IN THE NEWS
The BCCI, a Rs 1,000 crore business, should be run by full-time professionals, writes Abhijit Chatterjee
WHILE the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has taken several steps, including putting in place a whole new team coaching concept, to revitalise Indian cricket, it has yet to rectify the major flaws in its own working. If the functioning of the BCCI is not improved at the earliest, then how can the cricket scenario in the country change for the better?
Time and again, the players as well as those who run cricketing affairs in the country, have advocated that corporatisation is essential since modern-day cricket is no more a game for non-professionals.
Of course, India’s miserable performance in the World Cup was the main reason why the BCCI had to take drastic steps like appointing a new manager and team support staff and putting curbs on players’ endorsements. The latter step, however, has drawn flak from former players. The board is willing to talk to the players on this issue, but it must be remembered that as long as the player is a professional, the BCCI cannot curb his income-generating capacity.
Imagine a Rs 1,000 crore enterprise being run by honorary part-timers! The BCCI office-bearers are not employed or paid for doing their job. Board president Sharad Pawar, who is a Union Minister, has gone on record in Parliament to say that he devotes a few hours a week to the affairs of the BCCI. Is that enough? The same is the case of other office-bearers. They all have other sources of income and cricket for them is only a hobby. In the past, the BCCI talked of employing people to run the board but it was unable to translate this into reality.
The BCCI, to start with, should look around for professional experts to manage the affairs of the board. This is the case of all major Test-playing nations. The best example is Cricket Australia. The BCCI should act as a watchdog of the professionals who will run the affairs of the game. But even here there is an urgent need to redraft the constitution of the BCCI.
Affiliated units like the Cricket Club of India in Mumbai or the National Cricket Club in Kolkata have no place now as the game has spread across the length and breadth of the country. There are also certain states with more than one unit existing. These, too, have to go.
In how many associations affiliated to the board do former cricketers have a say in the running of the association, even its cricketing affairs? While the Punjab Cricket Association could be an exception, in most associations, former players hardly have any say even in cricketing issues. And when some former cricketers do try to enter the association through the electoral process, they are generally opposed tooth and nail. And not being experts in politicking, the ex-cricketers have to bite the dust in the electoral battle.
This brings to mind an incident which took place a decade ago during the annual elections of the BCCI. After the name of a person was proposed for the post of member of the national junior selection committee, somebody objected that the person named had not even played first-class cricket. So how could he become a member of the committee, he asked. The selected person then went on record to say that he had played one, repeat one, Ranji Trophy match and by virtue of this he could become a member of the selection committee as per board rules. His word was taken but to be doubly sure the record book was checked before the final announcement was made. The "worthy" became a national junior selector but what his contribution was to the growth of the game is anybody’s guess.
The board’s decision to have paid selectors is a step in the right direction. Also, the assertion of former captains that only former Test cricketers should be appointed selectors is noteworthy. The current team of selectors has only two former Test cricketers, chairman Dilip Vengsarkar and Venkatapathy Raju.
Leander Paes did it yet again for India in the Davis Cup Asia/Oceania relegation playoff against Kazakhstan, but the very fact that he had to step in for the deciding reverse singles shows the inadequacy of the younger players. Last year, Paes had taken Rohan Bopanna’s place against Pakistan with the rubber tied at 2-2; this time, he thought he himself had a better chance than Karan Rastogi for the crunch match against the lowly ranked (1245) Dmitri Makeyev. He won on both occasions, but these stop-gap arrangements won’t help Indian tennis in the long run.
Paes is pushing 34 — how much longer will he be expected to bail India out? It is a matter of concern that in men’s singles, there is no Indian in the top 200 of the ATP rankings. Rohan Bopanna, easily the pick of the lot, is ranked the highest at No. 262. He expectedly won the opening singles against Makeyev, but went down in five sets to Alexei Kedriouk. He should have beaten the Kazakh as the latter was ranked 30 places below him. Perhaps it was the heavy workload — playing three matches in three days — that exhausted him.
After Bopanna comes Karan Rastogi (347), followed by Harsh Mankad (362), Divij Sharan (485), Vivek Shokeen (617), Sunil Kumar Sipaeya (678) and Prakash Amritraj (710). Not until one of them breaks into the top 100 can India hope to have a formidable singles player in the Davis Cup.
Three-time finalists India last competed in the World Group in 1998, losing to Italy 1-4 in the first round in Genova. Since then they have been languishing in the Asia/Oceania group. They lost to Uzbekistan 1-4 earlier this year, which pushed them to the brink of relegation. Rastogi and Shokeen proved to be no match for their Uzbek rivals. Paes preferred sticking to doubles, which explains the wide margin of defeat.
If India are finding it hard to stay in
the Asia/Oceania Group I while Paes is still around, imagine what would
be the scenario after he calls it a day? It’s high time the tennis
authorities start looking beyond Paes and find ways to improve the game
of the talented players available.
Punter fancies his chances of winning the World Cup. However, Virgil is struggling to keep his team afloat.
In the colourful world of one-day cricket, players’ nicknames are about as mystifying as a Muttiah Muralitharan’s ‘doosra’.
Punter is Australia captain Ricky Ponting, a name earned due to his liking for a flutter (small bet), while England captain Michael Vaughan is Virgil, not as a result of any epic performances, but because of a reputed likeness to a character from the Thunderbirds children’s show.
"A lot of mind-power has gone into some nicknames," said Australian wicket-keeper and vice-captain Adam Gilchrist.
"Glenn McGrath’s nickname, Pigeon, came courtesy of his New South Wales team-mates early in his career, when he was a skinny country lad.
"They felt that somewhere in the world there was a pigeon flying non-stop, as he could not land while McGrath used the bird’s legs as his own."
