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Why Indian cricketers could become pariahs

Will Indian cricketers become pariahs of world sport after rejecting a clause in the new global anti-doping rules? Cricket historian Boria Majumdar finds out.

Indian cricket team
Indian cricketers say the doing test law invades their privacy

India's potential isolation is the big question being raised after its players disagreed with the "whereabouts system" set up by the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada).

Under this rule, players around the world reveal where they are for one hour of every single day.

Indian cricketers say this system infringes upon their privacy. Also, some of them say it is "risky" for them to disclose their whereabouts round the year.

Wada's 2009 code specifies that sportspersons must be available seven rather than five days a week and that they are present for the whole of the hour, not just part of it. The times of day between which they can specify their location have also been restricted.

India's cricketers will be suspended from international competitions for two years if they miss the deadline to sign up with Wada three times in a row.

Their stance against the rule has been backed by the country's cricket board - this despite the fact that the International Cricket Council became a Wada signatory in 2006 and its board last year unanimously approved out-of-competition tests on cricketers.

Privacy

Accordingly, players from all other major cricket nations have also signed up.

The "whereabouts system" has not been criticised by Indian cricketers alone.

Star footballers, tennis players and athletes around the world have expressed their reservations citing privacy issues. But they have all signed up to follow the rule.

The list includes superstars like tennis players Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, champion sprinter Usain Bolt and star swimmer Michael Phelps.

To date, 571 sports federations representing almost all disciplines from 191 countries have signed up to the anti-doping regulation.

Mahindra Singh Dhoni with security
Some Indian cricketers have heavy security

Added to this list are representatives from every Test playing country and also the federation of international cricketers, formed to protect cricketers' interests, have complied with the Wada rules.

Even in India, other sportsmen say they have no problems with the Wada rules.

Shooter Abhinav Bindra, the country's only individual Olympic gold medallist, has been abiding by Wada regulations for more than five years and believes that the confrontation a non-issue.

For many like him, signing up to the Wada norms is a fundamental reality of modern global sport.

In such circumstances, the Indian cricket board's obduracy could pose serious problems to cricket's plans to position itself as a global sport.

Only a few months have passed since cricketers from around the world called for cricket's inclusion in the Olympics.

But one of the pre-requisites to becoming an Olympic sport is acceptance of Wada norms.

The refusal of India's cricketers to sign up to Wada rules and the endorsement by the country's cricket authorities mirror the realities of Indian sport.

National ignorance

India lacks an Olympic sporting culture - the country boasts a paltry 17 medals in 88 years of competing at the Games.

Abhinav Bindra
Indian shooter Abhinav Bindra has no problems with Wada rules

So there is a colossal national ignorance about international sporting rules, especially anti-doping ones.

Countries like Australia, South Africa, New Zealand and England and even Caribbean islands have a strong culture of Olympic sports and find it natural to adhere to international sporting norms.

India, cricket's land of riches, however, is different.

With cricket having a virtual monopoly over the Indian sportscape, the urge to protect the country's cricketers is paramount - even if it means ignoring global sporting realities.

And this is where the Indian cricket board could have played a more proactive role - it is the board's responsibility to explain to the players that they are part of a global sporting fraternity and need to act as such.

Wada, which was formed at the turn of the century to rid world sport of dope cheats, is in no position to accept the rejection of its rules by Indian cricketers.

No random testing during off-season simply implies giving a license to cheating. There is no way to find out after a gap of two or three months if a sportsperson has resorted to taking a banned substance during that period.

So will Indian cricketers finally give in and sign up with Wada?

India's sports minister MS Gill has already said he is in favour of the cricketers abiding by the global rules.

But first, India's cricket stars have to understand that they belong to a minority and risk becoming isolated if they stick to their stand.

Boria Majumdar is a cricket historian from Oxford University and has written a number of books on the game.



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