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August 1, 2000

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Vision? Call it blindness, rather!

Prem Panicker

Before me, as I write this, is the BCCI's much-hyped Vision statement. And as I read it, what I am conscious of is bile. A bitter, nausea-inducing lump of disappointment, that sits like lead deep inside my gut.

As Harsha Bhogle was pointing out when we had a chat this morning, a vision statement -- essentially, a map showing what an organisation's goal is, and how it hopes to get there -- is the first thing any company hoping to do well puts together. The tragedy of Indian cricket is that the board had neither vision, nor document, all these years.

Finally, after much arm-twisting by the government, the board finally condescended to think of the future. And I thought to myself, ah, finally! Let us not crib over the fact that it is being produced under coercion -- let us, rather, celebrate the fact that the BCCI is finally -- finally -- applying its mind to the future.

My hopes soared even further when I learnt, earlier this evening, that the board was in fact submitting a 27-page document to the Sports Minister. Wow, I thought, 27 pages? Twentyseven pages!! That speaks of detail, it argues thought, effort.

Now, with that document before me as an indication of how well the board applied its mind, I am afraid there is only one conclusion it is possible for me to draw -- that if the affairs of Indian cricket are left in the hands of the body that produced this piece of amateurish trash, we might as well give cricket an honourable burial.

Did I say the number of pages induced optimism in me? That optimism turned sour within one minute of getting this document. For why? Simple -- what the board has done here is hired an amateur to put together a powerpoint presentation, using the biggest possible type in order to fit the least number of words on each page. The intent is obvious -- to produce an appearance of bulk, in the hope that this appearance will deceive those who lay their hands on it.

I remember, in school, there was this master who taught us geography. And who was too lazy to read through our essays, and so would settle for awarding high marks to the lengthiest efforts. The news spread, and I, in common with my peers, took to writing a lovely intro, then padding several pages with the storylines of recently seen films, and then putting a lovely concluding paragraph on the last page. It doesn't need mentioning that all of us scored high marks in geography.

That master would have been very impressed with the BCCI, and awarded top marks for this 27-page effort. I am afraid that lovers of cricket, on the other hand, would simply mark an 'F' on this paper. Or simply tear it up in sheer disgust.

Here is an example:

Cricket -- A Global Game
Cricket's boundary exists only in the field -- as a game it transcends national boundaries.
Cricket is played in 56 countries across six of the world's seven continents
It transcends social, racial and cultural barriers
BCCI is helping to make cricket even more global
Quality management and sound judgement will dictate the growth of the game in India in the years to come.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is page one!

Cricket is a valued part of India's heritage and way of life
In India cricket is treated with reverence, almost like a religion
BCCI, as the game's administrator, is fully aware of the passion cricket supporters hold for the great game and the interest they have evinced in cricket issues
BCCI will strive to protect the values of the game.

Objectives of BCCI

BCCI has identified the following set of core objectives that promulgate the spirit of the game
a) To promote the game in India to ensure outstanding success in the international arena
b) To preserve and protect the ethical values of the game
c) To enhance the entertainment values of the game through innovative measures

Those, friends, are pages two and three. Given here, merely to give you an idea of the nature of the con job the BCCI was hoping to pull.

Let's cut to the chase. What do we expect from a vision statement? A statement of intent for the future. And a definite, concrete blueprint detailing how the organisation in question expects to achieve its stated aims. Right?

Right, so what does the BCCI put down, under the heading Action Plan for the Future? Here is a verbatim quote:

a) The broad contours of the plan encompass the following:
b) Setting up of national coaching academy.
c) Creation of web site for the cricket board.
d) Introduction of video feed back system. Nomination of medical panel to determine the fitness of players.
e) Nomination of medical panel to determine the age of the players of junior cricket.
f) Payment of fees on the basis of player’s performance.
g) Payment of international matches allowance and logo money on the basis of gradation.
h) Providing physical training equipment to all state associations.

I am impressed. Aren't you?

Item one -- setting up of the national cricket academy. Could it be, do you think, that whoever drew up this document was not aware that a cricket academy already exists? That is a statement of fact, not a plan for the future, which is what the heading promises.

Item two -- creation of a website for the cricket board: Again, one already exists. The official site, we are told. On In any case, how does the creation of a website improve the game in this country? Am I missing something here?

