Farokh Engineer and his unexpected act in jest!
For a cricket controversy this one certainly died too soon! Indeed, controversies in this vibrant sport usually lingers on and in these days when there is such a robust social media the chances are any trivial talk or unwanted opinion usually get churned into a huge subject of endless discussions.
As they say making a mountain of a mole hill would be an apt way of putting it and that is also how Farokh Engineer, the erstwhile Indian Test wicket keeper-batsman meekly summed up the general outburst for not only his adverse comment on the current Indian selectors but also for unwittingly drawing Virat Kohli's actor wife Anushka Sharma into the picture in the process.
Coming from Engineer this was bit of a surprise. He was known in his playing days for his dash be it in keeping wickets or in his batting approach. They say it was never easy to keep wickets to the famed Indian quartet Bedi, Prasanna, Chandrasekhar and Venkataraghavan but this man coped with the pressure involved and admirably too.
His aggressive intent while batting was often considered a refreshing approach against the tough oppositions that England, Australia or West Indies were in his playing days. Bubbly was his nature as a player who played 46 Tests. Yet for all this the man can slip as he showed the other day.
What provoked him to go off the handle against the Selectors it is not easy to say but apparently he was peeved that men who played lesser number of Tests, put together than him should be serving the most important function in Indian cricket! He did not seem to know all of them. And what triggered it off it would seem was when he noticed someone in an India blazer (which he confirmed was one Selector) at the World Cup in England offering tea to Anushka!
Now, the World Cup was long over, several months ago and to be dragging a moment from there seemed a trifle out of place in the first place. So what was Engineer up to? Cricketers of the past express in various ways. Some like Gundappa Vishwanath perhaps prefers silence after all the talking his bat had done in his glorious career, some others like Sunil Gavaskar, Srikkanth, Laxman and others have found the medium of TV commentary or newspaper columns enough opportunity to express their views.
Engineer himself has played the role of a busy Match Referee in the IPL but one has hardly heard his opinions in recent times until he grabbed every sports lovers eyeball with his inflammable opinion on the selectors. Again was it not a wrong time for this 81-year old to castigate the Selectors? Surely just because one in that group extended the courtesy of a cup of Tea to Anushka would not have been the key reason.
If anything the Selectors – M. S. K. Prasad, Sarandeep Singh, Jatin Paranjpe, Gagan Khoda and Devang Gandhi - have been having a fine time overall thanks to the way the cricketers whom they had selected have made the Indian team into a tough unit. Statistics show that Indian cricketers' performances in the last few years have been more than heartwarming. What is more, India is current ICC Test champion. So much then for the Selectors' progress card.
No wonder then that the Chairman of the Selection Committee, M. S. K. Prasad gave it back to Engineer in strong words setting aside for a moment the latter's stature. Nor did Anushka hold back as she came with a long statement on what she felt, pouring out her mounting anger in no small way. She had already been under pressure with regular nagging comments for her visits to the venue to be with her boyfriend turned husband. Suggestions that her presence had affected Kohli performance seemed misplaced but critics never bank on rationality anyway.
Engineer's latest jibe only brought that pent up anger out. “Comment on the selection committee but why drag my name,” seemed her refrain. It is a different matter that he turned a more dignified Engineer later when he apologised to the well known actor for his wrong comment which he submitted was more out of jest!
To say the wrong things at the wrong time clearly proved Engineer's undoing. Indian cricket may have been a subject for public debate on various aspects but never in recent times did the group of Selectors come into this domain. So to smear a damaging remark on them, even if in jest, can hardly be taken lightly.
Prasad gave an indication of how the panel took it when he burst out that Engineer should not be indulging in such petty talk but instead, for his age, reflect maturity and enjoy the progress of Indian cricket. Words, that had come from a hurt mind.
Engineer had always believed in hurting rival bowlers with his sizzling batting in his younger days. Certainly he would not have bargained for this twist. But that is life, after all his deeds who would have expected there would be a day when brickbats would replace words of praise!