Thursday, September 10, 2009

Indo-Pak cricketers don't trust each other:Wasim Akram

Cricketers in Pakistan and India do not trust each other, Wasim Akram tells Mobile ESPN as Younis Khan plans a players’ association in Pakistan.

Cricket and Khans have something in common in Pakistan cricket. Apart from being skilful players, they have built many a dream around them. Whether it is winning the World Cup or forming associations, a Khan has always held centre-stage.

The brightest and most accomplished of the Khans is arguably, Imran. Apart from leading Pakistan to the World Cup, Imran heads one of the most vibrant political parties in one of the most turbulent nations in world. He knows what it takes to form and hold an association together.

In spite of his amazing charisma and command over Pakistan cricket, Imran has probably never tried to put together a players’ association. May be, the life of a cricketer, the politics aside, was relatively uncomplicated when he plied his trade. Or, may be, he knew it would never work. Imran was a tactician in reading a player’s mind.

Cricket in the Seventies and the Eighties still retained its romantic aura. Amidst this, another Khan - Majid- a relative of the shrewd Imran, made the bold attempt to form Pakistan’s first cricket players’ body in the Eighties. It did not work.

Almost three decades down the line, yet another Khan - Younis - is re-igniting a dormant scheme at a time when Pakistan is staging a brave turnaround in world cricket. Younis seems determined and he will not be short on support for sure, but according to former Test captain Wasim Akram, “our culture” will be the biggest barrier, if the players’ association has to see the light of the day and then deliver.

Players associations in India have never been a success. Kapil Dev and party made the first definitive move in the Eighties to launch one. It saw the light of the day with Arun Lal at its helm. Due to lack of cohesion and orchestration, it died a slow death.

In the Nineties, the Indian Cricket Players Association was launched with stunning fanfare in a multi-star hotel in Kolkata. It had the blessing of India’s biggest stars and even the tacit support of the wealthy sponsors of the national team. Lal, with his knowledge base, was party too. Agan, it didn’t work. It didn’t because the BCCI bosses were not amused. And no one rubs the BCCI bosses on the wrong side.

With so much of individual gains at stake, no cricketer worth his salt wanted to be on the bad books of India’s cricket administrators. To anger a certain Jagmohan Dalmiya in the Nineties would have been suicidal. With endorsements linked to their tenure in the Indian team, even a Sourav Ganguly wouldn’t dare to take on the powerful bosses. ICPA was soon to become history.

Irrespective of their massive differences, BCCI committees over the years, have hated players’ associations. At the height of the contracts issue in 2000-2001, Dalmiya’s ICC treated the international players’ body, FICA, with utter disdain. In simple words, players have never been able to raise their voice against cricket’s bigwigs.

In recent times, Virender Sehwag will probably know that better. They say, a friend in deed is a friend indeed. In Indian cricket, no one is a friend. And Sehwag was only dealing with something very local. He had all the sympathies of the “rebel” Delhi cricketer. But sympathies don’t win battles.

Akram says a geographical divide hasn’t partitioned our way of thinking.

“We have a strange culture in India and Pakistan. Players just can’t trust each other. I think it is the ONLY reason why players’ associations have not worked,” says Akram, highlighting selfish interests as almost all players want to make hay while the sun shines. The commercial stakes are just too high to fall on the wrong side of the game’s dreaded officialdom, who know when to gang up and when to part ways.

But Akram feels Pakistan is badly in need of a players’ body. “In our part of the world, it is a must. In India, the BCCI is quite supportive of the players. In Pakistan, it is not. If Younis succeeds, nothing like it,” says Akram.

Fortunately for Younis, the cricket Board chief Ejaz Butt has reacted positively to a players’ association. The problem is Butt is himself sitting on a volcano called the PCB. It’s always on a short-circuit. Very much like our super-hero cricketers and their dream associations.

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