events held there are open only to a select few who could pull the right strings in Bangalore and Mysore.
When a great and very public game is kept alive by fans, why should matches or practice be held in private as if it were some club event of the rich and the privileged?
Maybe, the Infosys campus has facilities. And, by jove, they would. But what has prevented BCCI or KSCA from developing those facilities in Mysore (or anytown India)? What have they done with all the crores they have minted from television rights and matches?
Infosys’s cricket stadium is not open to local sportspersons wanting to conduct a camp or hold a match. Why does it open it to the KSCA or BCCI, if it isn’t currying favour with cricket’s big bosses—besides extracting some more free publicity on television and in the newspapers?
Maybe (although it is unlikely) Infosys is providing the ground, the boarding and lodging facilities for a price. But is this legal? Maybe the inaccessibility will allow the bowlers to concentrate. But aren’t they eventually going to play before mammoth crowds baying for their blood?
To me, the shame of it all lies with BCCI. Despite its riches, it wants to to take its players to a City where it has no created no facilities that its players can use, and has to depend on infrastructure built by an organisation that has nothing to do with cricket.
What can be a bigger epitaph to the current state of Indian cricket than that?