Entering the press box at the ACA-VDCA cricket stadium in Visakhapatnam, what strikes one is the number of pictures of former India cricketers adorning its wall. However, a closer look shows that among the best of the game, there are pictures of administrators.
Among the images of greats like Kapil Dev, Sunil Gavaskar and Sachin Tendulkar are those of recently-resigned BCCI president Shashank Manohar, its secretary Anurag Thakur, and even Andhra Cricket Association president, G Gangaraju.
While the power of administrators has gone up manifold over the years, this is the first instance of their being accorded the same status as some of the biggest players of the country.
However, Gangaraju defended it.
“It is not wrong to honour administrators. Many cricket administrators, whatever their background, also deserve recognition. They have also contributed towards the development of the sport in the country,” he said.
“Mr Manohar and Mr Thakur have helped Andhra cricket a lot. It is under their leadership that Vizag has got Test status after five years. We recognise that and want that to be known. It is not that they have come forward and asked for their images to be put on the wall.”
Repeated attempts to contact Thakur went unanswered.
Resigned to it
However, former cricketers have differing viewpoints.
“No one can deny that some administrators have done a lot for cricket in the country. However, their contributions and that of sportsmen can’t be compared,” said former India cricketer Madan Lal.
“You cannot have pictures of greats like Kapil and Gavaskar and then give the same space to administrators. If one has to honour their contributions, one can do it in the association’s administrative offices,” he added.
Many former cricketers, when contacted, refused to come on record, fearing a backlash from those in power.
A former Andhra-based cricketer said it has become common practice and same was the case even in Hyderabad. “What can one say? It has become a trend now. They hold the power,” he said, on condition of anonymity.
“I will take solace in the fact that former and present cricketers have been honoured by being given space on the wall. What we don’t approve of, all we can do is ignore the same,” he added.
Former India captain Ajit Wadekar, who has been an administrator as well, does not mind the common space provided to players and officials.
“I have played for India and also been an administrator. At least in our time, managing cricket affairs was not an easy task. There were a lot of sacrifices involved. Money in the game was not as much as it is today, and most administrators held honorary posts,” he said.
“Yes, there can be a better way of respecting senior administrators, but this instance does not show any disrespect to the cricketers,” he added.