Indian cricket board superpower with feudal mindset
By Veturi Srivatsa
The Indian cricket board is bothered about its image more than the development of the sport or the promotion of players. It wants to project itself as a modern cricket power with a feudal mindset.
If the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) thinks it is modern and a superpower, then it should first drop the world “control” and with it the acronym.
Like the boards of all cricket-playing nations, it should be Cricket India. There should be little control over cricket, only the men running it, should show some restraint.
Since the board cannot be hectoring players of international stature, it does the next best thing, to pamper them with glorified designations like advisors, chairmen or members of the so-called high-powered committees. It is only to buy silence of the noisy.
The most sought after position is that of national selector with handsome pay packet and perks. There are players willing to genuflect before the board officials to stay in the limelight.
Board’s latest exercise is to form a puffed up three-member advisory committee comprising Sachin Tendulkar, Saurav Ganguly and Vangipurappu Venkata Sai Laxman. The three “legends” as board secretary Anurag Thakur’s described them, have apparently agreed to give back something to the game that gave them so much. All three do not seem to know what they are getting into as Ganguly said in as many words. How long will they stick together suppressing their own aspirations. The question is whether the board’s Technical Committee under Anil Kumble redundant or will the two committees duplicate the effort or work at cross purposes when their paths cross.
The committees the board has formed to accommodate former players in various committees or referees/observers over the years is no joke and some great cricketers of the land have wittingly or unwittingly fallen in the trap. One chairman of the Technical Committee could not restrain himself and said not one meeting of the committee had been convened in entire year! Needless to say he did not stay long.
The board’s appointments have always been run on the principle of musical chairs and once the late Jaywant Lele, a board secretary who had a great sense of humour and a acerbic tongue, told the board’s Annnual General Meeting that the post of national coach should be rotated so that all former players get their share of the spoils!
There are two or three aspects the board keeps harping seasonally. One is that it wants to protect its home season so that big-time cricket is played during festive season, two to strengthen domestic cricket tweaking the points system to make Ranji Trophy more competitive and three making lively sporting pitches, whatever that may mean. We have been hearing for years about these enunciations from presidents and secretaries of the board.
The board has a technical committee with to-class cricketers with substance and they keep articulating their ideas from time to time. Much of it is water on duck’s back for the authority which takes decisions to please the powerful cliques in the board keeping the monetary aspect at the back of their mind. The state associations likewise obliges their cronies.
The only difference this time is that in one go the board has roped in three big ones. And importantly, they will all work honorary, perhaps claiming only the perks.
The first glaring omission from the committee is that of Rahul Dravid. Even when Thakur spoke to the electronic media there was no mention of it from either side. Some unfairly speculated that Dravid was angling to become national coach. It didn’t take even 24 hours to dismiss the idea by appointing Ravi Shastri as the teaam director for the Bangladesh tour.
Dravid dropped hints on and off that he would like to work with the junior teams and that he could do without the trappings of a high-profile national coach or any other high-sounding designation.
Under the new dispensation, the board’s handouts can are found on social media sites like WhatsApp, Twitter etc. Thakur, a BJP MP and youth leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party, is positioning himself as a mini Modi, using the social media like his party’s tallest leader.
Unlike many of his predecessors, a couple of them giants intellectually, Thakur makes all his ideas fresh and original with his articulation.
Even before the Advisors could get their briefing from the board or they could put their collective brain as to how to take India’s cricket forward, skipper Viat Kohli spoke up to say that he wants to create a team that could dominate world cricket for the next five years. Kohli has to wait and see what kind of advice he will get from the legends with some of whom he has played with.
His views are uncomplicated or said in highfalutin language. He says in an interview to ESPN that his team certainly has talent and ability and all that is needed is to manage to keep them together.
He makes his vision clear saying that when players are together for 250-285 days it should not be difficult to strike a bond of strong friendship and he wants people to see it as united. Now he has to deal with so much of advice, solicited or otherwise.
(Veturi Srivatsa is a senior journalist. The views expressed are personal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)