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Nothing official about it!

Tomorrow, the farce known variously as the Siyaram Cup and under other sundry names will end. For a tournament comprised of just four matches, it has generated much heat and dust. That too, in Hyderabad in summer when there is plenty of both these elements. It has now been more or less established that the tournament is unofficial -- but only as of date. Tomorrow, the promoters, who have the rather out-of-this-world name of Green Turf Sports Management, may tell us another tale from the Arabian Nights. Or let's make that the Hyderabad Days.

The tournament has certainly set one record. It is the first time that what is more or less the national squads of three countries have agreed to take part in a tournament of this nature. This means two things -- the amount of money being doled out is in seven digits. Even if it be Indian rupees, that is a handsome sum. And secondly there will definitely be some similar tournament in either Pakistan or New Zealand some time sooner or later and all these cricketers will be there again to act out their respective roles.

The players from New Zealand know they are superfluous to the tournament and are there to make up the numbers. But their board is still attempting to cut the amount of flak which it may get by suddenly deciding that the team is not New Zealand, not even a New Zealand XI but rather a Deepak Patel XI! The mystery as to who is the Kiwi connection for the farce has now been revealed though the players would definitely not have gone to Hyderabad without the blessings of their own authorities. In fact, they have stayed on in India after the so-called Independence Cup as going back and forth would have entailed rather more travel that is good for the average cricketer in the space of a few days.

Indian national television (Doordarshan) has added to the confusion by calling the tournament the Moin-ud-Dowlah tournament. Was this a communication lapse on the part of the Hyderabad Cricket Association which is conducting the farce? There had been an earlier announcement that the Moin-ud-Dowlah, a respectable tournament, would be held as per schedule in September. Doordarshan is known for monumental blunders and this may be one more. But given the confusion surrounding what is taking place in Hyderabad, one is not surprised.

The sums involved are unknown. One must bear in mind that confusion on this score prevails despite the Hyderabad association having issued numerous clarifications. How much is the sponsor -- Siyaram's -- paying to the Green Turf blokes, the organisers of the tournament? How much is being paid to the Hyderabad association? At the press conference held before the event, it was stated that the association would get Rs200,000 and the three beneficiaries (Ghulam Ahmed, Eddie Aibara and S.R. Mehta) Rs100,000 apiece from the Green Turf chappies, chief of whom is Arshad Ayub.

These Green blokes were to get the gate collections and the in-stadia advertisement rights. And all agreements were said to have been made only between Green Turf and Siyarams. But then a few days later, the Hyderabad association secretary M. Ranga Reddy said the Greens and the association would share the gate money. No mention has been made of how much Siyarams is forking out to have their name on the tournament.

In such a situation, the media has a role to play. But sadly the Indian media have been their normal cowardly selves. They are, no doubt, aware that the tournament has the blessings of the Indian cricket authorities and this is sufficient intimidation. The few who took a confrontationist attitude have now grown old and there are no young Turks around with sufficient guts.

One cricketer who has chosen to stay away from this jamboree is Rahul Dravid. Whether due to personal or professional reasons it is not known, but the youngster is not part of the farce. Of course, if asked, he would be sufficiently diplomatic to avoid making a categorical statement. He has already indicated that he prefers to keep his opinions to himself in order that his career may not suffer; any controversial question in an interview has brought forth the response: "I would prefer not to answer that."

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