It wasn’t too far back in time when Wriddhiman Saha was Superman to fans. They celebrated his diving shots by photoshopping a fluttering red cape over his aerial photos, turning them into viral memes of celebration.
Time flies in Indian cricket. Saha, right now, doesn’t quite come across as a superhero.
Left out of the test team, intimidated by a journalist and seemingly betrayed by the system – beginning with BCCI President Sourav Ganguly – he couldn’t be faulted for walking away from the spotlight with the anguish that the Teller was, after all, nothing but an ingrate. work.
Those standing by his side were those who had shared a box with him. There was an outpouring of support from players, who pressed him to reveal the name of the ghost interview requester with a threatening tone. So far, so good.
But then something unusual happened that hinted there was more to this story. With uncharacteristic speed, the body of players you rarely hear about – the Indian Cricketers Association – swung into action.
Calling the episode ‘completely unacceptable’, they said: ‘At the ICA our primary concern is the welfare of cricketers, past and present, and we cannot accept such behavior from anyone. , let alone a journalist. We fully agree with Saha and ask her to reveal the name of the journalist. Should BCCI feel the need to revoke the offending journalist’s accreditation and access to any BCCI event, we will fully support this decision.
Exactly a year ago, in February last year, there was another cricketer who needed support but was left on his own. None of his teammates rallied behind him. The ICA was conspicuous by its silence.
Former India Test opener and top Ranji Trophy run-getter Wasim Jaffer had an unforgettable coaching stint with Uttarakhand. He left the team mid-season, sparking an unsavory controversy.
Without any sort of investigation, Uttarakhand officials said Jaffer had a community bias and promoted Muslim players. In one fell swoop, they had not only tried to slander the man of impeccable conduct on and off the pitch, but also tried to smear the country’s emblematic diversity sport.
Jaffer was suddenly alone. He had to call the few journalists he knew and hold a press conference to present his side of the story.
He spoke of the undue interference of officials in the selection as the reason for his premature departure. Jaffer had grace; he was silent about his employers when he quit. It was only after being pushed into a corner and prodded by serious allegations that he gave his side and recounted the ills of his former workplace.
“It’s the lowest possible. These allegations that I belong to the community are sad,” he said.
Prior to his miraculous transformation into a current social media influencer, known for his Bollywood-inspired wit and an ongoing meme battle with former England captain Michael Vaughan, Jaffer was a man of few words. He was the archetypal Indian cricketer of his day.
A few years ago, when Jaffer had ended his long career after more than two decades of prolific production, Indian Express journalists Sriram Veera and Devendra Pandey visited his modest home to put together a tribute piece . It was an unusual living room in which they were welcomed. Unlike other cricketers, Jaffer had no frames of himself celebrating hundreds on the walls. “It’s arrogant to have your own photo at home,” he said.
Jaffer’s wife would say he almost never showed anger. Saha is also similar. Abhishek Purohit’s incisive profile on the Bengal keeper also has a line reminiscent of Jaffer. “Saha’s wife has said in the past that her expressionlessness of sadness or joy was the only thing she would like to ‘cut points’ for.”
Men like Jaffer and Saha have struggled all their lives to stay out of the limelight and focus on the headlines because of their cricket. These are men who don’t believe in hype; and let their performance do the talking. These unassuming cricketers lacked the backing of powerful lobbies or agents. They were old school cricketers, not quite the brands that sell cars and noodles. They didn’t release workout videos until tryout day. They weren’t even equipped to network with influencers to get that all-important extra streak during an unexpected crisis or callback.
Unfortunately, it was the system that got them into these horrible squabbles and made them bitter about the betrayal.
They were probably out of step with the real world. Saha took Ganguly at his word when he secured her a long rope in the test team. Jaffer also believed that locker room linen should not be washed in public, a cricketing tradition that Uttarakhand officials did not follow.
As cricketers, both had flaws. Maybe they haven’t adapted well to the blowing winds of change. They struggled to meet the challenge of the times they were in. When they were at their peak, the cricket ecosystem witnessed a watershed transformation. They were also competing for a place in the team with icons of the game. Imagine, their difficulty level, Saha had to be better than MS Dhoni and Jaffer had to surpass Virender Sehwag.
Despite obstacles and competition, they were role models and team players. Both played the game with dignity, they deserved better treatment.
While the cricketing community’s non-reaction to Jaffer’s fate was shocking and drowned in complete silence, the overwhelming official support for Saha came as a surprise.
In the recent past, there have been pandemic issues of domestic cricketers, issues of late payment to international stars, but the player corps has not quite taken to the streets.
So why were their hearts bleeding for someone like Saha, who had even called BCCI president Ganguly? Is the BCCI finally a glorious democracy, where dissidence is not frowned upon? Not enough.
This was another signal that the BCCI feeding center is not in Kolkata. It has moved to Motera, the home association of BCCI Secretary Jay Shah, and stakeholders are well aware of this.
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National Sports Editor
The Indian Express