Asia Cup 2018: India's off-field stranglehold

M. Serajul Islam | Published: October 05, 2018 21:45:26 | Updated: October 06, 2018 21:21:33

LITON DAS ADJUDGED STUMPED DURING THEIR ASIA CUP FINAL AGAINST INDIA IN DUBAI ON SEPTEMBER 28, 2018: "TV replays were shown from as many angles as possible. None showed what was needed to give Liton out; that his back foot was clearly outside the line. The law states that if a batsman is not unquestionably out and if there is even the slightest doubt about his possible dismissal, the benefit should go to him."

What is it that the International Cricket Council or ICC and the Asian Cricket Council or ACC, the guardians of international cricket, have against Bangladesh cricket? And do they realise that by their conduct, it is becoming palpably evident that they are becoming subservient to the wishes of the Indians? The case of Rohit Sharma during the 2015 World Cup will remain forever as a black spot on the ICC for failing to encourage its umpires to interpret cricket rules fairly and honestly. At in the just concluded Asia Cup final, the ACC added another black spot on fairness and honesty. In 2015 World Cup, Rohit Sharma was out and the umpires gave him the benefit of doubt. In the Asia Cup Final, Liton Das was not out; yet the umpires gave him out. Both times Bangladesh was victimised for India's benefit.

Liton Das was playing the game of his life. With Mehedi Miraj as an experimental opening partner, the two had taken the highly fancied Indian bowlers to the cleaners with an opening partnership of 120 in 20.5 overs. And after Liton had completed a fabulous century, by far the best batting exhibition of the tournament, and looked like taking the game away from the Indians, he was stumped. The on-field umpires M Erasmus and R Palliyaguruge referred it to R Tucker, the third umpire who pondered and for what appeared a wait till eternity. TV replays were shown from as many angles as possible. None showed what was needed to give Liton out; that his back foot was clearly outside the line. The law states that if a batsman is not unquestionably out and if there is even the slightest doubt about his possible dismissal, the benefit should go to him.

That was not to be in Liton's case.  And as the game was paused, the cricket commentators, mainly Indians and Australians, became busy praising the wicket-keeping talents of Mahendra Singh Dhoni. And while they did so, they failed in their duties to report what the TV replays were showing, that there was enough doubt that Liton was out. If they had reported what they had clearly seen, it would perhaps not have allowed the Third Umpire to commit not just another miscarriage of justice against Bangladesh but by doing so, take the Asia Cup away from the Bangladesh team and hand it over to the Indians.

Liton Das was clearly not out. At best, the Third Umpire could have felt from one or two angles that perhaps he might have been out. But then the laws should have reminded him if there is even the slightest doubt about a batsman being out, the decision should go in favour of the batsman. In fact, it was the long delay that the Third Umpire took that underlined clearly to all that were watching the game live that he too had doubts in his mind. Or else why did he take so long? Therefore, the Third Umpire violated the law and gave Liton out unlawfully while there was substantial doubt about his dismissal. And Liton in the form he was could have added a good number of runs more to the team's total just like Rohit Sharma at the time of the World Cup quarter-final game against Bangladesh (only in case of the latter in the World Cup, he was clearly out and the Third Umpire gave him the reprieve and in case of Liton, he was clearly not out and guillotined).

Thus the rational question that comes to mind, particularly among the Bangladeshi cricket fans, is whether the guardians of international cricket have secretly changed the laws. Perhaps, the umpires have been given secret instruction that the benefit of doubt in controversial cases of dismissal should go to the batsmen of teams that have international clout with the guardians of cricket that decide about the game and its future. And in distributing the favours of such benefit, India should head the list because of the fabulous money it spins through the Indian Premier League (IPL). In fact, many now openly guess that in Liton's case the Third Umpire might was perhaps considering that if he gave the benefit of doubt to Bangladesh at a very critical phase of the game, he would upset the Indians and compromise his own benefits from the money that the IPL spins.

In this year's Asia Cup, the ACC further exposed how the regulators of international cricket serve Indian interests. It changed the schedules of the fixtures after the competition had started and did not care that by doing so, it was caught with its pants down favouring India. The Indians had expressed before the start of the tournament their desire to play all their games in Dubai as they did not want to travel to Abu Dhabi because of the excessive heat and other discomforts and disadvantages. And while all other teams played matches in Abu Dhabi, not the favoured venue for the teams in the tournament, the Indians played all their games in royal style, in Dubai like the tournament was made to order for their convenience. The change of schedule mid-way infuriated the Bangladesh captain Mashrafe Mortaza so much that he commented that "even a mad person would be upset" by such an illegal and controversial act of the ACC

It is not just the ICC and the ACC that are openly favouring Indian interests in the cricket field and outside and often shamelessly, Indian cricket commentators, all famous former Test cricketers, have become a part of this nexus of evil with the Australian cricket commentators as  their lackeys. They openly comment and speak in favour of the Indian Team and Indian players leaving no one in doubt that they are palpably biased. And in this list of biased Indian and Australian commentators, Sunil Gavaskar heads the list. The final match of this year's Asia Cup was one where Bangladesh and Liton had stamped their superiority although the match went to India. Yet when Gavaskar came on the screen for summing up the game moments after it was over, his praises were all for the Indians, on how they had come back in the game, etcetera, etcetera.

Gavaskar praised the Bangladesh team but only in a patroniding way. He gave the Bangladesh Team a boost when he said that it and not the Pakistan team that should henceforth be seen as India's competitor in the ODI format in Asian cricket. He said that perhaps to humiliate Pakistan. That exposed Gavaskar's petty mindedness in addition to his bias that he made even worse by his atrocious comments on Shakib's finger injury. He wanted Bangladesh to field the best team to beat Pakistan in the Super Four games. He was therefore upset that Shakib was not playing in  the game for his broken pinky finger. He mocked at Shakib and had said that a good batsman did not even need that finger to bat! It later turned out that Shakib's injury was extremely serious.  He had an operation and would be out of cricket for three months. Gavaskar knew nothing about the injury. Yet he chose to insult Shakib and the Bangladesh selectors because he was more interested in Bangladesh fielding the best team, not for Bangladesh's sake, but to beat Pakistan for fulfilling India's interests!

Bangladesh played the final match without Tamim and Shakib and India fielded its best eleven in that match. Yet the India's were looking at the barrel of the gun during the entire match. The same Indian eleven could only tie with Afghanistan and against the part-timers of Hong Kong, came close to losing. The Asia Cup thus underlined that the Indians are as likely to lose their next ODI match to any of them as to any other team in international cricket. It is for the ICC and the ACC to realise it for the good of cricket; that the Indians are only as good as the others they play against and on its day, Bangladesh could beat it easily.

Postscript: That, of course, will not happen. The money that the IPL spins is so huge that it will allow India to treat international cricket the way it wants. Everyone in the international cricket circuit that includes the cricket administrators, regulators, umpires, players, technicians, groundsmen, etcetera etcetera, has just one hope these days, to attract the attention of those who run the IPL for an opportunity to be involved with it. IPL is their road to riches. Therefore, India would not need to seek favour; it will be favoured anyway as long as IPL is there and gets stronger by the year. These are sad days for international cricket.

M. Serajul Islam is a former Ambassador.

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