Qaiser Mohammad Ali
A Delhi government plan to organise a function at the Ferozeshah Kotla on Saturday to honour eight prominent Delhi cricketers who were part of India’s World Cup-winning 1983 and 2011 teams was cancelled amid controversy, with fingers being pointed at “politics” for the fiasco.
The function was to be held during the third day’s play in the India-South Africa Test and chief minister Arvind Kejriwal was to present mementoes and shawls to World Cup-winning players, besides former India captains Bishan Singh Bedi and late Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi, who was to be represented by his wife and legendary actress Sharmila Tagore.
The felicitation, which was to last about 10 minutes, was cancelled after the Delhi government and the BCCI failed to agree to the spot where the felicitation was to take place, with the initial timing being the lunch interval in the play, before it was advanced to prior to the start of play that day. The Delhi government wanted to hold the function inside the field of play while the BCCI wanted it to be held outside the boundary rope.
Noted lawyer Rahul Mehra, who was coordinating with the BCCI and the Test match-hosting association DDCA on behalf of the Delhi government, said that the Board president Shashank Manohar and retired justice Mukul Mudgal, appointed by the Delhi High Court to oversee the match, had initially given a go-ahead for the function.
“Everything was finalised on Friday morning, at a meeting at which Delhi’s deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia, retired justice Mukul Mudgal and DDCA officials was also present. The area where the function was to be held was also decided. It was the same spot where Virender Sehwag was felicitated by the BCCI before the start of the first day’s play, but at the last minute someone played politics,” Mehra told jantakareporter.com.
Mehra claimed that Mudgal, appointed by the Delhi High Court to oversee the Delhi Test, and the DDCA officials had agreed on every minute detail of the function while the Delhi police had permitted 14 cars, carrying the legends, till one of the Kotla gates.
While concurring with Mehra’s version about the episode, Mudgal told jantakareporter.com that he couldn’t have overruled the BCCI as his “supervision extended to the field of play”.
Mudgal also informed that he met Kejriwal at a function on Saturday evening and told that he [Mudgal] was “sorry” about the unsavoury episode and that the chief minister responded by saying that he had “nothing against” the retired Chief Justice of Punjab and Haryana High Court.
Mehra, who had filed a PIL against the BCCI and the DDCA in February 2000, said that the function would now be held after the match, though the date and venue wasn’t decided.
“The function will not be held during this match as there’s hardly anything left in the match,” Mehra said, referring to the game that India is set to wrap up on Sunday. “We will hold it later.”
When specifically asked if the function was still possible on Sunday, Mehra said, “Why should we take them to a place where they might not be treated in the manner in which icons and legends are treated? The treatment has to be befitting legends. We could’ve organised this function anywhere else. But if these legends were treated in front of 20,000-25,000 fans it would have been a different feeling for them.”
Mehra said that the mementoes, shawls, the backdrop that was to be used at the felicitation, and even the master ceremonies (Harsha Bhogle) was ready. But the script suddenly changed late on Friday night, leading to the scrapping of the function.
“From 9.40 am to 11.30 am on Friday, we had a coordination meeting at which Mr Sisodia, Mr Mudgal, DDCA officials, top police officials and others were present and everything was discussed threadbare and finalised. The spot of the function was discussed and even the size of the backdrop that was to be used. It was a very accommodating meeting where everything was accepted by all parties,” he said.
“Even Mr Biswal of Delhi police was very accommodating and he allowed 14 cars, that were to carry the players, to come till a gate of the Kotla so that they could be brought inside the stadium in a dignified manner to the ground,” Mehra said.
“But sometime between 6.30 pm and 7.30 pm, I received a call from a BCCI official who asked me to send an email, for record purposes of the Board, but address it to Justice Mudgal, formally requesting that the Delhi government wanted to organise this function on the field of play. We sent the email to Justice Mudgal,” he said.
Mehra said after getting the green signal, the government had informed all eight World Cup-winning players – Mohinder Amarnath, Madan Lal, Kirti Azad and Sunil Valson of the 1983 team and Virender Sehwag, Gautam Ganbhir, Virat Kohli, and Ashish Nehra of the 2011 team – besides Bedi and Sharmila Tagore. Madan Lal was in Germany and Amarnath was in Goa and so they said they wouldn’t be able to make it.
“Everything was on course. But at 10.30 pm on Friday, I received a call from Justice Mudgal, and he told me that he was forwarding me a BCCI email, which was a response [from the BCCI] to my email sent in the evening, in which it was written that it wouldn’t allow the function on the field of play, but it could be held in the pavilion,” he disclosed.
“I said it was not done as everything was ready for the function. Justice Mudgal told me he would again talk to Manohar and BCCI secretary Anurag Thakur and get back to me. He called me again at around 12.30 at night and said that he wasn’t getting through to their phones. He again called me today morning and said the BCCI was not agreeing to the on-field function,” said Mehra.
“Justice Mudgal also said that he was ‘sorry’ and ‘hurt’, and that he could understand what feeling you people were going through. He said it was not the professional way to do this but that his hands were tied.”
Mehra also pointed out the place of function was initially suggested by the Justice Mudgal.