McGrath has also been dubbed Millard, in honour of a brand of caravan in which he first lived when he first moved to Sydney.
Gilchrist said he has picked up the name of Churchy. "A young autograph hunter once approached me and said: ‘Excuse me Eric Gilchurch, can I have your autograph?’"
Matthew Hayden, with his dedication to physical fitness, is known as Hulk and Unit.
Michael Clarke has always been referred to as Pup for his youthful looks on his debut in 2003 as a raw 22-year-old.
"Being called Pup is fine," said the in-form Clarke last year. "But they don’t look at me like that any more."
Elsewhere in the Australian squad, Brad Hodge is Dodgeball, while Brad Hogg is The Postman, in reference to his former job.
As well as Vaughan’s Virgil, the England team have Ian Bell who has been called Boyband as well as the Shermanator, by tormenter Shane Warne, after the geeky character in the film American Pie.
Andrew Flintoff has been SuperFred, Mr. InFredible but more recently Fredalo after his now-infamous late night trip in a pedalo in the early stages of the World Cup. Monty Panesar is Parmesan Tony, an anagram of his own name.
Among the New Zealanders, batsman Peter Fulton is called Two-Metre Peter. At 6’8", Fulton is believed to be one of the tallest ever players.
Curiously all the Bangladesh players are known by their nicknames, not just to other players but also fans and the media.
Former skipper Khaled Masud was known as Pilot; current opening batsman Javed Omer is Gullu. Bangladesh nicknames are usually thought up by parents.
Calling others names can backfire, however, as Flintoff discovered when he inadvertently riled Pakistan speedster Shoaib Akhtar.
"Freddie Flintoff made a comment. He was talking about my physique. He said: ‘He may be Tarzan but he cannot bowl’," Shoaib recalled.
"All I say is: thanks for keeping me focused. It made me realise that something was needed to be done, that I definitely had a point to prove."
ACE golfer Jeev Milkha Singh’s debut at the Augusta Masters ended in disappointment as he slumped to tied 37th on the final day, thereby missed an automatic ticket for next year.
The Asian Tour number one was tied 16th on the penultimate day, but a quadruple bogey eight on the opening hole on the final round saw him card seven-over-par 79 and although he birdied his final hole, he ended with a total of 14-over-par 302 in the year’s opening Major.
Only top 20 finishers enjoy automatic qualification in the 2008 competition, but the crestfallen Indian vowed to make a quick return to the Masters tournament.
"I’m really disappointed. I enjoyed everything except for the last round at the Masters but that’s alright. Maybe I’ll learn something from here. I started off badly and didn’t get back into shape after that. That was it," said Jeev.
"I couldn’t get my focus back after that bad start. I kept trying hard on every shot but I couldn’t do anything. I had some bad breaks as well but that’s golf," said the first Indian to play at the Masters.
Jeev will play in the Verizon Heritage on the US PGA Tour next week but plans to take a break for some soul- searching.
"I need to take some time off to sort out some things that are bothering me. My scores in the last round especially have been disappointing this year. I need to sort that out before I get out on the golf course. It’s more a mental thing," he said.
After missing the green on the opening hole, Jeev’s third shot with a chip failed to hold on the green and the ball rolled off into a bunker. He splashed his fourth to the back of the green and two chips and two putts later, the Indian staggered off with a calamitous eight.
Playing alongside Vijay Singh of Fiji, Jeev’s wayward driving kept him on the back foot as he dropped two double bogeys and three bogeys against four birdies on the card.
"On the third shot (on the first hole), I should have played more conservatively and hit it on the right side. I thought the greens were wet as I saw that Vijay’s ball pitched but I mishit my third.
"I’m not proud with the way I
finished. I’m happy that I made the cut and I would love to come back
as I like the course. It’s set up perfectly for my game. We’ll see
what happens next year," added Jeev, who won four titles on three
tours last year and also topped the Asian Tour UBS Order of Merit. —
THE writing on the wall was so loud and clear that coach Greg Chappell was left with no alternative but to put in his papers. He has undoubtedly been an unpopular coach.
Right from the beginning, he got himself mired in unsavoury controversies, starting with his infamous spat with the then captain Sourav Ganguly, which led to the latter’s ouster. However, Sourav turned the tables on Chappell by making a comeback into the team.
The Australian’s obscene gesture, caught on camera, shocked Kolkatans, if not the whole of India. His domineering attitude had made the players, especially captain Rahul Dravid, docile, doing his bidding mechanically. Yet he had the cheek to complain about the players’ disobedience towards him through his unpleasant "leaks" which did not behove the office he held.
By constantly shuffling the batting order, a process which continued even in the three games at the World Cup, he had utterly confused the players.
Lastly, instead of owning up responsibility for India’s debacle at the World Cup, he accused the team of groupism. Uppermost in his mind was Sachin Tendulkar, who has been an icon for 17 years and whose uncalled-for criticism is generally taken for sheer blasphemy. In short, he failed to establish rapport with the team unlike his predecessor John Wright, who was held in high esteem and under whom India reached the final of the 2003 World Cup. Befittingly, he was given a ceremonious send-off.
Whenever there is a mega event involving the Indian cricket team, we put the players on such a high pedestal that there is always a possibility of them not living up to the great expectations. The media, the public and the cricketing fraternity put so much pressure on the players that they came a cropper in the World Cup.
Cricket is a game of luck and pluck. The predictions about the pitch having juice and helping the bowlers are useless. Rahul Dravid was criticised for batting first on winning the toss against Bangladesh. However, India were put into bat by Bermuda on a supposedly lively wicket and yet they were able to amass a record score.
In the all-important match against Sri Lanka, the wicket was expected to favour the team which bowled first. India did that and yet lost the game.