Fly on the BCCI wall
The phone vibrates to life with an accompanying jingle for a ring tone. He smiles at the familiar row of flashing digits on the phone as he presses the call button. It was his prodigy, the one who’d taken what was a stream and changed it into a gushing flood.
He chuckled at the memory of how it used to be. They’d always had those lining up with wads of cash to get their on the next sundry cricketing event involving the Indian national team (the official payments were of course by checks, the cash was for…err…administrative purposes …hehe).
The quiet chuckle was in the recollection of how they had to turn away most of those lining up. After all, there could only be so many suppliers of toothpicks to the Indian team. If the number of logos on the kit went beyond the point that viewers could only see a kaleidoscope, then even the ones lining up would have questions. No, that couldn’t happen. He smiled at the thought of how they’d scrambled to make more surfaces marketable. Stumps, sightscreens, umpire’s clothing…all his little innovations…all adding up.
The idea of time as a finite resource had been tricky. He’d changed the way schedules were drawn up. Question everything he’d said. Who needed five test matches when two would do? Why not have best of seven ODI series instead of the customary five? Why should there be an off-season, why not just have more drinks breaks to counter the 45 degree heat? The players without the endorsements could be replaced, the ones with the endorsements wouldn’t mind the extra exposure.
The final hurdle had been the performances themselves. “We want to associate ourselves with a winning team” said those lining up with the cash. In the post-Cronje era, it was dangerous to pencil in the results with the schedule. They’d let go of the away games as a fact of life. It was enough at one point to ensure enough games at home, in 100% humidity, dehydration got ‘em, if not the cracking dustbowls. But the opposition started coming better and better prepared. Quick calls to curators to dig ‘em up even more had helped. That and ‘the endorser few’ who knew that home-games were when you could bump up that average enough so it survives the single-digit performances overseas.
And then he had come along, his prodigy. With one plan, he’d made all those problems they’d faced so inconsequential. Franchises, he’d said! Shorter games, we know our ‘endorser few’ could do ok as long as the rules were in his favour, and over short bursts. Multiple teams, each having their sets of sponsors. Handpick the most marketable players, not just from India, from all over.
He pressed the Receive button.
LM: “We have a problem.”
President: “Is someone not paying?”
LM: “No, this is a cricketing problem”
President (surprised and irritated): “You know better than to bother me with those, this is what we appoint foreign coaches for”
LM: “This might be too big for him. It’s this bowler, A Mendis. Apparently, none of our boys can play him”
President: “So? We just slow the pitches, make sure there’s no grass, we’ll be fine.”
LM (Irritated now): “Don’t you ever watch any cricket?! He’s a spinner, with some kind of freak carrom ball. Whats worse, he dismisses them even on flat tracks.
President: “What does this mean?”
LM: “Means we now might consistently lose to Sri Lanka, in any form the game. You know people will lose interest if we don’t maintain the illusion of being number 2, challenger to Australia. Its not the same anymore. People were fine with how many we lost as long as we beat the Aussies in the odd game”
President: “That’s worrying”
LM: “There’s more. Dhoni just called. He’s pissed about having to play against this guy. Said he’d kept out of the test series to let the others sort him out. Says we know he doesn’t like pace or spin. Mostly he’s mad about the fact that he doesn’t face military medium part-timers on slow tracks who he can plaster all over the ground and look good for the cameras.”
(repeated tones…call waiting) LM: “Hang on, I’m getting another call”
LM: “Am back, that was CEO of ABC, our biggest sponsors, was saying he hadn’t paid us all those millions to have his ‘world-beating’ side made to look like amateurs by a greenhorn spin bowler. We’re in trouble.”
President: “Here’s what we do, allot him one of the IPL teams – ‘The Nellore Moonshiners’. Make sure he gets Mendis in the next auction. Trade Dhoni to this team. Also a couple of the other hotshots. That way they don’t get snared by Mendis with ridiculous ease every time.”
LM: “I’ll also try and insert a few clauses in the contract to say Mendis can’t play international cricket against other teams from the subcontinent, especially if their names begin with I. He only speaks Sinhalese, might just get through”
The President smiles