I was present at Sathya Sai Baba’s falsely-billed ‘international’ cricket match in December 1997, and taking photos for the magazine ‘Spiritual Impressions’, on which I was soon to take some key editorial duties. It is published and distributed in many countries round the world.
Given that vast sums of money are now being poured into the Sathya Sai International Sports Centre at Puttaparthi, an older article of mine – Sai Baba Vs Kerry Packer – still assumes relevance, if we are to trace conceptual developments in which Sai Baba makes use of sport in his attempt to project himself to as much of the world as he can.
Sai Baba Has Eye On The World
It is, after all, the world that he says that he will save absolutely – having cleaned up India in the last quadrant of his lifetime. He is now well into that – and indeed can be irrefutably documented as doddering, issuing extraordinarily inane instructions (See: Sai Baba To Be Seen In Moon? But Where Was Moon?), waxing warmly about one of the world’s most horendous dictators, the late Ugandan ruler Idi Amin (See, Sathya Sai Baba’s Deputy Head, Dr G. Venkataraman, Speaks of “Mr Idi Amin”), and so on. But he has, does he not?, a mite of cleaning still to do? Perhaps he will be clean bowled before attempting the job.
I quote below from the article just referred to, entitled: Sai Baba Vs Kerry Packer
In referring to Sunil Gavaskar, I do not, as it were, ‘sledge’ a magnificently great cricketer and Captain, but it is important that we look at facts, and that we all of us be accountable.
Gavaskar Bowled Out In A Fabrication
Sunil Gavaskar, the great former Indian Test captain and long-time devotee of Sai Baba, maintained a bare-faced fiction about the match being genuinely international. On a piece for Sathya Sai Baba’s official website, he said:
“So, the Unity Cup was played with players from all over the world including Pakistan”:
How impressive it sounds – “from all over the world”. Pieces like this are all grist for the ceaselessly grinding mill of Dr G.Venkataraman, Sai Baba’s version of Dr Joseph Goebbels, who, with his team at Radio Sai, is going all out promote Sai Baba with satellite radio, Sai Global Harmony, beamed to every possible corner of the globe via the WorldSpace Corporation.
Hardly Any Nations Turned Up
The match failed to fetch players from West Indies, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Kenya, New Zealand, Australia, and any of the scores of nations where cricket is taken seriously. The ridiculously named ‘world XI’ was captained by Sri Lanka’s Arjuna Ranatunga. Sachin Tendulkar captained for India. England was slenderly represented by Doug Brown in what otherwise remained a game of Indians, Pakistanis and Sri Lankans. Pakistan sent a few players, including ‘Boom Boom’ Shahid Afridi (players from the past Hanif Mohamed and Zaheer Abbas were non-playing Pakistani guests). Sri Lanka provided six players. Former Test captain Clive Lloyd presented the trophy. India’s national broadcaster Doordarshan televised the match. In the commentator’s box was ‘Kiri’, Syed Kirmani, often hailed as India’s best ever wicket keeper, who became a Chairman of Selectors for India. He was no doubt well ’selected’ for the day’s job at the Sri Sathya Sai Unity Cup, since he quite often dropped all objective commentary of the match being played, instead indulging in rhapsodic eulogies on Sai Baba. I saw the Doordarshan producer repeatedly directing attention of the camera crew to features of the grandiose architecture like Sai Baba’s university, the Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning. Segments of the game were telecast round the world, including Great Britain.
India – or rather, one should say, Sai Baba’s propaganda machine – won the day.
There is a Spanish version available: