As the Sourav Ganguly-Greg Chappell love-fest unfolded, a more revealing story went unnoticed. Mark Cosgrove, a 21-year-old named as Australia's Young Cricketer of the Year, had his state contract suspended for being overweight. Cosgrove, a chunky left-hander, returned from league cricket in England 4 kg heavier than when he left and was suspended by South Australia (SA). The incident was a first for Australian cricket and the SA officials made it known that they took legal advice before suspending Cosgrove. This was not officiousness or blind adherence to inflexible rules; Cosgrove had been dropped due to poor form and fitness and was given training parameters and set specific tests when he left for England, which he failed to adhere to. The SA players' association supports Cosgrove, who has been embarrassed in public, and his club believes the issue should have been kept in-house.
But the decision, up for review in November, contained a powerful message: that shape up or ship out is not just a cool phrase, it is a principle to live by. If it has happened to a cricketer regarded as pretty special, it can happen to anyone. Cosgrove now has two choices: abide by the rules or stay on the sidelines. He has been pushed to make the choice because someone who runs the game in his state was not daunted from taking a tough decision.
In India, there are rules, regulations, contracts and clauses, but no tough calls. When the Indian one-day team was picked for the Bangladesh tour last year, the BCCI announced that V.V.S. Laxman had been "rested". Laxman had asked for no rest; the selectors had dropped him. It was just that the board could not bring itself to utter the "D" word in public. Officials lose no time in slagging off players but when it comes to tackling issues-of fitness, conduct, attitude or discipline-they fail to follow through. One cricket administrator has made it known to anyone who will listen that our top seven cricketers do not take fitness tests. Since the team's trainer is not leaking reports, there is no way of verifying the information but if the administrator knows this to be a fact, the next question is-well, what are you doing about it?
Players come and go, but administrators chug along forever. Each of them has the power and the right to raise a stink about an issue like this-not to get brownie points in the press but to effect meaningful attitudinal change. Lamenting about the "star system" is just an excuse for being weak-willed and media gags are just fig leaves.