Good at philosophising, poor at delivery
Public intellectual, historian, and cricket enthusiast Ramachandra Guha created some stir in the cesspool called Indian cricket administration last week. He wrote a long note to Vinod Rai, head of the committee of administrators (COA), appointed by the Supreme Court to look into the affairs of Board of Cricket Control in India (BCCI), on what ought to have been done and what not has been done; and what motivates him to quit.
In placing himself in a holier than thou position, Guha failed to maintain the sanctity of one-to-one correspondence as the letter was there in the public domain even before Rai would have gone through it. Guha's act once again endorses his qualities as a public intellectual, who can articulate a very incisive criticism of any public policy or public personality but would shirk from taking any public responsibility unless ideal situation prevails, a quality so akin to the Philosopher King of Plato.
Plato was a philosopher who lived in Greece in 2nd and 3rd Century BC. He was the founder of the first seat of higher learning in the Western world – the Academy in Athens. He was the most pivotal figure in the development of philosophy, especially the Western tradition. Plato's entire work is believed to have survived intact for over 2,400 years.
In Book IV of his most famous treatise 'Republic', Plato defined a philosopher firstly as its eponymous occupation: "wisdom-lover". He then distinguishes between one who loves true knowledge as opposed to mere experience or education, by saying that the philosopher is the only person who has access to ideas. In support of the idea that philosophers are the best rulers, Plato fashioned the "Ship of State" metaphor, one of his most often cited ideas, where he says, a "true pilot must of necessity pay attention to the seasons, the heavens, the stars, the winds, and everything proper to the craft if he is really to rule a ship."
But then Plato's ideas also came in for criticism for being a totalitarian concept. Sir Karl Popper, one of the most respected philosophers of the 20th century, blamed Plato for the rise of totalitarianism in the 20th century. Popper saw Plato's philosopher kings, with their dreams of "social engineering" and 'idealism', as leading directly to Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin (Popper, Karl; The Poverty of Historicism; Routledge, 2002).
Guha's letter when read carefully makes him a suspect as far as taking the responsibility of waging a long drawn battle to reform the Indian cricket goes though he pleads for an ideal situation. This is also reflected in the duplicity of language and thought. He begins the letter to Rai writing, "It has been a pleasure working with Diana (Eduljee), Vikram (Limaye) and you in the Supreme Court Committee of Administrators. It has been an educative experience, spending long hours with three top-flight professionals from whom I have learned a lot in these past few months. However, it has been clear for some time now that my thoughts and views are adjacent to, and sometimes at odds with, the direction the Committee is taking as a whole."
And at the seventh point, he mentions, "I believe it was a mistake for the COA to have stayed silent and inactive when the Supreme Court judgment was being so flagrantly violated by people clearly disqualified to serve as office bearers of state and even BCCI run cricket bodies. The disqualified men were openly attending BCCI meetings, claiming to represent their state association, and indeed played a leading role in the concerted (if fortunately in the end aborted) attempt to get the Indian team to boycott the Champions Trophy. All these illegalities were widely reported in the press; yet the COA did not bring them to the notice of the Court, and did not issue clear directions asking the offenders to desist either."
This is in contrast to the opening lines and brings the CoA into disrepute, helping the cause of those strongly entrenched vested interest whom Rai and committee is trying to dislodge.
Mastery over language and art of articulation, in the long letter, has failed Guha at places where he has emerged as an advocate of parochial interests. Without taking away an iota of greatness which constitutes the personas of Anil Kumble and Javagal Srinath, Guha could have saved them the embarrassment by acting as their advocate.
He writes, especially in the case of Srinath, "I believe that the lack of attention to these (and other such issues) is in part due to the absence of a senior and respected male cricketer on our Committee. ...Based on my knowledge of the subject, I would say Javagal Srinath would be an excellent choice. He is a world-class cricketer, was a successful and scandal-free Secretary of the Karnataka State Cricket Association and is an ICC match referee, and comes from an educated technical background to boot. I strongly urge the Chairman and the other members to consider approaching him in this regard. He would complement Diana perfectly, and the combination of these two respected and top class former cricketers would enhance our credibility and effectiveness enormously."
I am sure given the enormous tomes he has written on the history of cricket in this country and his self-assessed "knowledge of the subject" could have helped him look beyond the state of Karnataka. Was Guha's resignation triggered by his inability to have his way in the matters of appointment?
One is glad that cricketing giant Sunil Gavaskar has picked up the gauntlet and answered Guha, saying, "If there is a superstar culture, then there is also a jealousy culture. Jealousy culture at people who have done something for Indian cricket, continue to do something for Indian cricket that they should not be allowed to do something for Indian cricket and those who have not done anything for Indian cricket, who have got a peripheral connection with Indian cricket should be allowed to do something." The last has certainly not been heard on the matter.
(Sidharth Mishra is President, Centre for Reforms, Development & Justice and Consulting Editor, Millennium Post. The views are strictly personal.)