On a wintry morning of Ferozeshah Kotla in 1990, a neat-looking, albeit fragile man came to me and introduced himself as Ramachandra Guha. He sat next to me, presented himself as author of “Wickets in the East” and mentioned my piece which had appeared in the day’s edition of Times of India on the ongoing Delhi’s Ranji Trophy fixture. He spoke about cricket like a tragic fan and we were two of a similar kind.
The next two decades took a certain different trajectory in our careers. I became a full-blooded cricket writer, following Indian cricket team all over the world for PTI, BBC and any and every cricket-information distributing platform, be it print or digital. Guha grew in academic and political landscape, without letting go on his interest in cricket, till we converged again.
I began drifting into politics and getting a hang of India’s ancient heritage and a 1000-year-old curse which had befallen the original inhabitants of the land through an unbroken oppression of Islamic invaders, colonialism and dare I say, Congress. Researching for long painful hours, months and years, while writing my book “How United States Shot Humanity”, I could see how a combination of academia, media, NGOs, political and religious class backed and funded by Western imperialism were intent on creating icons to ensure India never gets in touch with its soul. Its’ roots. One of the guys I discovered in this dark, sinister agenda happened to be Guha.
And thus began my counters to his pieces which were appearing in India’s mainstream English dailies. I showed him the Gandhi which he dressed up as divine and which Africans today see as a racist who hated blacks. I questioned him on his silence in Gandhi’s stance on Khilafat movement, Direct Action Day etc. I questioned him on his propaganda and lies against Narendra Modi. Understandably, he wasn’t ready for his own “Experiments with Truth” and chose not to debate.
Now we see this cricket article, just before the Wanderers Test, where Guha launches a withering personal attack on Virat Kohli, coach Ravi Shastri, selectors and BCCI after the Indian team was down 0-2 to South Africa. This piece must be read in full, for it would show you Guha’s regional and cultural bias (Kannadiga vs Punjabi), his bias for Western educated class against more homespun home talent and how he contrives to bring ‘bhakts’ in his diatribe which betrays his pathological hate against Modi and present ruling dispensation in India.
In Guha’s view, Kohli’s arrogance is costing Team India. He believes everyone is beholden to him — be it selectors, coach and the BCCI, and this has made India’s charismatic young captain run amuck in matters of team selection. He goes on to talk about how harmful this is to the institution called cricket.
One, Guha is mistaking Kohli’s attitude for arrogance. Indeed, it’s Guha’s own arrogance (“I-am-unlikely-to-meet-Kohli-again”) which shines through his piece. Is wearing emotions on your sleeve arrogance? Does Guha want Kohli to be oily-wily dealer that he himself is? Does he know the blood and sweat which goes into facing the furnace of Test cricket, all in a bid for personal pride and nation’s prestige? Trust me, I am at Wanderers and could tell you men that like Guha would struggle to stay one day—forget four days—on feet in this burning sun of Johannesburg.
The Wanderers Test is over and I haven’t read Guha praise Kohli for his brave decision to bat first on a pitch — and against an attack — which would send a chill down the spine of any international batsman. Guha has no words to say on Kohli signaling his batsmen to stay put when they were being hit all over and being prodded by the two umpires to go back into the shade. The kind of batting he produced on the first morning when India could so easily have been 4-5 wickets down. How in the face of Elgar-Amla stand, Kohli kept his faith in his bowlers and held his ground in shifting sands. How he backed Mohammad Shami — who had looked woefully out of his depth in first innings — by giving him the new ball and later bringing him on when the match was in balance and South Africa still had five wickets in the hut.
Anyone who has seen Kohli jump up and down at the fall of a wicket, more joyous than the bowler himself, would admit that this young man, newly married, has invested every bit of his body and soul in upholding the nation he represents. Kohli is a soul which is uncorrupted by glamour, fame and money in his quest for excellence. He is a role model for young India, a symbol of Brave and not Arrogant India. Guha had found his voice to praise Elgar, and not Kohli, in his tweets. That’s too cheap on what arguably is India’s greatest overseas Test win ever. Perhaps praising a Punjabi is too much for a representative of a “deep state” in the Indian ecosystem.
If Kohli is a rebel, so were Sunny, Kapil and Sourav Ganguly in their times. They are Indian heroes and not products of a lobby that Guha is.
Guha is critical of star culture in Indian cricket but, ironically, he wants a star culture when it comes to the selection committee! For him, MSK Prasad is no good compared to selectors in the past, such as Vijay Merchant and Dilip Vengsarkar. Who are we to tell him that Tiger Pataudi was on record that Merchant threw him out of Indian team because of a personal grudge against his father, Ifthikar. Or that Prasad, a “non-star”, is far better and pain-staking in his methods than Srikkanth ever was.
In a withering attack on Ravi Shastri, Guha calls him “strikingly inferior” compared to Anil Kumble. If anything, Kumble was the usurper of Shastri’s job for the latter has propelled India to 1-1-2 spots in Tests, ODI and T20 formats. Shastri was booted out when he had ticket all boxes of team spirit, technical inputs and results. Guha should have cried “foul” in favour of Shastri. If a cricketer’s record alone justifies his being a good coach, then India wouldn’t have lost 0-3 under Kapil Dev in Australia. And an “inferior” Ottis Gibson couldn’t have won a Test series against world No. 1 for South Africa.
It’s not as if Kohli-Kumble tussle is the first time a coach and a captain have had a fall out. Peter Moores-Kevin Pieterson episode doesn’t need a repetition here. John Buchanan was still needed in Australia despite Shane Warne’s distaste for him.
Clearly Guha has a problem in coming to terms with a young, brash Indian captain taking on an “idol” Kumble. He doesn’t like a rebel standing up to the “entitlements” of the establishment. Much like he hates those who are dismantling the information-controlling matrix of which he is a part.
Guha stayed put as a cricket administrator for four months. His leaving his honorary job serves his political agenda for it burnished him as morally upright. He chose his moment against Kohli when he was down — much like rats spread themselves on floor to nibble on crumbs. He never said a word on Kohli when the latter was winning. There was no word from him on Kumble interfering with NCA selections or setting up cricket series while he was the cricket administrator.
You can question Kohli and Shastri on team selection but that’s a matter of judgment. No coach or captain would want to lose a Test on account of personal prejudice, if there is one. Real men take real decisions in real time. Only fake academicians and historians use the pen to push their own agenda and sometimes work against the nation’s interest. In not praising Kohli and India’s arguably greatest Test win ever, Guha has shown he only loves his agenda and not Indian cricket.
Author of “How United States Shot Humanity”, Senior Journalist, TV Presenter