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Old habits die hard

The Indian board is money-minded but has lacked a professional approach. The Indian team's abject showing in England has turned the attention to the manner in which the board is being run. Subhash Rajta writes.

cricket Updated: Aug 23, 2011 02:24 IST
Subhash Rajta

Six years ago, soon after Sharad Pawar took over as the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) president, he admitted the urgent need to infuse professionalism into it. Worth hundreds of millions of dollars through match sponsorships and lucrative television deals, the BCCI had existed as a behemoth, without the management structure that is the feature of all major sports bodies across the world.

In 2005, he spoke about how the headquarters was in Mumbai but important papers and decision-making authority was with the secretary, who was based in a different city. And the treasurer, another honorary official overseeing huge financial deals and accounts lived and worked in another city.

Six years hence, the BCCI has a huge number of staff working in Mumbai. But a Chief Executive Officer remains a distant dream. An influential cricket official is the paid Chief Administrative Officer based in Mumbai but the honorary office-bearers run the empire that the board is. The secretary, with executive powers, is based in Chennai and the treasurer in Chandigarh.

England drubbing
The Indian team's abject showing in England has turned the attention to the manner in which the board is being run and its priorities. A lack of proper injury management, poor scheduling and the absence of a proper future road map for the team are all under focus. And a large part of the blame could be laid on the manner in which the board is administered.

"It's a pity that schedules of our team is chalked by people who have never cricket played at all," says former India spinner Maninder Singh.

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With the honorary office-bearers based elsewhere, the board office struggles to coordinate. And these officials also end up hiring their own small teams, which means additional burden on the board's coffers.

The national team's success - the 2007 World Twenty20, claiming the Test No. 1 status and the one-day World Cup - helped paper over the cracks. But with the team in disarray, the question on everyone's lips is the indifference and opaque functioning of the board.

Compare the BCCI with Cricket Australia (CA) and the England board. Both CA and the ECB have professional management in place with focus on steering policies.

Opaque body
What prevents the Indian board from turning into a new leaf, given its and the complex marketing, financial and legal issues it deals with? "The board just doesn't want to be accountable for all their decisions. It has loads of money and it won't be able to spend it as per its whims and fancies if there's a more accountable set-up in place," says Kirti Azad, a member of the 1983 World Cup winning side.

"It's simply vested interests," adds Delhi lawyer Rahul Mehra, who has fought court battles in the past against the BCCI and other sports bodies in a bid to make them more accountable. "The politicians and bureaucrats dominating the board will become redundant if there is a more professional set-up. They won't be able to act in an arbitrary manner and would be answerable for all their decisions."

In 2005, soon after Pawar took over, a vision document was released. However, the steps taken were more in letter than spirit. With executive powers vested with the secretary, and the CAO not a professional, it continues to be run as a closely held body. The paid CAO is also a state unit office-bearer.

No vision
The Vision Document had also spoken about the need to appoint qualified media managers and public relations managers with experience. However, there is no professional media manager who travels with the team. The job of coordinating with the media is often left to the team's logistics official.

However, there is some pressure on BCCI. Last October, the Kerala high court ruled that officials of the Kerala Cricket Association can be treated as public officials and cleared a lower court to continue hearing a complaint of misappropriation by the association.

The sports minister Ajay Maken has said efforts are on to bring the BCCI under the ambit of the Right to Information (RTI) Act.

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