New Delhi, June 26 -- Where does one draw the line? Choc-a-bloc scheduling leave Boards with no alternative but to pick second or even third-string teams against lesser rivals in 'just another' bilateral limited overs series. It's been a constant feature, not just in India or Australia but everywhere. In 2010, India fielded a team captained by Gautam Gambhir and missing many regulars, in a five-match ODI series against New Zealand. Ditto against West Indies in 2011.
Naturally, the media house that held the precious India cricket rights was not thrilled. But can you blame the Board for resting big players ahead of a crucial tour of South Africa, quickly followed by the World Cup? Despite fielding a second string side, India went on to whitewash New Zealand 5-0.
Michael Clarke's Australia haven't been at full-strength at home for a while. Recently, reports emerged from Down Under that Channel Nine are unhappy with Cricket Australia's rotation policy. Their affiliation has lasted the test of time, through those years of the late Kerry Packer's revolt. CA has since played down the debate, asserting that Channel Nine will never gain influence over team selection.
Harish Thawani's Nimbus Communications is locked in a legal battle with BCCI over its premature termination as holder of India cricket rights last year.
A contract between cricket boards and TV networks obligate the former to "field the best possible side" at every given time, just why Nimbus wasn't pleased when India didn't field stars on weekend day-night matches, potential money-spinners. It is learnt that BCCI's lawyers have justified the line-ups by claiming injury to big-ticket players. In fact, this is the bone of contention. Nimbus wanted a discount for matches sans stars.
Just demand "When a primary side's (India, England, Australia, South Africa) TV rights are sold, it is a logical expectation, and embedded in contract, that the board must field the best side. Why not field your full-strength side at home? Channel Nine is justified in expecting a full squad. But they are not interfering in selection. All they are saying is field your best side at home - showcase your talent," Thawani told HT.
"The resting rotation policy is absurd. The average workload of a footballer is running 9 miles a day. Some cricketers are old and unfit. TV companies are telling boards - look, you manage a player's workload in a series that we are not paying for. Don't do it at home when we are paying so much money. It is very unprofessional," added Thawani.
In late 2011, India played the last of their five ODIs against West Indies on December 11. A few days later, the team left for Australia. When Nimbus asked BCCI to justify the second-string side for the home series, BCCI wrote back and highlighted injuries and niggles that each player was carrying. Though Nimbus, justifiably, cried foul, Virender Sehwag smashed a world record 219 at Indore in the second game of that series. The TRP for that game soared beyond eight.
So, will everyone truly be happy?
Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.