Gaurav Kalra has been producing sports content on television for over a decade. He started his career at Trans World International where for four years he worked on a variety of programming including magazine shows, news bulletins and live broadcasts. In his next role at Quintus, Gaurav produced a series of programming under the Wisden brand name, including the Wisden Indian cricketer of the century and the Wisden Awards. Gaurav joined CNN-IBN as Sports Editor in 2005.
Wealthy people amuse me. Usually hired hands do the spin-doctoring for them. But left to their own, the very rich and the famous are quite capable of being struck down with a serious case of foot-in-the-mouth. Plenty of that was in evidence at what was otherwise an entertaining IPL auction on Tuesday.
In one voice they pleaded ignorance to the well-orchestrated and pre-planned move to keep the Pakistanis out. "This talk that we decided together not to bid for Pakistani players is plain rubbish", claimed Mr Mallya through a pair of astonishingly bad shades. And one franchise owner went beyond bizarre, proclaiming there was "cricketing logic" in the decisions made. Parnell over Umar Gul? Roach over Aamer? Martyn over Umar Akmal? Get real guys, there is spin-doctoring and then there is downright idiocy.
IPL bosses and team owners have egg on their face because they are spreading a canard when they didn't have to. Here is what should have happened. Before the auction began the owners should have issued a statement with a text along the following lines:
"We, the team owners of the Indian Premier League regret to announce that none of us will be bidding for any Pakistani players at today's auction. We have arrived at this decision with a heavy heart and after detailed consultations amongst ourselves. Our decision has been conveyed to IPL chairman Lalit Modi and we have requested him to convey the same to the 11 players who were up for auction and the PCB. While we are in no doubt about the high calibre of the Pakistani players available, our hand has been forced by matters beyond ours and indeed the players' control. We fear that in the current political environment, the presence of Pakistani players may create unexpected security concerns which are best avoided at this time. We apologise to the players and the Pakistan Cricket Board for the inconvenience caused in getting security clearances from their foreign and interior ministries. We would also like to assure the players that the door is not closed on them for future editions of the IPL and it remains our sincere hope that fans will be able to enjoy their resplendent talent in this tournament's future editions".
I am sure the spin-doctors would phrase this better but you get the point. It would not allow for a situation to develop of the kind that exists now. Words such as 'conspiracy' and 'insult' wouldn't be used. The lure of a piece of the IPL cake would dissuade Pakistani players from saying what they are saying now. And there would be no need for Lalit Modi to appear on prime-time television and claim "he knew nothing about this". Come on Mr Modi, and here we thought not a pencil sharpener changes places in the corridors of the IPL unless you approve it!
If there was indeed "cricketing" logic in the decisions, do you wonder why cricketers weren't allowed to offer it? I would concede if Sourav Ganguly told me that he preferred an ageing and injury-prone Bond over an up and coming Aamer. Or if Anil Kumble told me Morgan was a better choice than Umar Akmal. Both were at the auction, why weren't they fielded? Instead, Shilpa Shetty told us how the man who won her Royals the first IPL, Sohail Tanvir wasn't really worth it. Instead they went for the might of Damien Martyn who is pushing 40 and has no T20 credentials to shore up their batting order. Preity Zinta went on about how Yusuf Abdullah was the bowler they needed and not perhaps Rana Naved ul Hasan who can bowl yorkers at will in the death overs. "Cricketing logic" doesn't become so just because it emerges from the mouths of the beautiful.
Modi screeched "Availability, availability, availability" is all that will matter in auctions going forward. And so the Australians weren't the hot picks this year as well. Point taken. But Australia are involved in a cricket series at the time. What are Pakistan doing? Nothing at all. Their players are available for all six weeks and can certainly play T20 cricket, they won the world cup, remember?
So it was the presumption that they might become "unavailable" that led to this decision. And since the team owners are pumping in the money, they have every right to put it where the investment returns. If they choose not to risk it, that's fine too. All we ask is that instead of skirting the issue and hiding behind shallow words, they let us know. What's that line about honesty being the best policy??!
The auction was about several happy stories. Kieron Pollard and Kemar Roach, made richer beyond dreams. The tag of "rebels" finally being shed from former ICL players with three of them landing contracts. Shilpa Shetty in a stunning blue dress, Preity Zinta's dimples still dazzling a room full of cynical men and the gorgeous Gayatri Reddy (where has she been?!!) of the Deccan Chargers empowered to raise the bid while nonchalantly chewing gum.
Ahhh, if only they wouldn't have taken us for fools!