Amritbani : Silence is Golden

Amrit Mathur

New Delhi:

The questions are routine, the answers no less predictable. Sample this.

• Question (to a rising star): What is your ambition? Answer: Playing for the country.

• Question (to an established star): What is your ambition? Answer: To continue playing for the country.

This exchange raises one more question: Do players have nothing to say, or is it they don’t want to say anything?

Maybe it is unfair to blame players for these responses because, even if they sound boring, there is little else they can say. Of course, players have other ambitions (for instance, becoming the best, captaining India) but decency demands that you chase these dreams silently. This approach suits our character and is consistent with our culture where modesty is celebrated. Experience demonstrates it is better to be low-profile and understated, this is the correct thing to do. A player who expresses his desire to become another Tendulkar, and fails, looks foolish, so it is better not to take a chance and play safe. Also, anyone making brash declarations runs the risk of antagonising others, which again is imprudent. No wonder, then, that Indian players are wary of mentioning their interest in captaining India, just like no politician announces he wants to occupy PM’s office. Dravid, vice captain for 20 years, when asked about this, slips into the defensive mode and measures his words so carefully you’d think someone just handed him a hand grenade about to explode.

Sehwag is another who deserves sympathy for being constantly badgered on this count. Based on his performance, personality and position in the team he is in line for the top job and already people (including the newly-appo-inted coach) are speculating about his accession to the throne. This leaves him in an uncomfortable position and he has one of these three options to choose from: One, say nothing and ignore the issue. Two, acknowledge interest and mouth platitudes (“Ganguly is doing a great job, It is a honour… and so on). Three, Get on to the front foot, say yes, and put hand up. Compared to India, there is greater frankness when it comes to articulating personal ambitions among foreign players. Ponting was never shy about leading Australia, nor is Gilchrist. Among subcontinent players, Shoaib Akhtar keeps broadcasting his desire but he is an exception, a limited edition of one, someone in the fast track, a player who is unafraid to advertise his worth. Shoaib has speed and style, the swagger and rawness of a gangster and speaks with an interesting twang that connects Lahore, London and Los Angeles. Releases plenty of verbal bouncers, some so short they are aimed at his foot, not the batsmen at the other end!

In India there is nobody like him. We can’t imagine Kumble or Laxman, both eminently suited to captain a Test side, talking openly about captaincy. Not to forget Tendulkar. Won’t it be interesting to know the views of someone who actually resigned the post? But that is unlikely to happen because, for Indian players, silence is golden.

Mathur is communication director of BCCI