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Unprofessionally yours

HT's Amol Karhadkar tries to explore why it will not be easy for the Board to streamline its system.

cricket Updated: Jul 17, 2007 01:53 IST

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) is unique in the sense that despite being the richest national sports federation (NSF) in India, its functioning is as bad, if not worse, than the other NSFs. So when Sharad Pawar, a visionary politician in many ways, was elected president of this cash-rich body, many believed he would bring a "vision" to the BCCI and change its administrative set-up for the better.

In the early part of his tenure, Pawar was quite vocal about "professionalising" the Board and made his intentions clear in no uncertain terms. "The Board has decided to appoint an external agency to provide a suitable recommendation to this effect," Pawar had told an appreciative media conference after the Working Committee meeting on December 4, 2005. And they did appoint Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) for the same. Given TCS's reputation, their recommendations, though not made public, would have probably been efficient and no-nonsense.

<b1>Yet, as the days have turned to weeks and weeks to months, nothing has happened and Pawar's 'vision' has floundered somewhere — insiders say he has realised the importance and impact of vote politics on the BCCI's functioning. So the days of talk about "professionalising the Board" have faded away into nothingness.

Vote politics

So why wasn't the TCS blueprint for change implemented? Asked about this, the BCCI's Chief Administrative Officer, acknowledged even by the International Cricket Council mandarins (often at loggerheads with BCCI members) as "the one man in the Indian Board who seems to know his job," is typically diplomatic. "The changes are occurring slowly as we had to make the plan feasible keeping the BCCI's democratic set-up in mind," said Shetty.

If you read between the lines, it is clear that the BCCI cannot be professionalised until they decide to scrap the system of honorary office-bearers. As a senior official said, “The principal office-bearers, vice-presidents and representatives of permanent Test centres form a major chunk of the Working Committee that ratifies all such decisions, professionalisation looks unlikely, at least in the near future.”

Admonish-tration

For any organisation to be run successfully, it needs a strong administrative back up. However, the fact that the most powerful board in cricket had only six employees in its office till 2003, when Shetty joined as executive secretary (a paid post), speaks a lot about the lack of emphasis on a proper set-up by the honorary office-bearers over the years. Don't forget the Board was set up in 1929.

Four years hence, the picture hasn't changed much. While the number of employees has doubled, the purpose of having a head office is still not fully served.

From an office in the Cricket Club of India premises, it was even smaller than any municipal ward office, the BCCI now has a plush headquarters in the campus of the Wankhede stadium. Yet, the functioning of the Board is not centralised.

All the accounts are managed in Chennai, since treasurer N Srinivasan is based in the southern metro. Similarly, most of the secretarial work is handled from Rajkot - from where secretary Niranjan Shah hails.

And this has a history to it. For instance, before Srinivasan took charge, all the accounts used to be managed from Lucknow — the hometown of his predecessor Jyoti Bajpai. This obviously hampers the continuity in the functioning of the Board and it's high time it was addressed too.

Damager, oops Manager

Over the last two decades, if not even before that, the BCCI has always used the position of the national team's manager on an overseas tour as a tool to offer a junket to a prospective voter (read state).

In fact, when they appointed Baroda's Rocky Rufus as manager for the Npower Test series against England, BCCI secretary Niranjan Shah had said: "The Board usually gives an opportunity to its member units while appointing tour managers. That is what (the system) we have continued with."

Well, as the players say, they basically can only hope that the manager (often referred to as "damager" by them), who has a host of administrative duties on tour, doesn't prove to be a hindrance. They say that when they find someone halfway decent, they generally pray that he stays on. Of course, he never does.

Glimmer of hope

Shetty though, is an optimist. He assures you that things are "falling in place". So what difference has the addition of six people and a CAO made? "When I joined as the Executive Secretary in-charge in October 2003, the delay in communication with the ICC and other national boards was a serious problem," said Shetty. "We have addressed the issue and now the problem is almost resolved."

The complaint is not a surprise since the Board has never bothered to appoint either a long-term media manager for the team or an official spokesperson for the Board. As a result, you have different voices being heard on any and every topic — some rather extreme.

"It is also being addressed," said Shetty. "In fact, apart from appointing a permanent media manager, we are in the process of forming a media and communications cell that will have at least two people." The only problem here is, as it has been over a year-and-a-half since the BCCI made these promises, there's been a lot of addressing done and appointments will have to be seen to be believed.

The one glimmer of hope though, is that the Board has recently appointed ex-cricketers Suru Nayak and KVP Rao as Manager - Cricket Operations and Manager - Game Development, respectively. They have also shortlisted Dheeraj Malhotra (a sports management professional) as Manager — Marketing and Events.

If all these various plans are implemented, then at least there will be a basic system in place for the Board's functioning. And it's high time someone tells them that they should have the same rules for the people running the system and the players -- so the Board should be accountable too!

(Do write in with suggestions to htsportsletters@gmail.com. On Wednesday, we will look at selections and the system of stars)