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Cricket be damned, let money flow free

You have got to have some kind of vested interest to keep yourself in the frame of things at the DDCA, writes C Shekhar Luthra.
None | By C Shekhar Luthra, New Delhi
UPDATED ON JUL 27, 2006 01:45 PM IST

Another year, even more to be made! That’s the line that those up for seats in the Sports Committee elections of the Delhi & District Cricket Association, slated for July 31, are selling to each of the 112 cricket clubs in Delhi.

Many people may ask why? What is so special about these elections? Why are the stakes so high here? Why do people fall prey to sundry petty lures? And last but not least, at what cost do these elected officials promise the moon to their voters?

This is hardly been a secret for anyone visiting Delhi cricket headquarters, Ferozeshah Kotla, frequently. However, for beginners, the mathematics of it all is quite simple. You have got to have some kind of vested interest to keep yourself in the frame of things at the DDCA. To make it simpler, we’ve divided the kind of people running Delhi cricket’s cricketing body into three broad categories…

1. Fathers of sons who occasionally play club cricket but aspire to the big league by any and every mean.

2. Those having nothing much to show the world, but have managed to bag a cricket club to earn a livelihood. Just for your information, having a cricket club doesn’t guarantee returns. But, it can be an important base from where to make money. For instance, you have a club, you have a vote, you could become a selector or an official and the cases of bribes-for-selections for various Delhi teams these past few years have been past counting.

3. From selectors to mangers of various Delhi teams. From co-ordinators to contractors, there are so many vacancies up for grabs every year. Each a potential money-spinner.

The modus operandi of these elections is rather simple. The two rival groups, the ruling Vinod Tihara group and the newly formed (but with old faces) United Front (led by Ashok “mama” Sharma), try and grab votes by heading for the weak spot of each club secretary (each has a vote).

— Fathers are promised a permanent seat for their “exceptional” sons in various age group teams.

— Others with little bit or no knowledge of cricket are being appointed selectors or managers.

— And those with no credentials to hold a DDCA post are being given contracts (be it providing kits to players; food during matches; maintenance of grounds; refurbishing scoreboards etc. etc) to help them earn a few lakhs every year from the overflowing DDCA coffers.

This year, sadly, it’s the same story. This election, fought along the lines of “10 years vs 2 years”, has Tihara’s group asking club secretaries to vote for them for the work over the past two years. The United Front, meanwhile, has been pledging that if brought back to power, it would save Delhi cricket from the ruin of the past two years.

For the last two years, the Tihara group swept all the 10 seats up for grabs. Last year though, the winning margin was particularly huge. So, is there any hope of change this time around? And will it make a difference?

“We’ve been assured the support of at least 20 to 25 new secretaries this time. After watching the Tihara group’s manipulations and malpractices these last two years, the genuine cricket lovers of Delhi have decided to come together to save cricket,” was how Dr Tammim (who switched his allegiances) reacted when asked about his group’s support this time. He has his backers.

“Pressure was put on selectors, coaches and managers to play a few select players in the playing XI. How long can this continue? Some day, there will be a literally bloody revolt in DDCA,” cautioned a former Delhi Test player, adding: “The Sports Committee was formed 12 years ago only to conduct league cricket and local matches. How has it been allowed to become this much powerful? This shows that weak people are ruling the DDCA despite having a powerful president like Arun Jaitley.”

Tihara has his own theory to counter these allegations. “The elections here are no different from the one we see outside,” he said. “We’ve tried our best to improve the league structure and have provided assistance to every club in terms of cash or cricket kits for the first time ever.”

While some of what he says is true, there are also, too many unanswered questions and allegations that ring true. In less than five days, we’ll know what the next year might be like for Delhi cricket.

In the meantime, the party season is on: If you are lucky enough to run a club, it’s a time to be feted and feasted, eat, drink and be merry.

Everything’s on the house!

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