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January 24, 2000


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Jadeja. Not here, nor there, simply everywhere

Faisal Shariff

" I will just keep quiet. I have realised that you cannot win against lies."

That is a despondent Sunil Dev, convener of the North Zone selection committee, speaking from his home in New Delhi. And the theme of his sad song is Ajay Jadeja, and his inclusion in the North Zone squad for the Deodhar Trophy.

It was Dev who advised team manager Sunil Luthra to keep Jadeja out of the squad -- the reason being that Jadeja is not at present registered with any cricket association in the North Zone. This, as per the conditions of the Board of Control for Cricket in India, precludes him from participating in domestic tournaments.

Ajay Jadeja But is it such a big deal? Or merely another instance of bureaucratic paper-pushing? "No," says one senior BCCI official, speaking on condition of anonymity. "If it is mere bureaucracy, fine, get rid of it. But for now, this is how the system works. Even Sachin Tendulkar finds time, every year, to fill in and send in his registration papers -- why is it so difficult for Jadeja to do that? Without the registration, you can have a situation where a player plays for one team in one match and for another in the next -- surely that is not advisable?"

So has Jadeja registered? Is it true that he is now affiliated to the Jammu and Kashmir Cricket Association? No, is the categorical answer from the BCCI official, who has access to the relevant records and is thus in a position to know.

"This event has shown the BCCI in real poor light," says Sunil Dev. "Ajay to my mind is one of the finest cricketers in the country, and I am not saying this to sound diplomatic. However, to overrule decisions in this manner only fuels the general feeling that administrators are not clean in the way they run the game."

Sunil Dev does seem to have a point there. When he advised team manager Luthra to drop Jadeja's name from the North Zone list, the latter flew to New Delhi and reportedly used his good offices with Arun Jaitley, Union minister of state for information and broadcasting and president of the Delhi District Cricket Association, to over-rule the decision.

Another political bigwig who backed Jadeja, and in the process over-ruled Sunil Dev, is Chetan Chauhan, the former Indian opener and vice-president of the DDCA.

The incident raises a question -- should players kept away from teams for legitimate grounds use political clout to get back on the playing fields?

The Jadeja affair smacks of the mysterious. First, he was excluded from the Indian team on grounds of fitness. Dr Alex Ferguson, the South African expert treating the Indian star for a shoulder injury, categorically maintained he was fit to play international cricket.

Dr Ferguson's opinion failed to carry weight with the Board, and Jadeja was not picked for the squad to tour Australia for the ODIs.

One of the selectors privy to that decision to omit Jadeja from the party touring Australia is Madan Lal, one of the five national selectors. Lal is also chairman of the North Zone selection committee -- and it was in this capacity that the former India all-rounder insisted that Jadeja be part of the zonal squad.

Chetan Chauhan, speaking to on the telephone from Delhi, said, "The North Zone selectors had no objection to his inclusion, so the question of whether he is eligible or not does not arise. Further, the BCCI secretary, Mr J Y Lele, informed us that Jadeja was registered with the JKCA, so we saw no reason not to include Jadeja in the team."

If Jadeja were in fact registered with the JKCA, Chauhan's argument would hold water. But is the India star registered with that association? He has sent a letter to the association indicating that he would be willing to turn out for the team when able -- however, the JKCA has not responded to that letter, nor is Jadeja registered with that association.

In other words, Jadeja is not, today, eligible to turn out for J&K or, in fact, for any state side. However, he is found fit to represent a zonal side, which by definition is made up of players from the various states in the zone.

Madan Lal, meanwhile, says that Jadeja should play as he is fit.

So why then is he not sent to Australia to do national duty, when the team is obviously struggling for experience in the middle order?

"That is one question which should be handled by the selectors. Anyway, it is too late for Jadeja to go to Australia. The team is due to play two consecutive games and its chances of making it to the finals are very bleak," Chauhan says.

Why is it too late? Or more precisely, why was a decision delayed till it became "too late"? None in the Board has answers.

"Ajay has burnt his bridges with a lot of people by attaching himself with Kapil Dev," says a senior BCCI official, speaking on condition of anonymity. "He keeps getting away with things because of his persuasive skills and his contacts, but sooner or later, he will have to pay for indulging in this. Madan Lal and Ashok Malhotra (another national selector) are part of Kapil Dev's faction and do what he wants, but increasingly, this is leaving a bad taste in everyone's mouth."

The developments are causing some dramatic turnarounds. Earlier this month, when teams for the Wills Trophy were being chosen, this correspondent asked Sharad Diwadkar, executive secretary of the BCCI, which association Jadeja was registered with. "Haryana," was the response.

Twentyfour hours ago when Diwadkar was asked the same question, "Jammu and Kashmir," was the response this time. Asked why he had mentioned "Haryana" earlier, Diwadkar stone-walled. "Board Secretary J Y Lele is the person to ask about all these matters," he said.

Contacted over the telephone at his home in Vadodara on Monday evening, Lele told this correspondent that Jadeja had been given "special registration" by the JKCA.

Ajatashatru Singh, president of the JKCA, when contacted in Jammu, claimed that Jadeja had been registered with his association for the past six months. He was, however, reluctant to fax this correspondent a copy of the said registration form.

Mehboob Iqbal, the JKCA secretary, speaking from Udhampur, said he had not received the NOC (no objection certificate) from Jadeja's previous association yet. Unless the previous association releases the player with an NOC, he is not qualified to play for another association. Iqbal added that Jadeja had informed the JKCA last year about his plans to register with them.

"Jadeja has sent the form to us and we have forwarded his case to the Board. We have issued a prescribed form to the Board requesting it to transfer Jadeja. The Board has to do the needful now." he said.

That, in effect, means Jadeja is technically still registered with the Haryana Cricket Association.

"This is not the first time something like this is happening," recalls Sunil Dev. "Earlier, when Raman Lamba and Manoj Prabhakar were banned from playing in a game on my advice, it was shot down by Chetan Chauhan. I have given up. What will happen even if it is proved that Jadeja is not registered? There will be no difference in the dealings of the Board, they will do exactly what they want to do," he concluded, adding that the incident has prompted him to contemplate relinquishing his post as convener of the North Zone selection committee.

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