Off season was the best time for cricket reforms (Column: Just Sport)
If the Supreme Court is interested in running cricket, it should have come up with not only with a roadmap well before international season began in India three months ago and insisted on its implementation during the so-called off season.
The apex court allowed the New Zealand tour to go through despite the grandstanding by the board that was hanging by a thread. Then the Englishmen went through the four-Test series and three One-Day Internationals and will complete the long tour after playing two more Twenty20 matches.
The Australians are packing their bags for a long tour of India, and they, too, may not face any problems playing their four Tests, three of these at brand new venues — Dharamsala, Pune and Ranchi. The stadia there came up thanks mainly due to the drive of sacked board president and secretary Anurag Thakur and Ajay Shirke and joint-secretary Amitabh Choudhary, an IITian from Kharagpur who quit as senior police officer in Jharkhand with over seven years service left in 2013 and joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) the next year.
Shirke was at Pune to oversee the One-Day International against England earlier this month. He, Thakur and Choudhry have a hold on the board and only the last named has somehow escaped the wrath of the guidelines. Choudhry, along with treasurer Aniurudh Chaudhry, son of former board secretary and president Ranbir Singh, are the only only two senior officials who are carrying forward the powerful legacy.
The board raised the bogey of domestic cricket getting affected with the Rajendra Mal Lodha Committee holding the keys to the huge money chest. The court released the money for everything, leaving it to the CEO to make sure the system is not disturbed. It also tried the Indian Premier League card, asking the court to suggest ways to float contracts for the various rights — and the issue is still hanging fire.
How long can the board function without a president and secretary, the two men who have to carry on the not only business at home but also internationally? The board wants the court to allow it to nominate some powerful men who have been disqualified on tenure restrictions to at least represent it at the International Cricket Council (ICC).
The most vocal of the former cricketers could not hang in for long as they could not carry with them the club and district representatives in the state associations as they felt it was below their dignity to be seen in the company of non-cricketing office-bearers.
Most international cricketers and top first-class players chose the next best option, to cling on to the coat tails of the powerful careerist administrators. As long as they were able to milk the board and the state associations they had no problems but once they had to make way for fresh blood, they couldn’t stomach it.
Test cricketers Brijesh Patel and Shivlal Yadav became exceptions to the rule because they have acquired the ruthlessness in handling the affairs of their units.
The only former Test cricketer who worked as CEO quitting a public-sector undertaking and did well to promote cricket and create infrastructure in his home state of Andhra Pradesh is Mannava Sri Kanth Prasad, now chairman of the national selection committee.
The two administrators doing the job now are Prof Ratnakar Shetty, General Manager, Game Development, and Dr Maturi Venkata Sridhar, the General Manager, Cricket Operations.
Only Sridhar, a qualified medical doctor who branched off into the software industry to become the global head of a multinational company, has played first-class cricket for over 10 years and captained Hyderabad.
Ratnakar Shetty, a chemistry professor, rose from the ranks of collegiate sport to his present position surviving political equations in the board. The same permutations and combinations prevented former captains Ajit Wadekar and Dilip Vengsarkar from making much headway as cricket administrators in Mumbai cricket.
Former India captain Ghulam Ahmed is a model cricket administrator. A gentleman player became a gentleman administrator. He was a national selector, manager and board secretary. It is unfortunate the board could not honour itself by making him the president. He himself thought he wouldn’t fit into the new breed of highly ambitious administrators who have taken over the board just as he was on his way out.
Come to think of it, all cricket administrators worked under the shadow of big-time politicians. Now that the Lodha Committee banished ministers and bureaucrats from holding positions in the board, the day is not too far when cricket administrators might as well be opting for board work than to be a minister, civil servant or a police officer!
(The writer is a veteran commentator. The views expressed are personal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)