Saturday, April 07, 2007

Dreams, Visions and Fantasies

Well, instead of April-3, it seems April-7 has turned out to be a milestone day for Indian cricket. So let me try and figure out what this change in path for BCCI and Indian cricket is all about. What's right, what's not, and what's intriguing.

The Pros (all in decreasing order of priority):
  1. Paid selectors, to be appointed in a year's time, when the current honorary team's appointment expires. Gives us a year's time to arrive at the best system, especially in terms of the quantity of personnel, support staff, and the recruitment mechanism.
  2. Specialist coaches (Robin Singh for fielding and Venkatesh Prasad for bowling), overseen by a Cricket Manager (Ravi Shastri). The personnel maybe for the Bangladesh trip only, but the system, as suggested by Rahul Dravid, and as implemented worldwide (England, Australia, South Africa, at time Pakistan), should stay. The prefect thing is the balance achieved, Singh and Prasad have worked in the system, so they even-out a more glamorous and outsider Shastri. And I like the term, Cricket Manager, because that what he is supposed to be (refer previous post).
  3. Junior Cricket. One of the most successful systems in the world, needs to be built upon, and as suggested by the seven ex-captain committee, provided with better wickets, umpires, selectors and coaches.
  4. Full-time Media Manager. India's largest entertainment industry was crying out for one for a long time.
  5. NCA Consultant, again, refer to previous post as to why Chappell might be still relevant. And it will be safer if he 'Consults' on what kind of players to train, not 'Coach' them to become what he visualises them to be.
  6. Dravid as Captain, I believe there is cricketing merit in that, but for now, will go with the There Is No Alternative factor.

The Cons:

  1. Player Endorsements, limited to three, and no shoot fifteen days prior to a major tournament. I will refrain from commenting as I am somewhat part of the Media & Entertainment industry, but the Board's move can easily be legally challenged in a court of law as an unfair trade practice. In today's capitalised and globalised world, such moves can never work. If a player is losing cricketing focus because of endorsements, he is simply eroding his market-value. It will also be interesting to figure out what major tournaments mean, does the impending trip to Bangladesh qualify?
  2. Scrapping of Contracts. Again, a move which goes against the way sports-persons are treated, globally. This gives an incentive to players to hide injuries. If you remember, it originated when the non-celebrity but stellar Anil Kumble lost out a lot of playing money because of his shoulder injury. And when we are talking about having a pool of cricketers to rotate amongst, who will want to sit out, if they lose money?
  3. Politics? As Sanjay Manjrekar has pointed out, usually, the best invitees for reform meetings are not articulate outsiders, but insiders who have worked in the system. Maybe that's why, Dilip Vengsarkar, as the Chief Selector, is such an ideal combination, a successful international cricketer, who has been extensively involved in Mumbai selection and BCCI's TRD (Talent Resources Development). However, more critically, Sharad Pawar refused to invite Ajit Wadekar, an Indian Captain later than Pataudi and Borde, but more importantly, the Indian Manager for a large period in the 90s. The reason, Wadekar fought a cricketing election against him in Mumbai. It would have been genuinely professional if they invited Jagmohan Dalmiya to give his viewpoints on administration.

The Intrigues:

  1. Performance-linked Bonus. A good move in theory, but the ratio needs to be better, not 3:1. Will we, the middle-class working professionals, accept such dicey payment terms in our cushy jobs?
  2. Absence of BCCI's marketing brain. Wonder why the moolah-generator Lalit Modi was off to London, instead of being present at this crucial meet?

The Unfinished Job:

  1. Domestic Cricket. The ex-captain committee suggested the obvious ones: better wickets, and the Ranji Trophy Elite group restricted to ten teams. However, in the long term, we need a more robust study, and figure out if Maharashtra and Gujarat need three representative teams. Ideally, de-link Ranji teams to political administration and cricketing history.
  2. Paid Administrative Staff. We need a select core team insulated from politicking and regime changes (maybe like our notorious bureaucracy). This team can report to the Cricketing Committee (as suggested by ex-captains), who act as the Board of Directors for all the elected, honorary shareholders of the BCCI.

A Personal Fantasy:

  1. A fixed annual Indian cricketing calendar:
  • Like Oz, we play five-six Test matches at home, ideally in Feb-Mar (when the wickets turn and it is hot), and with occasions like a Pongal Test match in Chennai thrown in.
  • Not more than ten ODIs - triangular or bilateral. And no meaningless matches like warm-ups against West Indies and Sri Lanka.
  • A competitive first-class domestic tournament, with top international stars turning up for their respective teams during the main matches.
  • Four year touring cycles against Pakistan and Australia (similar to the Ashes).
But then, when will we fulfill our FTP commitments? Here's wishing to a genuine start!


Satyabrat Sinha said...

What was amazing was that the Ex-Captains hit hard on the endorsement issue? Why?

A lot of analysis says that it is about public opinion, since when did professionals or people who decide on issues of such grave concern want to take the Indian public's opinion? Are they fighting elections?

I do hope someone takes the BCCI to board over this and slam bangs it.

Why isnt that Subhas Chandra thing picked up? Sounds cool, they may end up making more money or does the play safe thing ensure that he wont get good talent to start with and until they kick off.

On the Chappel post. I think he is a wronged man. What interest would he have to screw around with a team like India?

svety said...

One of ur best posts...i was looking for perspective and I found it...clear as always....again to stress the point... a lot of journalistic merit...

A-Gyan said...

Well, as we all know, this just a political populist reaction to a public concern. And the surprising bit is, even if you witness the English news channel, the aam juntaa is in favour. Obviously, our disconnect is quite high.

The more worrying bit is, as I see it, is the dilution of the paid selectors in the hungama. If the selectors are accountable, they will place the best check on endorsers. A guy losing focus or performance is kicked out of the team, simple!!

Shuchi said...

I don't closely follow cricket (post-Jadeja :)) but have been observing the aftermath of the World Cup fiasco with interest and horror. This thing about restricting endorsements looked like so much mindless bullying, but I was puzzled as nobody else seemed to feel the same way. I watched The Indian Public on TV making statements like "In this country anybody can get away with anything. High time such rules were made" (and I said silently to myself ...right, call in Mussolini). Spoke with a couple of friends also whose reactions ranged from unmoved acceptance to downright glee.

Glad to find that better-informed people like you find this daft!

A-Gyan said...

And Anu di, you seem to be a rare sane person amongst the non-cricketers. In fact, if you don't follow cricket post-Jadeja, listen to his analysis on NDTV..he makes a lot of sense, more so when the other guy on the show is a ballistic Sidhu...

this was written fresh hot of the oven..and for an optimist, the most important news was Paid Selectorial staff...once you have them, they are accountable for the right reasons..and they better try and choose the right guys..not models, or underperforming stars..simple...