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Jumping ship to ?rescue? cricket?

Nearly all cricketing sons of Delhi have joined hands to uproot the incumbent Sports Committee in the upcoming elections, writes CS Luthra.
None | By C Shekhar Luthra, New Delhi
UPDATED ON JUL 29, 2006 08:13 PM IST

Is this a coincidence or is some sort of coup shaping up to save cricket in Delhi?

Nearly all the famous (and infamous) cricketing sons of Delhi from years gone by have joined hands to uproot the incumbent Sports Committee in the upcoming elections, slated for July 31.

From former World Cuppers Madan Lal and Kirti Azad to former Test players Gursharan Singh and Vivek Razdan, all have assured their full support to the opposition United Front candidates. The list doesn't stop here.

The names also include Dronacharya awardee coach Gurcharan Singh and Ranji cricketer Venkatsundaram who have been trying to use their influence to turn the tide against the ruling Vinod Tihara group. Former Delhi batsman Bantoo Singh has also reportedly joined the campaign.

Now whether or not these cricketers doing their bit really makes a difference is debatable, but interestingly, almost all of them, except Gurcharan Singh, were supporting the Tihara Group during the last elections.

So what made them go over to the enemy? "The standard of Delhi cricket has touched an all-time low during this Sports Committee's rule," has been their common grouse.

Ask them if they will actually make a difference this time (after all, the previous Sports Committee, now the United Front, did 10 years of much the same) and you what can only be dubbed a highly optimistic answer. "Why not?" said one, adding: "We've played our cricket the hard way. If we all come together, then anything is possible."

Well said but is it really? In reality, cricket is only a very minor part of the voting formula in the Sports Committee elections. Looking at the kind of monetary favours doled out by the Committee (different ones over the years) to their hardcore supporters could well negate any of these former players' claims of change this time around.

It is shocking that not a single Sports Committee member (of any committee) can come out and swear he has not taken any benefit from his post in these last few years.

This last couple of years though, it has worsened. From providing cricket gear and clothing to different teams to serving food in all DDCA matches or camps; from obtaining soil and grass for the Kotla renovation to the buses that ferry teams here and there, every contract was given to a Committee member or his relative, sometimes, at higher than market prices.

Still some members complained. The wish list got more ambitious - from mere money to status symbol. And what better declaration of status that an cricketer in the family?

So, some aspiring and "exceptionally talented" sons were roped into the different Delhi State teams. Even the Ranji Trophy team was not spared. All kind of tactics were used to first get sons into the squad by pressurising hand-picked selectors (including some who have now switched alleigance), and then playing them in the playing eleven by threatening coaches and managers.

"The name of a Sports Committee member's son used to be written even before the captain's name in the Ranji selection meeting. This bad was the situation," said a Ranji selector from last season, of course, conveniently leaving out his own part in the writing.

Tihara of course, repeatedly denied the allegations. "Why didn't the same selector came out then and there," he questioned. "They are opportunists and are now with the opposition because they know they cannot get favours from us anymore," he added.

The case of a U-15 selector Bhola Shankar taking bribe for selecting a player was "smartly" covered by setting up a probe committee. Another committee set up to look into the misconduct of another senior Committee member, Naresh "Tappu" Sharma for misbehaving openly with scribes fizzled into nothing.

Anyway, these "fair" and "cricket loving" members are contesting once again from both sides. Again, it's the same old story.

Both the panels

United Front: Ashok Sharma (Mama), Sameer Bahadur, MK Sharma, PS Chauhan, Vinod Sharma, Yudhvir Singh, BM Gulati, Devender Chaudhary, Pradeep Gupta, Praveen Jain.

Tihara Group: Vinod Tihara, Surya Prakash, Vijay Bahadur Mishra, Ramesh Sachdeva, Naresh Sharma (Tappu), Satish Malhotra (Toni), Ashok Katyal, Anil Chaudhary, Ajit Singh, Pradeep Aggarwal.

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