Item three -- introduction of a video feedback system: What on earth does that mean? Does it mean, as I suspect, that a videographer will be present at the Indian nets, to record the players and play it back? That is basic. Every single country, even the associate nations of the ICC, do it these days. The feedback is not difficult to produce -- the key is having coaches capable of analysing that feedback, and then working with the players to eradicate their flaws. Do we have one such?

Included in item three -- the setting up of a medical panel to assess the fitness of players. Right! -- now, we can't lose! Once medical experts certify that our players are fit, the opposition will do a double take. They will, in their team meetings, tell each other, 'Hell, man, here we were thinking that the Indians are a bunch of unfit slobs, but there is this panel that has certified them fit! No hope for us, we might as well throw our wickets away tomorrow, we will surely lose!'

The next item is the most impressive yet -- the board intends to nominate a mdeical panel to assess the age of players! How? Will this learned panel get together and examine the players' birth certificates? Count their teeth? Cut them crosswise, like you do with trees, and then count the number of rings to determine age? Huh?

The board will, we are told, grade payments to players. Fair enough -- that puts the emphasis on performance. Which is where the emphasis belongs. So we aren't doing too badly here -- there is actually one item in this grandiose statement that actually sets out to accomplish something.

Is it enough? Will this vision, this statement, help raise Indian cricket from the depths it has sunk to?

But maybe I am wronging the board. There is more, you see. And that 'more' is as follows:

a) To provide over all direction to the game of cricket at different levels-school, colleges, clubs and corporates houses.
b) To ensure that India cricket is well equipped to meet the challenges of the new millennium.
c) To provide direction and vision for all aspects of Indian Cricket.
d) To allow Indian cricket players to perform both on and off the field.
e) To ensure that more people benefit from out great game, whether they are playing it or watching it.
f) To elevate the importance of coaching role at all levels of cricket.

And further:

a) To ensure that India remains the top 3 team of the world in the next 5 years.
b) To prepare a team capable of winning world cup 2002. To make nationals level tournaments more potent, attractive and competitive.
c) To enhance the quality of physical and mental fitness of the players.
d) To reinforce the role of clubs/district associations to help in maximizing the success of state and India Teams.
e) To create excellent infrastructure for the game in India.
f) To attain Excellency in Coaching.
g) To enhance the quality of umpiring.
h) To formulate guidelines to be followed by state Associations to attain BCCI’s vision.
i) To defend and promote the spirit of cricket.

Now that sounds more like it, doesn't it?

Imagine for a moment that my CEO asks me to prepare a vision statement for the cricket site, for the next five years (He doesn't have to -- we already have a very clear vision of where we are going).

Suppose I submit to him a document that reads as under:

a) To make Rediff's cricket site the number one site in the world
b) To ensure that Rediff's cricket site is ahead of the competition
c) To incorporate high standards of writing
d) To incorporate high standards of editing
e) To ensure good use of pictures
f) To keep ahead of all other sites in reporting news as it happens.

You know what our CEO would do? He would tear the page diagonally in half, then in half again. He would say, you damn fool, this is basic work practise, not a vision plan. And where in this piece of fluff have you told me how you are going to accomplish any of this?

On second thoughts, he would simply throw me out of Rediff.

But this is the BCCI. You can fret, and you can fume. But you can't throw them out. Because, you see, they are autonomous. Which, as far as the BCCI is concerned, translates thus: We control everything; we are responsible for nothing; we are answerable to nobody.

And that, ladies and gents, is why we are stuck with this board. And with this vision statement -- wherein the word 'vision' is indicative of what is lacking, not what it contains.

We columnists are often told that while we are quick to criticise, we are equally slow to come up with something constructive. That while we have questions, we never have answers.

Right -- let's see. It took the board a month and more of agonising to grudgingly produce this document. Within 24 hours from now, we will produce one of our own. Rediff's version of the Vision statement.

Having asked questions, we will now attempt to provide answers.

Postscript: The entire text of the Vision statement is on our site, for your reading pleasure. Please note, I use the word 'pleasure' in a very loose sense. Notice something? The BCCI which has just drafted a vision statement, the BCCI, which expects us to take it seriously, the BCCI, which talks of forward planning -- this organisation functions in such a shoddy fashion that in its official document, its vision statement, it talks of beginning its preparations for the 2002 World Cup right away. We would applaud -- except for the fact that the World Cup is in the year 2003. Such a little thing -- yet, so indicative of the malaise that pervades this organisation.

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