FOR THE BETTER-MEMORIED FOLLOWERS of Indian cricket, Krishnamachari Srikkanth’s dismissal of India’s tremendous Test match defeats in Australia and England this season as just happenstance harked to a painful period in the near past. In late February, Srikkanth, who captained India in the 1980s, and is now the chairman of the selection committee, spent more time praising Virat Kohli’s century that had led to a win against Sri Lanka at Hobart the previous night, saying that it signified the spirit of Indian cricket. The cricket administrations of the 1990s were similarly callous about their fans, for they saw their responsibilities selectively, and chose to play up individual successes even as their own inadequacies chipped at the edifice of the sport.
Meeting the press after the selection meeting for the meaningless Asia Cup on February 29, Srikkanth, wearing dark shades, continued to erode the goodwill of his playing days. The cricket press contingent is largely a passive herd, but after India’s terrible tour, Srikkanth’s assertions—such as “I can 500 percent assure you honestly that nobody’s been dropped”—were so oily that you could practically hear the bullshit detectors fizzle and explode. So they threw him question after question until Srikkanth let his natural game take over. It was, in hindsight, the sort of foolish behaviour people YouTube endlessly. He told a reporter to shut up, and accused the journalist of ‘fingering’ him (the word he used was ‘ungli’). He then took aim at the press, saying that he couldn’t comment on speculation that Virender Sehwag and Zaheer Khan had been dropped, and not rested. And if that wasn’t enough, he then put paid to the hopes of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) becoming a more open organisation by telling the media that Khan’s injury report “need not be shown to you. They are all internal matters.”
Indian cricket in the 1990s was run by administrators who worked in ostensibly honorary capacities—they did their duty, in theory, without payment. But it turned out that the perks—the daily allowances, the travel money—were eye-wateringly high, especially in contrast with poorly paid regional cricketers who faced political and logistical hurdles to simply play the game. Strange happenings were commonplace: when a bowler who few people had heard of was sent to the West Indies to bolster the Indian team in 1997, Sachin Tendulkar, then the captain, famously—allegedly—asked, “Noel who?”