CAN SOCIAL MEDIA BECOME MODERN INDIA’S GAME-CHANGER? : SANJAY JHA AT TEDX NMIMS BANGALORE
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( As the great Tendulkar retires from cricket, will some things ever be the same again? Perhaps never . )
1999. It was a decade since his debut in international cricket. He had already become a global phenomenon. India had begun worshipping their national idol with spectacular unanimity — a rare feat by itself. The World Cup tournament was underway, the biggest cricket show on earth. There was mounting euphoria and breathless anticipation all around as India had returned to their ground of renowned conquest of 1983 – England. India was considered a dangerous threat to reigning champions Sri Lanka and looked a redoubtable claimant to the prestigious throne. But every match mattered especially at the qualifying stages. Then suddenly his father died. Sachin Tendulkar was all of 26.
What followed can be easily fathomed. The shocking heart-breaking disclosure. A long and lonely painful flight to India over 10 hours. Security checks and perfunctory procedures to be followed. A family reunion under emotionally draining circumstances. A widowed mother. Pain. Memories. A loss that can never be humanly compensated. But he returned. Another 10 hour long flight. A jet lag, may be. Words of consolation from team-mates. Media attention. Maybe another sleepless night five days in a row. But he was still back. Determined. Resolute. Passionately committed as ever. Continue reading below
We watched him in awe and admiration—virtually thunder-struck, bowled over by his incredible batting. His father’s s funeral was perhaps not behind him but still within. But he had summoned preternatural energies, invoked his own inner faith, found his fortitude. Sachin Tendulkar was at Bristol playing a key group match against Kenya. He went on to score a resplendent 140 not out (101 balls), and on reaching the century mark looked up at the skies, in a silent poignant conversation with his just departed father. Perhaps watching him from the heavens. It was a moment that no one who saw that match will ever forget, and even if you were to watch it now, it will bring a lump to your throat. I believe that knock at Bristol symbolizes Tendulkar. A fighter whose love for the game surpasses mortal comprehension. A team man to the ultimate conceivable core. Exceptionally tough from within, with a capacity to internalize adversity, not easily decipherable in that soft voice and chubby cheeks in a still boyish impression. Above all, a very proud Indian.
I am not going to reminisce his several illustrious great knocks and statistical achievements because they are already of legend and will be forever repeated but I do believe there are besides the Bristol knock two other instances that manifest the man Sachin Tendulkar more realistically. I thought his decision to resign from the Indian cricket captaincy has never been properly understood. Or appreciated. There were many who intensely criticised him for chickening out of what seemed as his next natural responsibility in and for Indian cricket. Tendulkar, however, did not think so. He did finally what his inner convictions told him. He had no false illusions. No delusions of grandeur. Leadership is beyond mere cricketing greatness and requires several other human traits to make for impact. His decision to quit captaincy reveals the ultimate test most human beings fail in — knowing oneself. They say knowing others is wisdom, knowing oneself is enlightenment. Tendulkar chose to play to his strengths, and despite the power, prestige and pride of leading India rejected the top job because he sincerely believed that he did not possess the mettle to take charge of a struggling, beleaguered Indian team requiring a different kind of dynamism at the helm. He would be happier contributing to an Indian win, after all, wasn’t that the real reason for playing cricket anyway? As it happened, India was to find a suitable skipper in his southpaw colleague Sourav Ganguly who would go on to become one of India’s greatest captains. I think we should also credit Tendulkar for letting that transition happen with dignified ease.
The controversial Multan Test match declaration against Pakistan saw for the first time an emotionally disturbed Sachin, taken perceptibly aback by the sudden decision by his long-standing team-mate and captain Rahul Dravid . He was 5 runs short of a truly hard-earned double hundred against an obdurate bellicose adversary in their own den. I think Sachin felt hugely let down as for the first time he publicly expressed his distressed reaction to the world. What bothered him was not that he had missed a personal career milestone perhaps but the unfortunate corollary that he was playing for personal milestones. He was grievously hurt. What Rahul and he talked in person will have to await their personal autobiographies, but I think it altered personal dynamics within the Indian team forever. It was a defining moment which revealed a visible streak of emotional vulnerability in the brilliant sportsman.
