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Who?s the boss here?

The laws of cricket uphold, in a very fundamental manner, the need for a supremo. The cricket skipper wields as much power as Musharraf or Saddam Hussain.

india Updated: Sep 16, 2002 13:30 IST

The laws of cricket uphold, in a very fundamental manner, the need for a supremo. Unlike other team games where the captain merely shakes hands with the opposition, wears a badge on his sleeve and dutifully obeys the commands of someone occupying the sidelines, the cricket skipper wields as much power as Musharraf or Saddam Hussain. He sets the field, moves bowlers around and, essentially, does what he pleases. He is the boss.

But is he, really? In the past (with giants like Ian Chappell, Imran Khan, Sunil Gavaskar, Lloyd, Viv Richards) the LOC was clear, nobody disputed the authority of the captain, and nobody messed around with him. But now the power structure is a bit hazy because the captain's clout has been eroded.

The captain must now accommodate a coach, usually a powerful presence with a mind of his own.

The skipper still has the final say about the final eleven and the toss but the role of the coach goes beyond fixing practicse schedules, hitting high catches and announcing "last round" for a batsman after a 15 minute hit in the net.

Still, a cricket coach is far less powerful than a football coach whose job is to hire is / fire players, scream angrily into TV cameras and tell others to get on their bikes. As cricket is somewhat more civilised, the coach is more restrained, he advises gently and speaks diplomatically.

Besides captain and coach, the umpire too is a boss. His brief is to control the game and make sure that if players curse violently, as a result of dodgy lbw or bat/ pad decisions, the act is not captured on TV.

But umpires face an uphill task, like batsmen required to chase 10 an over, because of declining standards of player behaviour and exhaustive TV scrutiny.

These developments add to his woes as mistakes get magnified and while an umpire judges decisions on the field, his competence is judged by captains.

Which is why captains recieve sympathy from the men in white coats, who otherwise are quick to pull the trigger, especially with tailenders.

The captain and umpire have the match referee to contend with. This gent is the newly appointed havaldar who is supposed to extract good behaviour from captains/ players / umpires. He has powers to fine and suspend players, in his book a hard glare is a grave offence, disappointment on being given caught behind (when ball went off thigh pad) is dissent, entering the field during play in a track suit is a serious breach which brings the game into disrepute!

Match referees used to be doddering past players presented a gift voucher by the ICC following some lucky dip; now they are younger and made to work during a game.

While the general trend is towards curtailing the power of individuals the Indian captain remains relatively unfettered. He has a huge say in team selection and even chooses the type of wickets to play on. Contrast this with the independent, and fearless, attitude of the Chief Groundsman at Lord's. When asked whether Nasser Hussain interfered with pitch preparation the man looked at me with complete horror. "We both have jobs to do," he said. "I prepare the wicket and he plays."

First Published: Sep 16, 2002 09:57 IST