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May 6, 1998


One team, two tournaments -- and one big mess

send this story to a friend Prem Panicker

Between September 11-21, the Commonwealth Games will be conducted in Kuala Lumpur -- and for the first time, cricket is a medal event.

Between September 12-20, the third edition of the Sahara Cup one day tournament will take place.

India is scheduled to take part in both. Both are prestigious -- at the Games, a medal is at stake; in Toronto, it is a revival of the Indo-Pak rivalry. The question now exercising the masterminds of the Board of Control for Cricket in India is, how to have the same team playing in both tournaments at the same time?

One suggestion tentatively advanced was to send one team under Azharuddin to one venue, another under Sachin Tendulkar to the other. That one didn't get off the blocks, though -- the Board's bigwigs think that splitting Azhar and Sachin will weaken the side. Besides, it also brings up ticklish questions -- which side, for instance, should your premier bowlers, say Srinath and Kumble, play in? Will Ganguly open with regular partner Tendulkar, or will he figure in the Azharuddin-led outfit? And so on...

Another option considered was to send an India A team to KL -- keeping in mind that the England and Wales Cricket Board has already indicated that it will not even bother to send a team for the event, thus reducing the prestige of the tournament considerably. However, the Indian board is under considerable pressure from the KL authorities to send a star-studded team, in order to draw the crowds -- and Jagmohan Dalmiya is not about to offend any of the lesser cricket nations.

So that option is more or less ruled out, as well.

A third option is now being considered -- namely, to persuade the Toronto organisers to reschedule the tournament. Again, there are two problems with this suggestion. First up, the Canada Cricket Association has indicated that it will be difficult to block-book hotel accomodation at a later date, and that in any event, in case of a rescheduling, the special rates given for accomodation will not apply.

Granting that the extra cost of accomodation is not too much of a problem, rescheduling is still far from easy. To understand why, check out the Indian cricket calendar from September on: September 11-21, Commonwealth Games; September 12 to 20, Sahara Cup; September 28 to October 12, India tours Zimbabwe; October 27 to November 3, Mini World Cup in Dhaka, Bangladesh; November 7 to 14, Champions Trophy in Sharjah, December 4 to 17, Tour to New Zealand...

The only visible gap in that schedule, to accomodate a best of five series that takes a minimum of ten playing days, is between November 14 to December 4 -- and at that time, Pakistan is busy.

So what does the Board do now? Surprisingly, it has decided to defer a decision till the ICC meeting in London in July -- at which point, the Indian representative will bring up the subject, in the hope that the ICC will be able to find a way out of the tangle.

Now this last bit is what I find most intriguing -- that the BCCI now wants the ICC to help it out of the hole it has dug for itself by means of unthinking scheduling.

The Board has a tours and fixtures committee, the members of which are: J Y Lele (convenor), Kamal Morarka (chairman), Vijay Chowgule (South zone), Kamla (East zone), A V M V Pasricha (North Zone), Vikram Patel (West Zone), Kishore Rungta (Central Zone).

The members of this committee are paid to organise India's cricket calendar -- said payment including the infamous one-day-before, one-day-after deal so well described by Sunil Dev in an earlier interview to Rediff.

That the Sahara Cup is due in September is well known to all -- the boards of India and Pakistan have a five-year deal with the sponsors, Sahara International. Similarly, the dates of the Commonwealth Games, and the fact that cricket is being included as a medal event this year, was also common knowledge for over a year now.

So how did the mixup happen? Who is responsible? Leading from which, does the Board -- which has in recent times been increasingly aggressive in holding the national team (individual players, the team captain, whoever) responsible, accountable for results -- extend that same principle of accountability to its own committees?

Prem Panicker

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