For any professional player in any sport , a physical injury is a horrendous nightmare, a psychological scar that can have serious consequences in their future career. It can destroy a susceptible mind. I remember a famous weekly magazine that had drawn an MRI scanned image of Sachin’s entire backbone on the cover with a story that headlined something akin to — “Is Sachin Tendulkar’s career over?” This was after the agonizing defeat by 12 runs against Pakistan in that literally back-breaking and traumatic Chepauk Test loss. Ten years later the man scores a hurricane 175 in 141 balls and runs faster than his 20 something non-strikers. I think the Hyderabad exhibition was to perhaps send a not so subtle message to a Yuvraj Singh & co that you never call a playing colleague with the mental toughness of raging bull – ‘Grandpa.’ Ever.
Tendulkar’s innumerable innings will be perennially cherished , but those who saw it say that his double century within a single day at CCI against Australia where Bombay won the match in three short days, mentally pulverized Shane Warne perpetually into a mango pulp. The Test series victory that followed seemed a logical progression. Almost all my friends only wanted the Sachin Tendulkar tee-shirt that he wore for us in the CricketNext.Com match in Dhaka in 2000. I frankly believe that he is one of the most credible outstanding actors in a television commercial — even as a brand ambassador his sincerity shows. After all these years, his first captain K Srikanth is still selecting him and erstwhile team-mate Kapil Dev has developed a healthy golf handicap. Tendulkar shares the dressing room with Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav et al, who are almost half his age. Adaptability has been his characteristic hallmark. It shows.
I was on a flight with him many years ago and Tendulkar was on his way to attending a training camp in Chennai. As we walked from the flight to the arrival lounge I asked him what I think he has been asked a million times. “Just how do you handle the constant and increasing madness of insane public expectations, the distracting cacophony that accompanies you to the ground every time you walk in? The irrational belief that you must score a blazing hundred time after time.” His answer was brief and instant. “It is easy. Once you take guard, settle down and take your stance everything else recedes effortlessly into the background. Everything. Then it is just the bowler, his hand and the ball coming at you. Nothing else.”
In 1989 I was 28 years. Since then, to use a cliche, change has been a constant. I remember Rajiv Gandhi’s dimpled smile and earthy innocence in his handsome countenance. LK Advani’s rath-yatra and VP Singh’s caste card was to change India’ political future and electoral logic. Manmohan Singh’s breakthrough liberalization policy and partial devaluation would bring India into the global sphere in 1991 , even as we watched Jimmy Connors make a dramatic run to the semi-finals of the US Open at the age of 39 on Star Sports, on a satellite channel in India for the first time. Dr Prannoy Roy dazzling us with The World This Week and Newstrack with Madhoo Trehan were our most sought after news addiction. Aamir Khan play the charming tapori act in Rangeela and Shah Rukh Khan winning a near-billion hearts with his inimitable romanticism in DDLJ . Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes capturing grand slams. Harshad Mehta and Ketan Parekh reflecting the topsy-turvy world of financial fortunes , stock market booms and woeful scams. Kargil. A war. A nuclear test. Malls, multiplexes, mobile phones and MS Dhoni. Marathi manoos , Virat Kohli, Mary Kom, Vishwanathan Anand and Abhinav Bindra . A new India. A new tomorrow. Hope. Dreams. Change.
But somewhere quietly right behind them all, rising unobtrusively into the endless skyline above, towering away and beyond into the blue skies, that same young curly haired boy from Bandra. Sachin Tendulkar. Nothing else.
