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July 30, 1999


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Wish upon a star

Harsha Bhogle

Many years ago, two young and enterprising journalists -- Mudar Patherya and Barry O’Brien -- with a combination of toil and passion, had created a book of cricket lists.

As a baffling postscript to that, one has embraced the stock market and the other a high school; neither covers cricket at all. And neither is as young any more!

We’ve all done that as kids, and since some of us don’t grow up, I thought I would produce a little collection of lists myself:

Eight changes I would like to see in Indian cricket

1: A new, young set of coaches; people who will teach youngsters the value of fitness, of taking catches, of running between wickets, or hitting the stumps, of playing under pressure apart from teaching them to bat and bowl.

2: The end of well-meaning part-time cricket administrators. Running India’s number one entertainment industry is a full-time activity. Like old, leisurely family-run Indian companies, Indian cricket too is feeling the heat. The time to change has gone, we are way behind time in the way we run our game and in the way our youngsters are taught to approach it. And because it is a nice little get-together, there is no accountability.

3: A 50 per cent reduction in the number of first class umpires that we have, followed by a further 50 per cent cut next year. At first class level, we need fewer, better umpires, not a swelling panel that allows its members one game a year.

4: Consequently, fewer Ranji Trophy teams so that the standard of first class cricket goes up.

5: Cricketing decisions taken on the basis of cricketing, not political needs. If you have a good manager, it shouldn’t matter where he comes from; if a ground does not have the required facilities, the location or the zone shouldn’t matter.

6: The comfort levels at our stadiums. At the moment, you get the feeling that the spectator comes last.

8: Permanent Test match venues. There should be a sanctity associated with them and there can be no more than six; for staging and watching a Test match should become a tradition.

8: Strict implementation of the age-limit in junior cricket. At the moment it is a joke.

Three things to look forward to:

1: A high pressure, domestic, limited overs tournament that is covered live. Today, the first really high pressure game for newcomers is often their first international. This is critical and desperately over-due.

2: A national cricket centre with different kinds of wickets; limited to the best under-19s and the national team, with a fully paid, completely accountable coach.

3: A modern media policy for our national cricket team. This is the era of confident young men and treating them like medieval brides will not do.

Four things in Indian cricket that should never change:

1: The atmosphere at the Eden Gardens on the morning of a Test match. The excitement in the maidan, the buzz in the club-house and the cheers when the players emerge to warm-up. It is unmatched.

2: The quality of the crowd at Chennai; fair and lovers of good cricket; and today, undoubtedly India’s number one cricket venue. If only they could find some place for some air to drift across the ground..........

4: The love and care that you see at Mohali; the person who built that stadium loves cricket and may that never change.

4: The tendency of our selectors over the years to throw young talent in; Tendulkar at 16 was an inspirational choice, one of the great selections of our times but virtually everyone else has begun around 20.

One great misconception:

If you are a cricketer, you have to be good at everything associated with the game. Just as a wonderful administrator need not walk into a first class cricket team, a Test cricketer does not necessarily make a good manager; or a good journalist, or a good selector or even a good coach.

Two revivals:

1: University cricket. It was a wonderful breeding ground for cricketers and can still be.

2: “Occasion" Test matches. A new year Test in Calcutta, a Pongal Test in Chennai...... Tradition is the heart of the game and we have lost it.

Four changes in the media

1: More live domestic cricket and therefore, more opportunities for budding broadcasters in India.

2: A top bi-lingual television producer who can produce top Hindi commentators.

3: A revamp of All India Radio or an emotional good-bye. In the pre-television era, AIR played a sterling role in promoting cricket. Sadly, it has stayed in the pre-television era. You get the feeling sometimes, and I get very emotional about this, that the only organisation in the world that believes radio is dead is All India Radio.

4: Large-hearted sports editors willing to offer bright young men with a lot of passion and a tiny ego, a break in reporting.

Two people we would give anything to see together again

1: Jagmohan Dalmiya and Inderjit Bindra. Genuine lovers of the game, forward thinking, proud Indians, together they could have done so much. Can’t we go fast-forward to the end of this movie where the two brothers embrace each other and sing a song of togetherness? In its desperately outdated mode, Indian cricket needs two forward thinking administrators in synch.

2: Sunil Gavaskar and Bishan Bedi. The two greatest cricketers of their era. Today, in the land of their birth, we don’t have a pair of openers and we don’t have a left arm spinner.

One inexplicable fact

The complete lack of character at the Wankhede Stadium. Such a great cricketing city, such a characterless stadium!

Two nightmares for cricket lovers

1: The government taking over cricket. Look at our hockey, our athletics.... look at what they are doing in Pakistan....

2: Doordarshan covering cricket on its own.

Four dreams that can never become reality

1: A proper cricket stadium in Hyderabad. We revered the Lal Bahadur Stadium, now they hang underwear to dry in that lovely commentary box.

2: No concrete in our stadiums, no policemen in them; only lots of grass and lots of kids.

3: Watching Bedi and Prasanna bowl through a spin-vision replay.

4: Watching Gavaskar and Tendulkar batting together, chasing 400 in the fourth innings, and being able to hear what they talk about between overs.

Two big regrets

1: Never being able to watch Subhash Gupte and Vijay Manjrekar. What would I give to be able to watch good videos of them in action!

2: Not being at Cape Town to watch Tendulkar and Azharuddin put on a double century partnership.

Sports editor's note: That's it from Harsha. But it is hardly the end of the story -- there's a whole audience out there we are waiting to hear from. So get to it, make your own lists... from the practical to the dreamy, from the sensible to the wild and the wacky. One warning though -- list making is incredibly addictive! So get addicted!

Harsha Bhogle

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