TELFORD VICE, Cape Town
INDIAN cricket took its eye off the ball for the second time in three days on Sunday. But, this time, it meant to do so.
On Friday in Dharamsala millions of Indians were left scratching their heads wondering what had gone wrong after SA came from nowhere to win the first Twenty20 international.
On Sunday in Mumbai Shashank Manohar was elected president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) in Mumbai, putting more distance between the organisation and the era of mafia madness presided over by Narayanaswami Srinivasan.
That ended in March when Jagmohan Dalmiya took over after Srinivasan was prevented from standing for another term by an Indian supreme court investigation into alleged corruption in the Indian Premier League.
But Dalmiya died last month, leaving vacant the most powerful position in cricket. Who controls the BCCI and how they do so is more important to world cricket’s overall wellbeing than who runs the International Cricket Council (ICC). So the fact that Srinivasan chairs the ICC is a relatively minor issue.
Manohar, who has held the position before, is unlikely to stage a revolution for the better. But, on Sunday at least, he said something that could add to Srinivasan’s worries: “The BCCI will appoint an ethics officer independent of the board to look into complaints of conflict of interest. The board will also educate the players in order to wipe out corruption from the game.”
Perhaps the most effective way to seal the truth into secrecy is to cover it up with the help of an official investigation. But there will be hope, for now, that Manohar is a man of his word.
For all that the best signifier of a new dawn for the game in the society in which it matters most would still be victory for the home side in the second T20 in Cuttack on Monday.
The way from the boardroom to the boundary is longer in India than in any other country where cricket is taken seriously, but success on the field will always hog the spotlight.
Not that SA will be in any mood to ease the new BCCI boss into office. The wave of confidence they would have raised in their rousing comeback on Friday, when JP Duminy and Farhaan Behardien shared 105 runs off 55 balls to clinch a match SA had no right to win, will still be raging high and handsome on Monday.
It’s early days yet in SA’s marathon sojourn in India, but there can be no under-estimating the value not only of SA winning the first match but in the stirring manner that they won it.
Rohit Sharma, who scored 106 on Friday to put India on the road to their total of 199/5, confirmed as much when he spoke about his fine innings.
“It’s always important to start a series well, and I had that in mind when I went out to bat,” Rohit said. “My focus was on getting some runs in the very first game since it sets the tone for the rest of the series.”
That the warm fuzzy feelings were still flowing in the SA camp was plain when Kyle Abbott tweeted on Sunday, “Good afternoon from the team bus on the way to practice.” He added a photograph of Marchant de Lange and Imran Tahir giving a cheerful thumbs-up.
SA will hope the fact that Abbott’s photograph also featured the bus’ emergency exit is not an omen. But, right now, their eye is firmly on the ball.