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BCCI unplugged

In his first exhaustive interview since taking over as BCCI secretary, N Srinivasan opens up with Kadambari Murali Wade on the Board’s place in world cricket, India’s packed schedule, TV coverage & lack of quality umpiring.

cricket Updated: Feb 17, 2009 02:30 IST
Kadambari Murali Wade
Kadambari Murali Wade
Hindustan Times

What now is the immediate agenda for the BCCI?

These are exciting times for cricket, with the introduction of Twenty20 cricket and the formation of the Indian Premier League. At the same time, we are seeing a great resurgence in the strength of the Indian team while, quietly, India is occupying centrestage in the cricketing world. The agenda now is to strengthen the domestic framework, provide infrastructure at all associations, give youngsters an opportunity to be spotted and grow into the stars of tomorrow.

The government said Pakistan wasn’t safe for India, but would India play Pakistan in a venue like the UAE, like Australia might do?

A couple of years ago, we took a decision to discourage offshore matches. That policy stays in place. It's not a question of playing Pakistan in the UAE, the BCCI just does not want to encourage matches at offshore venues.

But what of playing them at other neutral venues?

Well, at the moment, we have a very busy schedule. With the FTP (Future Tours Programme), other internationals, the domestic league, it's all very hectic. The Board is also keen on giving our top players some time to rest.

Would the BCCI consider lending the PCB money if it asked for help? Did you finally lend money to Sri Lanka, post their reportedly asking for help?

The BCCI is not in the habit of lending money to anyone. We have not given any money to Sri Lanka.

How many sportspersons have benefitted from the BCCI corpus fund set up for other sports?

Six sportsmen have already benefitted. The money will be given only to junior sportspersons who have the potential to succeed internationally and we have a committee that processes applications and looks into deserving candidates. Apart from that, is the tie-up with the Sports Ministry to develop sportspersons in five disciplines.

Would the BCCI’s stand on the ICL jeopardise any possible future deal with either Ten Sports or Zee Sports, given that they are owned by the same authority?

At the moment Zee Sports is blacklisted.

The Board has often been accused of using economic clout to get its way...

I don't see how we control world cricket. We are just a member of the ICC, like others. The economic strength is of recent origin, but we were active in the past too. If the BCCI's involvement has grown, it is commensurate with its growth in cricket. Several members have had several views within the ICC constitution on many occasions. It is as true of India as others.

With the slowdown, do you anticipate a fall in the Board's revenues over the coming year?

Most of our rights have been sold, including the media rights. I do not see any big impact whatsoever.

Other than the enforced break because the Pakistan tour was called off, India plays non-stop. How will the Board ensure that players don’t burn out?

The schedule this year gives them a break, between the T20 World Cup in June and the Champions Trophy for instance, is a reasonably long break.

But the BCCI has a habit of filling in the breaks…

The Board is unlikely to schedule anything during this break. We are equally concerned about the amount of cricket being played and that certain individual players are required to perform at that level consistently. We are also conscious of the fact that there should not be too much cricket.

Is there a problem of delayed payments with Nimbus Sports?

I would not like to comment on a contract between Nimbus and the BCCI. But they have met their obligations.

What happened to the monitoring agency set up to deal with problematic TV coverage (the first and last ball being eaten up by ads)? The board promised better coverage of domestic cricket, it's been terrible.

The Board is looking into this issue of adequacy of coverage very seriously.

Why were Duleep matches not held in one zone this time? Isn't there an emphasis on the south and west, with north and east not getting enough games?

There’s been no particular reason really, but yes, the usual policy is to stage matches in one zone.

What of the problem of quality of balls in domestic games?

We are acutely conscious of the issue and have taken it up seriously. It is a major cause for concern. We are hoping that the situation will improve.

What is happening with BCCI TV, plans for a regular channel?

Well, there are no such plans at the moment.

India has no elite umpires, only Saheba and Tarapore on the one-day panel. The standard of domestic umpiring is a problem. Isn’t it embarrassing?

This is one area where the BCCI has been putting in a lot of work. From last year, we put in programmes to improve umpiring standards. Mr Venkataraghavan was appointed director of umpiring. All Ranji matches are videographed and an umpiring coach is present at all games. We’ve introduced a fast-track programme for players who want to be umpires. There’s a lot of systematic work going on and we're sure the situation will correct itself soon.

Would you look for a permanent window for the IPL and T20 cricket in the post 2012 FTP?

The FTP post 2012 is yet to be discussed.

But what is priority for the BCCI? Test, one-day or T20 and IPL cricket? How would juniors, dazzled by the IPL, realise the importance of Test cricket?

I think all forms of cricket. Cricketers are well aware of the importance of the respective positions of Test, ODI & T20 cricket.

Yes, but what of the Board? Is there a need to market Test cricket like you do the IPL?

As far as Test cricket goes, in many centres in India, they still pull in the crowds. Take the England vs India game in Chennai, after the unfortunate Mumbai attacks. Despite the effects of the situation, we had extremely good attendance over the last two days. Whether there is a need to market Test cricket is something I think all members of the ICC are looking at.

First Published: Feb 17, 2009 00:46 IST