Speaking at a private event to felicitate the Mumbai Indians on their victory at the IPL John Wright, always dignified, always self-effacing, said that teams play for their supporters and that therefore it should always be a privilege to play before fans. It is something that everyone in Indian cricket must ask of each other every day. “Are we being fair to our supporters? Are we doing right by our fans?” It is not an alien question. It is the foundation of every well run corporation for it is by being close to their customers that they survive. And so as Indian cricket grapples with issues of legality but, even more so, of morality, the first question those in charge must ask is: What is right for the fans who allow us to be who we are?
Over the last eight weeks I have had the great privilege of travelling around India and watching fans fill stadiums day after day after day. I have never in my life seen an event as openly embraced as the IPL From a cricketing point of view it is a magnificent tournament, it is tough and it is thrilling, but now a colossal cloud hangs over it. Three players are in jail so is a top official of the best team over six years. Along with them are some of the most unsavoury elements of our society. Not for the first time, and certainly not for the last, has sport found itself in bed with the devil. It is time not just to do what is right but what is seen to be right for the Indian fan.
He (sorry but “he/she”, sentences become complicated!) wants to be certain that his faith is not misplaced for he gives to his sport everything he has; his hard earned money, his time and his feelings. He braves hardships to go to stadiums, stands in long queues to get a wave from a star and screams his lungs out for his team. All he wants really, and that is at the base of this huge outburst against the BCCI, is a guarantee that his faith is being reciprocated. And so, Indian cricket must not only think of what is right for the BCCI but what is right for the fan.