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Board games

india Updated: Jul 16, 2007 14:56 IST
Kadambari Murali
Kadambari Murali
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

Cricket South Africa issued a couple of job ads last week. The first was for a Fitness Trainer for the national team and the second for a Media Officer.

Each was detailed, giving a list of key requirements (vis-à-vis what the job would entail), the knowledge and experience required, and asked that the individuals concerned send in their CVs with two references mentioning their preferred pay packets. It added that their applications would be treated in the “strictest confidence”.

The deadline for receiving applications for the trainer is Monday, July 16. South African trainer Adrian le Roux (formerly India’s trainer), quit barely a fortnight ago to move to a private sector job, but the Proteas have wasted no time trying to get his replacement in fast. That is normally the way things work in a professional set-up. Indian cricket is different.

Land of no vision

Monday will also be a week or so short of four months to when Greg Chappell’s “Vision” for India ended in dramatic, devastating fashion. In the months since, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and India have muddled through a series of goof-ups over the appointment of a coach, culminating in Fordgate and the elevation of 72-year-old Chandu Borde to the post of stand-in cricket manager.

Borde is reportedly managing his role of an elder well, but the job of a coach in modern international sport is different.

Given the BCCI’s track record this was only to be expected. The current BCCI administration had a vision for India. It began in sterling fashion (remember the pension for widows of cricketers scheme?) and promised to bring Indian cricket into the 21st century. As yet it remains unfulfilled.

Only aims, no action

On December 5, 2005, the BCCI had sent a letter to all its affiliated units. (A copy of that letter is with the Hindustan Times). Referring to the then, just-elected BCCI president Sharad Pawar’s open “promise” to make the functioning of the Board professional, the letter detailed the current regime’s “Vision Document” for the BCCI, which had “only one goal, (the) betterment of India cricket”.

Called The Cricket Board in the 21st century, the document had a detailed statement of intent and the very first point in that dealt with professionalising the BCCI. To that effect, like any professional set-up, the Board would appoint a Chief Executive Officer, have a slew of other posts that would demarcate administrative, cricketing, marketing and technical responsibilities, it would rope in a private consultancy to organise the new set-up, and generally go where no Indian Board had gone before.

Nineteen months and one week on, deal after glitzy marketing deal has fallen through and those that are still surviving are in jeopardy (see box), the Board itself is fast getting embroiled in an unseemly face-off with Subhash Chandra’s proposed Indian Cricket League, and domestic cricket (another thing the ‘Vision Document’ promised to revamp) is in a crisis.

Vote politics have ensured that many proposed changes are yet to be realised. The promised Umpires Academy is nowhere in sight, the plan to expand the National Cricket Academy into a full-fledged world-class cricket institute has gone really nowhere except for some individual efforts, India A tours are mostly off the radar; no players’ organisation has been recognised or set up, and the players themselves are under an old contract after a series of differences over a proposed new deal with the Board.

The BCCI has no Chief Executive Officer, no media manager and even though a Manager (Cricket Operations) has just been appointed this month, it is debatable whether he will be able to slay the many demons plaguing the BCCI on the cricket front, especially the domestic game.

The president & his men

Even their much-vaunted website (apparently launched a year ago) remains more or less mythical. Try clicking on http://bcci.tv and all you get to see is a big, blinking BCCI logo, the logo of last year’s ICC Champions Trophy and a sign asking you to “click here” if you want to know more about Player Ratings. You click on that and get into something that looks hopeful — a series of images of Indian players — and then, nothing much. The rest is all ‘coming soon’.

The BCCI would do well to take a leaf out of the book of the Australians (cricket.com.au), the English (ecb.co.uk), or Pakistan (pcboard.co.pk), even Bangladesh (tigercricket.com). The BCCI president, Sharad Pawar, under fire for neglecting his Agriculture Ministry responsibilities for cricket, reportedly said in Parliament that he spends barely two hours a week on cricketing affairs.

Can he then be expected to spend more than the total of one hour 45 minutes that ICC officials say he spent at the annual meeting of the ICC Board in London in the last week of June? As a career politician who cannot find the time to sort out his own Board, where would Pawar find the time to handle the work of the International Cricket Council when he eventually becomes its president?

The problem with the BCCI — despite Pawar’s busy schedule — is that it has no clear command structure or spokesman. The BCCI comprises of politicians, industrialists and lawyers with different worldviews who came together to oppose the former board president Jagmohan Dalmiya. Once they managed to exclude Dalmiya from the scheme of things, they have struggled to find a common agenda to form a cohesive unit, especially after their much-publicised marketing deals have been hit.

Will they snap out of the strange collective lethargy they seem to be in? These next few months will tell.

(This is the first of a 10-part series that will deal with the administration, the players, domestic and junior cricket, over-scheduling, selections, the lack of facilities for fans, the decline of universities, umpires, the developmental crisis etc. Feel free to write in with your comments and suggestions to htsportsletters@gmail.com . We will display the most interesting letters and suggestions in the last part of the series).