The IPL scam is symbolic of a larger, deeper, terminal enervation of India, feels Sanjay Jha as he pitches for a drastic overhaul to rejuvenate the tarnished brand
We are a maverick freakish nation, forever skating on thin ice, circumspectly maneuvring Maoism one day, food price escalation the other, extraditing David Headley at one end but ultimately crashing headlong into a slippery subject called Sunanda Pushkar, a singular personality who abruptly threatened the world’s largest democracy. Welcome to Incredible India! Till a few weeks ago, Sunanda Pushkar would have sounded like the latest entrant into Raj Thackeray’s MNS, giving it some much needed urban respectability and gender diversity. But no, her name became an overnight bestseller, thanks to an orchestrated attempt by IPL Commissioner (the title itself bestows a peculiar power of unilateral authority) Lalit Modi to insinuate a secret cover-up for monetary gains by one of India’s dapper but controversial Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor. Sweat equity was soon the new buzzword. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was introduced via the media’s proxy medium to Ms Pushkar while attempting deft diplomatic negotiations in Washington with President Barack Obama. An Indian private corporate league tournament meant to be a summer show was snowballing into a political crisis, with the ruling party’s coalition partners allegedly having some deep, dubious, vested interests in the billion dollar plus property. Modi had waxed eloquent on the IPL’s reality TV entertainment quotient; ironically enough, he had himself become its lead performer.
As an economics post-graduate student of the early 1980s I remember reading that India’s population explosion was best explained by the fact that our able millions had produced babies because there was absence of any other form of entertainment. So perhaps unwittingly enough Modi and his august IPL colleagues have contributed to some major national priorities like enhancing per capita income by keeping the IPL matches on till close to midnight hour, and then further extending it by having fashion shows, late-night parties et al to ensure minimum risk of deviation. Maybe that is why IPL even has an entertainment tax waiver? Either way, in the IPL, cricket itself made a grand guest appearance.
By scheduling 60 matches in approximately six weeks through relentless cricket, pre-match discussions and post-match analysis on three hours of hit-and-run chase, the IPL meant to calculatedly numb the human mind into complete fuzziness; all other worldly pursuits could wait. Everything was meant to fade before Robin Uthappa’s towering sixes, Shilpa Shetty’s perennially expanding grin and Lalit Modi’s feverish autograph signing. Bollywood main releases shut down in acute nervousness, news channels were compelled to adulate Yusuf Pathan’s brutalities prior to covering the Prime Minister’s national priorities and for almost two months everything and everyone else appeared like cardboard props, the back-office inventory of the IPL juggernaut. Crowds shouted and shook, cheerleaders danced and corporate czars looked on with a smug expression at their fantasy land. Modi as usual blew his trumpet and the world genuflected in front of his “fool-proof business model” that would have made John Maynard Keynes sweat in his grave. Everything seemed like a hunky-dory joy-ride. Almost. All that Modi had to do was to let loose his irrepressible vanity van through a cocky snide innuendo on Twitter. The rest is history, so I will spare you the subsequent sordid developments which hint at arms money, tax havens, huge bribe transactions, political involvement at the highest levels, power play, and daylight violations of fundamental principles of governance. A scam appears like an understatement.
Lalit Modi is a manifestation of India’s new powerful rich. Everything is measured by commercial exploitation and political contacts; adhering to ethical standards, basic human decency and respect for the law of the land is considered being old-fashioned. Self-aggrandisement and blatant self-promotion are the dominating influences in this new enterprise. What helped his cause was the unquestioned support he received from eminent names such as Sunil Gavaskar and Ravi Shastri and others in the IPL Governing Council who have assiduously maintained a stony silence on the subject. One man literally ran amok to bring the IPL to such ridicule.
