AA Edit | IPL: An unsportsman-like rant

Sanjiv Goenka's public dressing down of K.L. Rahul raises questions on owner-player dynamics in cricket

IPL team owner Sanjiv Goenka’s rant against K.L. Rahul in the glare of floodlights and TV cameras was most unbecoming of a sports team owner. The dressing down the owner gave his star cricketer was not in keeping with the spirit of sport, particularly an unpredictable game of great uncertainties like cricket.

Champion teams are sometimes mowed down in a complex team sport in which individuals have huge space to shine though it wasn’t Kannur Lokesh Rahul’s day as he batted slowly and then saw his bowlers being blasted to smithereens as Hyderabad Sunrisers bulldozed the Lucknow Super Giants in less than half the 20 overs to climb to third in the IPL table.

There is no denying that generous sports team owners open their purse to pay the players even if the cash-rich IPL is more of an entertainment business that has brought industrialist and showbiz personality owners into the limelight even as it promises to be a rewarding experience for owners as well as players.

The cricketers are professionals who try to live up to their reputation and rating in every match they play in, particularly in a high-profile tournament like the IPL that is all the rage in India and is the world’s highest paying T20 cricket league.

It was the public way in which the owner berated his captain, and presumably his team, for performing miserably that rankled. But then in this game of fluctuating fortunes the chances of having a bad day while the opponents have a good one are quite common.

In IPL history, the owner of Lucknow Super Giants who had once owned the Rising Pune Supergiants, had showed shocking lack of cricketing judgment in sacking Mahendra Singh Dhoni as captain when he was already limited-overs cricket and IPL’s winningest skipper ever, and replacing him with the Australian Steve Smith.

It is not known what the LSG owner told his captain though the body language was a giveaway. To Rahul’s credit, he took the criticism in a stoic style of the quality sportsman that he is.

What the episode brought out was owners, regardless of how rich and powerful they are, they must still bow to the vicissitudes in the game of cricket, which can often be a humbling experience.

As the famous saying about the game as a metaphor for fair play goes, “it’s not cricket”, certainly not when owners pounce on a cricket captain as if he were an employee on the shop floor.

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