The Ball by MC
At a time when jehadis are beheading and Ebola is devouring people, it seems like an embarrassingly trivial problem to decide whether wives and girlfriends of Indian cricketers should be allowed to go on foreign tours. That said, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) is alarmed after the Indian Test cricket team suffered a humiliating 3-1 defeat against England in England recently. One of the board’s conclusions that the terribly distracting presence of the wives and girlfriends or WAGs as they are actually called was responsible for the debacle.
I am not going to go into the whole physics of whether wives are more distracting or girlfriends because the former have lost their allure and the latter have still not but the debate is farcical because the actual problem of losing and winning in a cricket game is farcical. Those who play often win or lose. It is in the nature of any sport. That someone actually wins or loses in a game that goes on for five days is cause enough for celebration.
Going by the media reports in India, the England test debacle has been squarely blamed on the WAGs. As it were, tongues are WAGging about how demanding WAGs take away the players from focusing on the game and compel them to indulge in wifely or girlfriendly (the second is not a word but it is a thing) pursuits of shopping and tourism. “The England tour has been an eye-opener for everyone. From whatever information we have gathered, it’s been seen that even if players wanted to focus on their cricket, their wives were being a big distraction. When some wanted to go to the gym or do nets, they couldn’t do so because their wives wanted to explore the city. So we have planned that after this England series, we will curb the number of days the wives spend with their husbands on tour,” an unnamed BCCI official told Devendra Pandey of The Indian Express.
Cricket is not a bring your WAGs or mistresses (Let’s call it WAGAM) to work sport. There are not too many other professions, apart from those of cricketers’ and actors’, where WAGAMs are allowed at your place of work. In fact, many men and women go to work only so that they can get away from husbands and WAGAMs (Let’s call it HUWAGAMs). It is the BCCI’s business to take its sport rather seriously. Within the farce that is cricket or any other sport for that matter their controlling bodies have to enforce some measure of discipline.
Of the players that were part of the team that lost in England, Virat Kohli has come in for particular criticism because of his subpar performance which is now being blamed on the presence of his reported girlfriend and Hindi movie star Anushka Sharma. My dear friend and great cricket writer Shireesh Kanekar makes a couple of compelling points in his Marathi language column in the Saamna newspaper in Mumbai. He points out that the humor and jokes about poor performances have remained the same over the decades even as the players about whom they are made have changed. In particular, he refers to the many jokes about Virat Kohli one of which goes like this: Kohli asks Sharma after their marriage where they should go for honeymoon. Anushka suggests England. “Not England,” he says. “Why not England?” she wonders. “Because I can’t perform in England,” replies Kohli. This joke has been made before in the context of other players. As Shireesh points out the jokes remain the same, it is only the players who change.
Another point Shireesh makes is in relation to a particularly stinging column written by the iconic Indian batsman Sunil Gavaskar about the disastrous England tour. Shireesh reminds Gavaskar about the 1974 Test match tour of England by then Indian team, of which the self-same Gavaskar was a prominent member. In a particular test, India scored a poultry 42 runs. The scoreboard of the runs by the Indians read: Gavaskar 5, Farokh Engineer 0, Ajit Wadekar 3, Gundappa Vishwanath 5, Brijesh Patel 1, Eknath Solkar 18, Abid Ali 3, Madan Lal 2, Erapalli Prasanna 4, Bishen Singh Bedi 0 and Bhagwat Chnadrasekhar 0.