The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has opened another can of worms by proposing a mini Test and One-Day International (ODI) series against the West Indies at home in November, to allow Sachin Tendulkar play his landmark 200th Test in his own backyard. Ever since the story has broken, opinion has been polarised: with some lambasting the board`s latest money-making gimmick by exploiting public sentiment; while others welcomed it with open arms, their mouths drooling at the prospect of seeing their Little Master don the white flannels at home for one last time.
The writer will not get into the debate, since much has been written about it already from both sides. The debate, like many others in this diverse country is a never-ending one, so why not focus on the solution. How else could the BCCI have gone about this, apart from of course minding their own business and letting the natural order of things to proceed? Seen from purely a commercial aspect, Tendulkar`s 200th in India is a no-brainer — a cash piñata waiting to be whacked open. Given the usual nonchalance with which any corporate organisation would want to capitalise on the strengths of its best employee, the BCCI`s move is by no means a shocker.
But the big bad wolf of the cricket world could have saved itself a lot of flak had it just delved into how it`s done in other sports. Take football for example. When a player nears retirement, or completes 10 years with a single club, that club organises what is called a testimonial match in the player`s honour. A testimonial is basically a non-competitive game where the club usually calls some of its former players and teammates of the retiring player to participate in a match in the latter`s honour. The opposition is irrelevant, but usually another top-flight team. Earlier, when the money wasn`t there in sport like it is today, the proceeds from the match would go to the retiring player as a type of retirement package. However, today, with sportsmen becoming millionaires in their early twenties, the proceeds usually go charity.
Imagine a testimonial match for Tendulkar: involving former teammates such as Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman and Anil Kumble. Imagine the pulling power even a single game like this would have. And imagine the brownie points the BCCI could earn if they decided to donate the proceeds to charity (the last point does sound inconceivable, but then the BCCI doesn`t really need the cash, does it?) It is of course easier said than done. It is not guaranteed that all the mentioned players would agree to play, but even if Tendulkar played the match with the current Indian team, there wouldn`t be too many complaining.
A single, non-competitive, unofficial testimonial match for Tendulkar, either before or after the South African tour (or whichever series he decides to retire after), would have attracted a lot more attention and eyeballs, especially if the famed middle-order quartet could somehow come together for one last time. An unofficial status would of course mean that Tendulkar would not play his 200th Test in India, but isn`t the main idea behind staging such matches letting the local fans catch one last glimpse of their maestro before he hangs up his boots?
Logistically, too, it would have made better sense to schedule just the one game, whether it`s a Test match or an ODI (or even a T20I), in an otherwise packed international schedule. The much-awaited South Africa tour, scheduled to begin in the last third of November, would also not suffer as a result of the dates. The West Indies, or any other team for that matter who have the dates, would all too willingly participate as the opponents. Allegations of the BCCI selecting an easy opposition to play against would be put to rest since it is a non-competitive game. If Tendulkar flops in the match, it wouldn`t hit the fans as much as it would if it were a Test match. If he doesn`t, and scores a hundred, the detractors would still not be able to say that he got it easy, since it doesn`t really count. From whichever angle you look at it, the BCCI is the winner.
Now, if this proposed West Indies series is indeed a ploy hatched up to shorten the South Africa tour and get back at Cricket South Africa for reasons best known to the two boards, then it is of course a totally different matter. But if the BCCI`s move to stage this mini series for Tendulkar is purely for commercial (and sentimental?) reasons, then a testimonial would indeed have saved them a lot of tomatoes flung in their direction, and enabled them to trend on social media for the right reasons for a change.
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