India Sports
BCCI: Indian cricket's Rip Van Winkle wakes up to realities, but how
Apr 9, 2007 - 9:38:54 AM

Not surprisingly, Rahul Dravid, speaking on behalf of his colleagues, has voiced concern about the payment system and restrictions on players' endorsement incomes arbitrarily and unilaterally declared by the Board of Control for Cricket in India - after its two-day conclave.

Clearly, the emerging theme of the meet was to make the unsuccessful representatives on the field scapegoats for India's unexpected early exit from the World Cup, and raise a red herring of cricketers' remunerations being the cause of it.

Some members of the Indian squad that went to the West Indies are unquestionably responsible for the abysmal failure and must pay for such non-performance. Given the suspicions that have been raised, their commercial contracts also need to be closely scrutinised. But a blanket dilution of fees and restraint on extraneous earnings would be unfair and unjust.

Reading between the lines, the BCCI's working committee attempted to attribute their decision to recommendations received from seven former captains invited to the conference, who have apparently distanced themselves from such advice since. Now BCCI officials seem to be divided on whether to insist on their proposal or listen to the players' point of view.

A productivity-based disbursement structure is propitious. But to dispense with retainers is debatable and may create insecurity. Also, rigid restrictions on cricketers' general proceeds could be unworkable under Indian law, if the players refuse to sign such an agreement with the BCCI. At the end of the day, it's the players' presence on the green that lays the golden egg. A potential biting of the hand that feeds the BCCI is yet another instance of this organisation being incapable of thinking through important decisions.

The wholesale gag on players also militates against freedom of speech as granted by the Indian constitution. It is common sense that if a player makes unacceptable statements, disciplinary action can be taken against him.

As expected, the BCCI's introspection has proved to be essentially an exercise in futility. It failed to address fundamental issues, such as the transfer of executive powers in the board and its affiliated associations to fulltime, caring, knowledgeable and professional persons. Instead, in a typically populist style of fooling the Indian people, it papered over cracks, that, too, clumsily.

Akin to Rip Van Winkle, the officials have woken up to the fact that international players should compulsorily be playing domestic tournaments, that subsidiary associations should 'prepare fast and lively wickets' for such competitions and India under-19 and 'A' teams should be touring overseas more frequently to gain experience of foreign conditions. That the world's richest cricket board had not been implementing the last mentioned is a tragic reflection of its ineffectiveness.

The BCCI wildly stated that all associated units should start their own academies linked to the National Cricket Academy -. Would it not have been more sensible to initially have zonal institutes, while sourcing talent from the innumerable privately owned coaching camps that exist in most provinces?

It emphasises the medieval state of the BCCI that it will take six months to ratify a change in its constitution before selectors can be appointed on a fulltime, remunerated basis. Besides, it's shocking that the working committee has 'directed' the selection committee to send a 'young team' for next month's tour of Bangladesh. This is naked interference in the remit of selectors, who are supposed to pick a side purely on merit. Youth for the sake of it is a ludicrous policy. While it's wise to encourage younger players, they must deserve inclusion.

It makes sense to prepare for next year's Champions Trophy tournament with younger legs, but it could unduly jeopardise India's prospects if replacement of senior exponents is not undertaken in a phased manner. The same should also apply in test matches, but even more judiciously.

What's welcome though is the retention of Dravid as captain and the appointment of Ravi Shastri as interim cricket manager, Venkatesh Prasad as bowling coach and Robin Singh as fielding trainer. It will also be a boon for Indian cricket if Greg Chappell is recruited for an authoritative and meaningful role at the NCA. But more critical is the choice of long-term coach and the assistants around him.


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