There is no justification for not participating in the Asian Games

A large number of people have criticized the BCCI’s Asian Games decision but an equal number have come forward in support of it. While BCCI’s argument was based simply on a clash of dates with the New Zealand tour, the other supporters of their decision have tried to explain BCCI’s action with a variety of other reasons; some of which – I am sure – even the BCCI mandarins hadn’t thought about.

Anyways we will now try and repudiate each of them

The WADA issue. Participation in the games will come at the cost of compliance with the WADA norms. And by disclosing their whereabouts in advance, the players stand the risk of terrorist attack.

First, WADA isn’t going to post this information on their website. We can expect them to do a good job of protecting this information. And any which ways, it’s not that the terrorists are waiting for cricketers to release this information to attack them. They are just as susceptible with or without releasing the information.

Secondly, the BCCI and ICC’s decision not to be WADA compliant is also unjustified. When the biggest sport stars in the world ( cricketers aren’t the biggest sports stars in the world) have agreed to give information on their whereabouts, then why do the cricketers have a problem. And it’s not that international athletes reside in Fort Knox or don’t travel to countries which are on terrorist alert. Usain Bolt lives in Jamaica and has been seen playing in local exhibition cricket matches with hardly any commandoes around.

Cricket is a sport where performance enhancing drugs can make a huge difference and therefore the ICC should make its sport WADA compliant; unless they can think of a better way to keep the menace in check.

The clash of dates issue. It does not make sense to send a sub-standard team to the Asian Games.

BCCI is the godfather of world cricket. They can schedule, re-schedule and cancel a series anytime they want. So this is a bogus argument.

But then again, as Dileep Premachandran has argued, New Zealand is a fine side and playing them at that time will be the best practise for the World Cup which will happen two months later. Therefore, the series should not be rescheduled.

Fine. But don’t we also realize that even after selecting the strongest test side, there will be enough top quality Twenty -20 players to spare. The likes of Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma, Ambati Rayudu, Pragyan Ojha and Irfan Pathan aren’t going to make the test side by a long shot, but they the finest Twenty-20 players around. We might not have our strongest Twenty-20 squad but will have a good one nevertheless.

And actually, if you come to think of it, the Asian games cricket event will be over in a week’s time. So even if you had to spare the likes of Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh for Guangzhou, it will be for a maximum of one test or a couple of one-days – that’s all. They can get enough practise in the remaining tests and one-days. It’s simply a small matter of optimizing your playing resources.

The final argument is based on the importance of the Asian Games or even the Olympics for the world of cricket. To paraphrase Dileep Premachandran again, it means more to a cricketer to score a century at the Eden Gardens or take a fiver in the Ashes then win an Asian Games or Olympic medal. He takes a shot at the Olympic event by reminding us that the last time it was played in the Olympics, ‘mighty’ France finished second.

I will rebut his argument by taking examples from the world of football and tennis- two sports which are similar to cricket in terms of how much an Olympic medal matters in their sport – not much. There are far more prestigious events to be won outside the Olympics.

But even before I do that, I will like to remind him that a bilateral series against New Zealand also doesn’t mean much to most cricket fans. The only series that matter today are the ones against Pakistan, Australia and South Africa. And if cricket fans would rather watch the Indian batsmen make merry against prodding Kiwi medium pacers on flat tracks than see the Indian team win an Asian Games gold by beating Pakistan or Sri Lanka in the final, then may god give them an endless supply of such ‘exciting and riveting’ action.

In tennis, everyone is chasing the grand slams and the ranking points. The Olympic events mean even less to the likes of Federer and Nadal than the Indian cricketers. Their countries aren’t hard pressed to win medals and are not counting on them to open their account. More ever, tennis has a far more rigorous schedule and players could do with whatever rest they could get. And the Olympics don’t matter in the rankings race either. But still these guys take great pride in taking part in the Olympics. Nadal doesn’t say that I’d rather rest and prepare for the US Open which means so much more than an Olympic medal.

Similar for the footballers. We all remember how Gabriel Heinze and Carlos Tevez put their club seasons aside to lead Argentina’s challenge in the Olympics. Heinze had just been signed by Manchester United and risked the wrath of Alex Ferguson by putting the Olympics ahead of his premier league duties. These guys didn’t say that I’d take the league title over the Olympic medal. Heinze and Tevez ended up winning both.

The profile of the tennis and football event in the Olympics has gone up because of the participation of these world class athletes. Indian cricket can stay away from such events and keep saying that aren’t important enough. Or they can participate and help make it a more important event.

I also don’t understand why someone would have to let go of the chance to make a century at the Eden or take a fiver in the Ashes by participating in the Asiad or the Olympics. It is possible to do both. Indian cricketers will not miss out on World Cup glory by participating in the Asiad.

We are a country thirsting for success at the Olympics and the Asiad. Leander Paes has won more than ten grand slam doubles titles. But nothing gave him as much joy or pride than winning the bronze at Atlanta. I would take the bronze any day over all the doubles titles. If I were to inspire a young kid to take up tennis, I would tell him the story of Leander’s heroic performance in the 1996 Olympics.

As for the cricketers themselves, the likes of Anil Kumble – who was a part of the commonwealth games squad – have spoken highly of their experience.

The Asian games or the Olympics will also be a humbling experience for India’s over-pampered cricketers. And don’t tell me that they don’t need a dose of that. Additionally, they will get to bond with sportspersons from other disciplines. Non-cricketers are forever complaining about cricketers. The bonding will ensure that there is greater camaraderie in the future.

In terms of importance, the Asian Games – and I am sure, even Mr Premachandran will agree with that- are more important than the IPL. It was almost impossible to organize the second edition of the league last year. But the BCCI tried everything and finally took the unprecedented step of taking the league to South Africa. IPL-II was testimony to their sheer determination and indomitable will. Participating in the Asian Games will take a lot less than that. And do a lot more for the game of cricket. And we will still get to see the Kiwis grinding it out in the dust.

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