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November 5, 1997


Honour among thieves?

Harsha Bhogle

My mother often told me, as we pottered around our little garden, "Where God created a flower, God created a worm". (It sounds much better in Marathi: Jyethe kali tithe ali).

I think of that very often when I see people fighting against each other, and filing law suits for obscene amounts, merely for the right to hold an honorary position. And I wonder.... what is the real story behind this completely obsessive desire to become the Secretary of the BCCI and the President of the BCCI?

Is there a carrot there, a flower, that we don't know about, which is bringing out the worst in people?

Surely it cannot be a love for the game. Love, as a sentiment, disappeared from our public life long ago.

Surely it cannot be money. Every post in the BCCI is supposed to be an honorary one.

It is a great word, honorary. When I was a lot more naive, I thought it meant only honourable people could hold honorary posts!

Is it power? That bizarre adult phenomenon that causes people to behave like children?

Come to think of it, which was the last act of the BCCI that caused people to say: now, there's proof that our cricket is in responsible hands! Sometimes I think our Board behaves like children do when they have a lot of homework. They dawdle and they squabble and they stare out of windows. And they do nothing.

We are two weeks away from a Test series, and nobody knows who the captain is going to be, who the coach, trainer, physio, doctor, manager etc, are going to be. Nobody knows who the selectors are going to be, come to think of it.

Nobody knows whether the pitches programme is ever going to progress. And nobody knows if the Academy will ever take off.

Meanwhile, Mr Chandrachud says he is sick and cannot have his report ready for discussion. He would be terribly disappointed if he knew that nobody would have read it anyway. Certainly not at the Annual General Meeting of the BCCI.

So you see, there is a lot of homework to do. The difference between the kids who stare out of windows sometimes, and these adults who seem to do it oftener, is they have no one to report to. No class teacher, no superintendent, no headmaster to be afraid of.

It is like telling yourself: we need to do this in the next three months and then saying, no, maybe we'll do it next year... no, maybe we won't do it at all.

The world moves on the principle of accountability. All great organisations have reporting relationships (a variation of the class teacher to headmaster hierarchy, really) that ensure that things get done. Take away the accountability factor, and you take away your only chance of success.

People who run organisations know this. The BCCI doesn't, because they don't need to. At the moment, they are not accountable to anybody. Nobody, for example, is going to ask them how much the last AGM cost them. And there is no one who will stand up and say: last year, this is what we wanted to do, have we done it?

Can a boss who has no pride in his organisation demand it of someone else?

Lax organisations rarely produce good products, and you can see this lack of discipline percolating into the way the Indian team plays its cricket. The best cricket teams today are teams that represent disciplined organisations. South Africa is one of those. So is Sri Lanka, where at the first hint of bribery, the Sports Minister threatened to sack the entire organisation.

The only people our Board likes to sack are cricket captains.

Let us just look at the completely insane situation of the team physio. The Board secretary says nobody has been appointed yet, then says yes, I signed the letter of appointment but that doesn't mean the current physio is sacked, then he says we will probably have a team doctor and a team physio. At around the same time, Sachin Tendulkar makes a plea for a foreign trainer. If what the Board secretary says is any indication, Tendulkar (if he is captain) will get a doctor and a physio -- and no trainer at all.

Poor Tendulkar doesn't understand that what he wants doesn't count for anything. He is talking of cricket, the kind that is played with a bat and ball in an open field -- something nobody is going to be concerned about over the next two days. Or for the next two years.

I only hope they use lapel microphones at this meeting. The last meeting which had the desk microphones was the one in the Uttar Pradesh assembly. And we all know what happened there.

Meanwhile the world is watching. And the world is mocking.

And I don't understand one thing.

If the BCCI is an honorary organisation, why is there such a fuss over who awarded what contract worth how much to whom?

How about a commission of enquiry into the functioning of the BCCI? What a juicy thought!

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Prem Panicker on the role politicians play
I S Bindra's open letter to Dungrapur

Harsha Bhogle

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