Ramachandra Guha, a commentator on cricket and the author of The Commonwealth of Cricket as well as a historian of modern India, has said the lap of honour Narendra Modi took in an Ahmedabad cricket stadium earlier this week before the start of the India-Australia test match was “unprecedented in the history of the modern world”. He called it “spectacular, gross and distasteful”.
Guha says Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, who was on the chariot beside Modi during the lap of honour, would have been “squirming and embarrassed”.
In an interview to The Wire, Guha also spoke about the fact Usman Khawaja, who almost scored a double century on the first two days of the India-Australia test match which the two prime ministers inaugurated with their lap of honour, was initially refused a visa by the Indian government and couldn’t travel with the Australian cricket team when it arrived in India on February 1. It was only after Australia’s cricket administration protested that Khawaja got his visa. Malcolm Conn, writing in the Sydney Morning Herald, said the BJP sees “Khawaja not as one of Australia’s finest cricketers but as a muslim born in Pakistan”.
Guha said this treatment of Khawaja was “vicious and spiteful…and shows India in a poor light”. He added it “shames us…belittles us”.
The historian said the fact that genuine cricket fans and lovers were denied tickets on the first day of the test match so that Modi’s supporters could be given places instead is “deeply disturbing”. At one point he called it “an absolute scandal”.
Guha was also sharply critical of leading cricket commentators and Sunil Gavaskar, in particular, who he accused of “sycophantically praising Jay Shah”. The other leading commentators Guha mentioned by name are Harsha Bhogle, Sanjay Manjrekar and Ravi Shastri.
Much of the rest of the media, he continued, we now also have a Godi cricket media.
Guha was sharply critical of the BCCI involving itself with what is clearly a political event and not part of a cricket test match. In particular, he criticised Jay Shah for presenting the two prime ministers with photographs of themselves. He said it would have been far more appropriate to give the Indian prime minister a photograph of a major Australian cricketer, and he named both Shane Warne and Don Bradman. Similarly, he said the Australian prime minister should have been given a photograph of a major Indian cricketer like Sachin Tendulkar.
Guha was also critical of the fact this important match is being played in Ahmedabad rather than Kolkata, Chennai or Mumbai. He pointed out that in recent years, one test match of every series played in India is played in Ahmedabad. He said the only reason this happens is to please Jay Shah, Amit Shah and Narendra Modi.