The IPL, from becoming a frivolous, flippant, fun-like distraction, instead, now raises some pertinent questions we cannot ignore: Are we becoming a morally bankrupt nation, possessing a rhinoceros’s thick hide? Are we so unaffected by such flagrant corruption, opportunism and violation of norms? A poor hungry man who steals a purse or bread is called a thief and gets lynched to death by a violent mob but the same group happily overlooks big-time swindling of tax-payers funds and alleged criminal misconduct by dark-suited well-articulated Page 3 kind of wheeler-dealers? Isn’t that our shameless double-standards on display? What else can prompt post-Independent India’s classic statement hallmarking hubris: I am still Chairman-just suspended. Imagine Satyam’s R Raju saying, I was Chairman-just jailed now.
The franchisees quietly played along in the dubious game that Modi unleashed — the racket of financial valuations. Nobody knew the exact numbers of the franchises’ financial performance in Profit & Loss (P&L) or balance-sheets but rumours were frequently dished out that some of the franchisees had not just broken even but had even become profitable. It was deliberate falsehood being spread. Franchisees were guilty of not denying them, as transparent and professional businesses do. Instead, they fuelled it. The IPL was a happy cozy club, uninterrupted over champagne celebrations. Cricket and the common man were secondary priorities.
Across the entire spectrum comprising of political parties, corporate sector, industry associations, sports federations et al, India’s biggest challenge is its leadership. In the IPL it was evidently woefully lacking. The lesser said about the sleeping Big Brother BCCI, the better. Modi thus became like a swashbuckling buccaneer, the self-styled megalomaniac who cared two hoots for anything remotely resembling sensible governance.
There were two things that perhaps gave Modi his cocooned comfort and serene umbrage: Firstly, his vast political contacts, and secondly, his belief that even if things should go horribly wrong, it would still not affect him. It is a damning statement on the abuse of office by some elected representatives in Indian Parliament. The involvement of political personalities in sports requires a serious national debate in the light of the IPL.
Will we have an IPL 4 given the unpalatable mess we are in? Assuming the IPL can be resuscitated from its current crisis, a drastic overhaul is necessitated to rejuvenate the tarnished brand.
In short, the IPL scam is symbolic of a larger, deeper, terminal enervation of India. It is alright to keep beating the war-drums about our impending domination of world economic affairs and our unstoppable consumer-labour markets, but if we don’t get our house in order that tall promise might just remain a pipe dream. The clock is ticking. And fast.
The following could be the way forward. My suggestions are:
- As the first round of franchise bidding seems to have been conveniently manipulated to suit favoured parties, ideally fresh franchise auctions ought to happen with terms being listed in the public domain. Clauses barring conflict of interest etc need to be incorporated. The existing franchise owners should be given the right to re-bid or match the highest bidders in the fresh auction to retain their franchises. Essentially, they should have the first rights of refusal. Alternatively, fresh bidding should be done for those franchises where the ownership patterns are questionable. Those who fail to reacquire their franchises must surely be knowing that all businesses come with a risk of failure.
- The IPL Governing Council should have 11 members.
- There should be at least three members representing “other” international cricket boards on the IPL Governing Council whose players participate in the IPL.
- The ICC (International Cricket Council) must be represented to ensure that the tournament is conducted on international norms with presence of Anti-Corruption squads and dope testing etc.
- If 2 and 3 are enacted, the IPL can then request for being part of Future Tours Programme of ICC and teams can have their best players throughout the tournament.
- The franchisees must nominate one amongst them to be part of the IPL Governing Council.
- The Players Association needs to be resurrected and they should have a nominee as well. Who else can argue against that ludicrous salary cap?
- The BCCI should nominate five eminent citizens including distinguished former players with no conflict of interest issues.
- There should be an Ombudsman-kind of position created as the eleventh member with a casting vote on sensitive issues which get deadlocked.
- There should be no salary cap on player earnings and franchises should be allowed to hire any player based on their financial capabilities and risk appetite. This will create the missing element in IPL, the absence of clear-cut heavyweight favourite teams and also give the cricketers their real commercial worth. Local players can have a fixed share of 3-4 places in the playing team.
- Only 8 teams should play every year with the bottom two relegated on an annual basis. This will ensure that we will not have a mindless 94 matches in 50 days.