Game of Thrones!
Lets imagine building an empire. The ideation, the funds, the struggle, the progress and eventually success. Imagine living with a dream day in and day out for over decades. And then, one fine day, before your time is up, the throne you built is swept away for good by your own men. The Game of Thrones isn’t just a fictional TV series written by George RR Martin and produced by HBO but also is a reflection of life as it comes. Ever imagined how Bharat might have truly felt giving away his throne forced to smile after running it for 14 years only because Ram had decided to return to seize his responsibilities one fine day after shying away from his responsibilities for years before? Ever imagined the position of the Captain of a team handing the baton to his successor even before he was imagining a farewell?
Cricket as we know in India is beyond just a sport. It’s an emotion, some even call it a religion; probably the only religion justified as here the God's seem more visible and are a definite reason for joy or sorrow. However, beyond all the joy, sorrow, victory and glory lies a very ugly tale of political chaos; a very obvious one which doesn't require stories to narrate but remains evident. Way back in 1983, after Kapil Dev had lead India to the most unbelievable World Cup triumph, little did one imagine that there would be a change in hand for captaincy for the first ever World Champions trophy to be held in Australia, the very next year in 1984-1985.
Sunil Gavaskar, who was then celebrating a successful career and as most presumed was on the verge to retirement was back on his throne after almost two years of given up the position, post the Pakistan series in 1982-83. This was probably India's most successful period of cricket played during the era as they seized both the World Cup and the first World Champions Trophy. However, little did one know about the storm within the dressing room as Captaincy then had a little too many contenders. Apart from Gavaskar and Kapil Dev, there was a senior Dilip Vengsarkar, the dynamic Krinamachari Srikanth and the rising Ravi Shastri was named the Champion of Champions.
A series of debacles, debates and experiments finally got back the World Cup winner Kapil Dev back on the throne with both age and experience favouring his platter. Though the problem seemed solved, there were many unspoken tales of politicised approach towards being the at the biggest post any Indian Cricketer probably dreams to be at. Kapil Dev held charge till 1987 followed by a couple of years by Vengsarkar and eventually Shastri with an interim captain for a brief duration in Srikanth. Though all 4 of these legendary cricketers, reached their respective goals, one wouldn't be confident in calling it the ideal fashion to get there. The baton passed year after year with ups and downs till it reached a certain charismatic Mohammad Azharuddin.
Azharuddin also fondly known as Azhar, probably took the baton at the most critical stage of Indian Cricket as far as dressing room strengths were concerned. At a mere age of 25, Azharuddin was the man to turn to at times of crisis with the presence of already established legends of the game playing under him. Azhar's swagger with the bat and command in field over the bowlers did most of the talking. A dynamic young player let most of his cricket answer the tough questions leaving most negative judgement behind.
Azhar, then the most promising ODI player looked in the prime of his career when controversies surrounding match fixing took away a number of achievements which were probably due and now exist in only the dreams of those who blindly followed this captain. With Azhar gone along with his deputy Ajay Jadeja and Wicket Keeper Mongia, Indian Cricket had arrived at its darkest phase. The selectors, took an obvious call and then burdened the Indian legend, Sachin Tendulkar with the responsibilities to lead the team. Sachin who had then already captained the team on a few occasions during Azhar's absence took up the responsibility.
Though there was no lack in commitment from the little master, he began to faulter as a batsmen as captaincy was probably then too much of a burden to handle. It wasn't long before he realised the same and just like most good decisions in his life declared to drop the hat and focus on his batting.
The board was again in the mix. With a reasonably new team comprising of promising player such as Dravid, Kumble, Srinath and Prasad, the choice remained tough. Though Srinath had more experience compared to the others, the board with the advice of the late Jagmohan Dalmiya who was the then chairmen of the ICC took a more dynamic decision. The year 2000 marked the beginning of what could be called the attitude era in Cricket with Sourav Ganguly taking over.
That marked the beginning of a series of victories in India and more importantly overseas. The attitude of the Indian team had now changed with Ganguly's vision. Ruthless was their definition and they were playing only to win. After a great number of ups and downs in Indian cricket, it was under Ganguly's leadership that the Indian team marched towards the finals of the 2003 world cup in South Africa.
Though, they didn't win the cup there were many takeaways and that was probably India's best campaign on international soil in limited overs cricket in the longest time. Dada as the captain was dearly called engraved the way for a number of path breaking cricketers who tumbled records for the years to come. Virender Sehwag and Yuvraj Singh were two amongst the lot of many others who were groomed into the cricketers they became who were active participants in the world cup triumphs later in 2007 and 2011.
Though things seemed to progress on the right path, Ganguly eventually lost form and the coming in of new coach, Greg Chappel had other plans in mind. Ganguly was eventually dropped leading way to his deputy, Rahul Dravid taking over. Though a tough time for Ganguly fans, the exchange of baton didn't see much trouble as there were only a limited contenders with Dravid being the obvious choice. Dravid lead India for a brief period which included India's worst ever world cup campaign.
This was the time which marked the emergence of the first T20 world cup. India was sending in a young athletic team with many as contenders for captaincy with most seniors backing out of this format. The obvious contenders were Sehwag, Gambhir and Yuvraj crediting their experience and comfort with the new T20 format. However, the board loved dynamic surprises. That marked the beginning of the rise of certain MS Dhoni from the east who very few knew would go on to be the most successful captain India had with that very world cup being the first among many accolades collected by this captain. Though Dhoni marked the beginning of a successful campaign, this didn't go down well with a number of players, Sehwag and Gambhir being the obvious two.
There were open spats between the players and eventually what happened is history. Today with all major ICC trophies under his belt, Dhoni is probably the only captain who has a choice to retire with his captaincy. Dhoni, did so with the test match format giving way to the obvious contender Virat Kohli. Though things seemes smooth with that, there still seems to be an array of clashes which very evidently are spotted time and again. The recent South Africa odi series saw a number of changes in position which lead to open blame games during the press conference. Though the teams stands united, things definitely look divided.
Dhoni so far has done his duties to the fullest. He has supported the team when most batsmen have failed with no one to follow. He has kept wickets for each match he has played and maintained a balance in the team. Though critics have blamed Dhoni for chosing his favourites over the more deserving one's, the Indian captain has silenced most by getting his job done. Ravi Shastri now has a big role to play to ensure a smooth dressing room atmosphere and probably is the best person to make sure history doesn’t repeat itself especially because he was a part of it.
The blame game and dark sides of politics in Cricket has lead to many fierce battles in the past both
on and off the field. The players who play for the country have delivered immense moments of joy and it is hence there needs to be someone who could stand up and referee this unfortunate Game of Thrones.