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Selectors: Managers in disguise?

Its awkward to see BCCI selectors double up as managers on foreign tourneys, writes Kadambari Murali.

india Updated: Aug 05, 2006 18:59 IST

The current BCCI regime rode in on a plank that promised tremendous change. The two words that stood out during what was probably the most vicious Board election we have ever been privileged to witness were "transparency" and "professionalism". In the event, we have had the dubious beginnings of one and not much of the other.

Even as we periodically hear words like CEOs and a separate administrative set-up, it is rather embarrassing to watch the richest cricket Board in the world - worth potentially a billion dollars and counting - have their selectors double up as managers on foreign tours. Or even go as managers at all.

During the tour of Pakistan early this year, the BCCI happily began what was an excellent scheme, with the decision to send a selector on each tour to review performances. But on the Windies tour, though they sent the national selector (from East) Ranjeeb Biswal during the one-dayers, he went as manager. Later, for the Tests, they sent Ravi Sawant (MCA vice-president) as manager and VB Chandrashekhar and Kiran More (one after the other) in their selectorial capacities. To send them as selectors is great but to send selectors as managers (and say they can watch matches anyway) just takes away from it all. Whether they do a good job or not!

Basically, on a cricket tour, like on any other tour, the manager's job is thankless and completely administrative, a very specialised job. He has to organize daily schedules and travel plans, handle the bills and complaints, deal with sundry local dignitaries, look after senior BCCI officials who invariably make a trip, even land up at various airports early and make sure the luggage is all okay.

If Biswal was doing duty as general dogsbody in the West Indies, then Sanjay Jagdale (selector, Central) will be Mr Fix-It-All on the forthcoming tour of Sri Lanka. Even as smaller, less prosperous cricket boards appoint professionals to the post on a long-term basis, it is rather ridiculous that in eight months, this new-look regime has not found the time to appoint a long-term manager for the Indian team, one who will both understand the needs of the team and the nuances of the job.

"I agree it is a specialised job and India need a long-term manager urgently," a senior Board official told HT on Wednesday, adding that he didn't know why his Board hadn't appointed one as yet, though he couldn't comment officially.  Another official agreed, saying that perhaps the selectors in question were being sent because they had administrative experience in their respective states. "Maybe the BCCI thinks it can save some money," he said, laughing, adding more seriously that the Board was a "collection of many separate units". "This has been going on for years. Send someone as manager, send someone else as observer, keep the vote politics in perspective. Don't forget, it's a prestige issue to be associated with the Indian team. You get your name in the papers, picture on TV and in newspapers, especially if India win a big series somewhere."

It may have been on for years but this regime had promised professionalism and change. In the moneymaking spree, some basic requirements seem to have been misplaced. Take another small thing, like having a dedicated kitchen staff, or at least a cook who could travel with the team on long, difficult tours. On the just concluded Windies tour, two months long, it was very tough on vegetarians and even on others. Several international teams travel with their own food (remember Shane Warne and his baked beans on the tour of India?) and sometimes, a kitchen supervisor.

No Indian official would object to being sent on a foreign tour and it might be great for vote politics but it does take away from the importance of being a selector when you have to watch over the luggage. Whether they think it or not!