ICC World Cup 2019: MS Dhoni’s gloves & superstar culture

Now that MSD has dropped the logo from his keeping gloves the dust has settled and the noise subsided. But this “non-issue” (so described by a senior official) will haunt and hurt Indian cricket for long.

MSD did what he did for reasons best known to him. Whatever be his intent, his action was deliberate, wilful and carefully thought through. MSD is not impulsive or intuitive, nor the type to be rash or reckless. After 20 years of first-class cricket and 550 international appearances, he knows the boundaries of cricket better than anyone else. Forget MSD, all 1,000 Ranji players are aware of clothing and logo regulations just as every student knows what his school uniform is. (Full Coverage of ICC World Cup 2019)

But this “non-issue” raises serious issues because the people involved came out very poorly. In a tournament like the ICC, the first call in situations like this is with the team manager. But in this case, the manager/team management was missing from the frame, which was perhaps wise because when big boys are in the middle, junior players are better off sitting in the dugout.

Occupying centrestage was the CoA itself, giving directions and getting its hands dirty. In doing so, they displayed remarkable incompetence first by supporting the breach (“we stand with MSD”), then approaching ICC for flexibility (“keeping emotions of people in mind”) and finally, after receiving no joy, falling in line with tail firmly between their legs. Closure was announced ahead of the Australia game through a statement that said they had been “informed” that rules don’t permit this.

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The rules were known from the beginning, they have existed for years and MSD’s logo/message was always illegal. Forget ICC and the World Cup, such messages/logos are disallowed even in Ranji Trophy under BCCI’s own guidelines. Ignorance of rules is bad enough but the CoA/BCCI aggressively advertising it was another thing altogether.

Like MSD, the CoA/BCCI did what they did for reasons best known to them. Maybe, it was another episode of the earlier narrative when they pitched for excluding Pakistan from the World Cup, a clumsy attempt that failed miserably and resulted in India getting snubbed and isolated in the ICC.

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This could also be another instance of a top-order batsman taking ugly cross-batted swipes at good balls instead of presenting a straight bat. Certainly, look at it whichever way, this was poor shot selection and as Sunil Gavaskar said: rules are rules, they have to be followed. Why the fuss?

The MSD glove saga is Season 2 of the collapse of cricket governance when confronted by the “superstar culture” of Indian cricket. The Indian team’s coach selection process and the disgraceful treatment of Anil Kumble showed cricket administration to be weak, indecisive and powerless. A similar sorry sequence unfolded this time too with nobody wanting to get in the way of a current superstar. Instead of going by the rulebook, officials chose to bend over backwards to an extent an acrobat would have gasped in admiration.

Such gymnastics is harmful because it puts the BCCI on a slippery slope and injects a dangerous virus into the system. Playing to the gallery could be personally rewarding but is ‘not cricket’ and does nothing for advancing Indian cricket. Moreover, India stand ridiculed internationally for pushing for “non-issues” and an already friendless ICC will only harden its stance going forward.

Political posturing and personal agendas should have no place on a cricket pitch. If this carries on, the only result will be BCCI getting hit-wicket and run-out.

(The writer is a sports administrator. Views are personal.)

First Published:
Jun 12, 2019 09:38 IST

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