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October 10, 1997


Board of Confusion for Cricket in India

Harsha Bhogle

Snapshot 1: Wisden Cricket Monthly has brought out its international cricket calendar. It is a wonderful compilation that gives you all the big dates at a glance, but which also carries a most disturbing grey panel on it, for tours that have been finalised but for which no dates have been announced.

Obviously, it is no good having a calendar full of grey spots but luckily, WCM only have four or five; indicators that while most of the cricket world knows what it is doing and when, there are only a few that don't.

To nobody's surprise, India features twice on that grey list. If WCM had a sense of humour, or had published what the rest of the cricket world is talking about, they would have said: "Tour finalised but dates cannot be announced till it is clear which faction is likely to win the cricket board elections."

Snapshot 2: It is the last day in Toronto and word has filtered through that the Annual General Meeting of the BCCI could not be held because the 'minutes had not been circulated in time'. One of the Indian cricketers hears the conversation and, with an expression that has shock, misery and disgust written all over, says "What? So no changes? Same selectors? Same physio? Oh #*#%^@."

Continuity is the buzz-word in Indian cricket administration, and has been for several years -- except when it comes to selecting teams. It makes you wonder if changes in teams are required to ensure continuity in boardrooms. For someone who has always looked at Indian cricket with joy and anticipation, the last two months have been terrible. It just shows that if you close your eyes to the nightmare raging around, it won't go away.

And now the new, revamped, revised, reorganised AGM will be held on November 06. That is when the pause button will be lifted and the war will resume. Administrators will stand arrayed against each other and each move of theirs will strike a blow on the chin of Indian cricket.

"l'll make you vice-president and give you two one-day internationals......" "I'll make your man a selector ........."l'll ask the Chief Minister to nominate someone else to vote........." "CBI........contracts..........corruption.........."

Meanwhile, we would all be very interested to know how many office-bearers spent the last six weeks reading a document that had enough wisdom packed into it to win us the next ten series. The minutes of the previous AGM! For not having time to read which, the meeting was postponed.

For make no mistake about it -- getting those minutes passed is more important than the appointment of selectors, of a trainer and physio, of the national selection committee.

It is a million times more important than finalising dates and venues of a series that is a little over a month away.

It is all so cruel. So much is written about the fact that our fielding and our fitness levels are poorer than those of almost anyone else in the cricket world. But, it is just as true that a poor product emerges from poor planning and poor management. After the fiasco over the AGM, you will have to say that we have the least sensitive administrative set-up. Ah, but then, we are probably much better than the South Africans and the Sri Lankans at reading minutes -- and certainly at understanding their importance! . And that is all that matters just now.

Once the BCCI have finished brokering deals, and awarding Cuttack a few more matches, they might want to think about the colossal tragedy that they have helped write. They won't. And again, maybe they will, because there isn't anything else to do till the next AGM. Just a few cricket matches but no minutes to read!

This is the same BCCI that carries in its belly at least three people with outstanding skills. Jagmohan Dalmiya, whatever the rest of the cricket world may have to say about him, is an excellent administrator. Inderjit Singh Bindra is a very contemporary marketing man. And Raj Singh Dungarpur is a sensitive individual who understands cricket and cares for it.

These are three people who should be taking Indian cricket into the next century. Instead, caught up as they are in a tragic, self-defeating power struggle, they are doing nothing about the fact that we are marooned in the middle-eighties. That the world is passing by, that competitors are emerging better prepared and better equipped. That in passing by, they are sniggering at us.

My favourite fantasy involves a beautiful angel, wings of silk and a heart full of compassion, floating into the next AGM, speaking in words that are coated with love and care, 'Gentlemen, now that you have finished reading the minutes of last year's AGM, will all those who care for Indian cricket raise their hands please?'

Either out of a sense of shame, or more likely because they are captivated by her beauty, every person present will raise his hands and in doing so, will raise a cheer for Indian cricket.

Problem is......fantasies never come true.

They will be carrying boxing gloves into that November 6 Annual General Meeting.

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