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Friday, Sep 20, 2019

Why Robin Singh, S Sriram are like a whiff of fresh air for Indian cricket

The South Africa Global T20 League has seen teams appoint Robin Singh and Sridharan Sriram as coaches and this has been interpreted as signs that Indian cricket has global influence.

columns Updated: Aug 31, 2017 09:04 IST
Amrit Mathur
Amrit Mathur
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
The Indian presence in the South Africa Global T20 League are signs that the influence of Indian cricket is increasing.
The Indian presence in the South Africa Global T20 League are signs that the influence of Indian cricket is increasing. (T20 Global League Twitter)

Are the appointments of Robin Singh and Sridharan Sriram as coaches in South Africa’s version of the IPL a sign that Indian cricket is finally cracking the export market?

Could these signings change the perception that India is a Third World cricketing superpower without genuine influence?

In terms of economic muscle, the BCCI is like the athlete with 12-pack abdominal strength – it generates money which runs world cricket. The financial abundance stems from its surging economy and a large fan base. It makes Indian cricket set its financial rules which defy convention or logic. When the latest round of IPL title sponsorship was up for bidding, the increase in value was an astonishing 500 percent.

The financial clout is Indian cricket’s weapon to threaten or tempt. Disagreements with the BCCI have lead to tours being cancelled or curtailed (Pakistan and South Africa). The blunt message is --- you mess with us, we can cut off your oxygen supply. At other times, Indian cricket’s financial favours are used as an instrument of statecraft and foreign policy --- which is why India play Sri Lanka and West Indies every fortnight.

In the ICC, this is considered bullying and Indian cricket is resented, not respected. At one point, India worked to undermine the ICC’s first chairman, the BCCI’s own nominee, which turned into a self-goal. When the Big Three revenue distribution model was being overturned, the BCCI found itself friendless, shunned even by traditional allies Bangladesh and Zimbabwe.

What has been worse is the BCCI’s continued failure to provide leadership or offer strategic vision to take the game forward. First, it swam against the tide on T20 cricket and the DRS. Now, as cricket looks to protect Tests, the BCCI is absent from the debate, unable to offer suggestions or solutions. Neither does Indian cricket’s ‘soft power’ have genuine presence.

The National Cricket Academy in Bangalore (supposed to be a centre of excellence and research) is a glorified rehab hospital ward for injured players. For research, the NCA xeroxes notes shared by Cricket Australia.

It will be a long wait when Indian cricket is known for its knowledge and expertise. While Australia, South Africa and England regularly export coaches, physios, curators, trainers and video analysts, India is a minor player in the company of brighter students. Indian cricket’s international presence is limited to the odd ICC umpire, S Ravi, and the odd match referee, Javagal Srinath.

Indian cricket’s only game-changing idea was the IPL which invited private ownership into cricket. Since then, the model has been copied from Dhaka to Durban. But even this has a touch of irony --- the IPL is full of non-Indian support staff and is managed by IMG, a foreign company.

Maybe, Robin and Sriram and Sunil Joshi (in Bangladesh) will be the pioneers in growing India’s influence overseas.

Disclaimer: Amrit Mathur is a senior cricket writer and has been involved with IPL in official capacity. The opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author

First Published: Aug 31, 2017 09:01 IST