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Why India shouldn’t try to avoid Pakistan in sporting encounters


Should India take on Pakistan in the international sporting arena?

BCCI boss Anurag Thakur doesn’t believe so.

The BJP leader, while ruling out resumption of cricketing ties with the rogue neighbour after the latest attacks from across the border at Uri, said:

“Keeping in mind that the government has adopted a new strategy to isolate Pakistan and in view of the public sentiment in the country, we request ICC not to put India and Pakistan in the same pool of the multi-nation tournaments. If the two countries reach the semi-finals and have to clash at that time, it is another situation which can’t be avoided.”

The statement above reeks of political opportunism while ignoring commercial considerations and the future success of ICC tournaments.

While it’s no one’s case that Pakistan is a sponsor of terrorism, to ask the ICC or any other sporting body to accommodate the Indian government’s  views would be setting a bad precedent—if accepted.

What happens if Bangladesh or Afghanistan make similar demands? Will the ICC oblige?

What about other sporting events such as the Olympics or World Championships? Are Indian sports persons to refuse to take on Pakistani athletes in group encounters but not in knockout rounds?

Can the US decline to play North Korea or Iran in international competitions?

India last toured their north-west neighbours in a full-fledged series in 2004. The last bilateral series occurred in 2012 with the visitors drawing the T20 series and clinching the ODIs.

India are grouped with Pakistan for the 2017 Champions Trophy.

ICC President Dave Richardson said:

“No doubt we want to try to put India versus Pakistan in our event. Its hugely important from an ICC point of view. Its massive around the world and the fans have come to expect it as well. Its fantastic for the tournament because it gives it a massive kick.”

It’s unlikely that the ICC will oblige Thakur by moving India out of the group. If the BCCI insists on making a political statement in the cricketing world, Team India might have to forfeit their game against their arch-rivals.

The men’s team are the only ones affected. The women’s side are slated to play Pakistan in a bilateral series. Should the tour be called off, their ODI ratings will be affected that may reduce their chances for automatic qualification for next year’s World Cup.

Thakur’s statement was greeted with disdain across the border.

Mohammad Yousuf said:

“I just don’t understand what he wants to say. For the last eight years India has avoided playing us in a proper bilateral series even when relations were better.”

He added:

“The ICC keeps on saying it will not tolerate politics or government interference in member boards and the BCCI President is making political statements. Either he speak as a BJP leader or BCCI head.”

An unnamed Pakistan Cricket Board official said:

“It is an out and out political statement from the President of the BCCI. We are disappointed as we have been trying hard for a long time now to normalize cricket ties with India and we have always believed in keeping sports and politics apart.”

In another news report, sources within the PCB revealed that they do not take Thakur’s tirades seriously.

“If they really don’t want to play Pakistan at all would they be willing to forfeit the match against us in next year’s Champions Trophy. No changes can be made now so what is the purpose of such statements except to play to the galleries.

…But for public consumption he (Thakur) gives different statements.”

Were the UN to declare Pakistan a sponsor of terror and impose sanctions, then it’s possible that sporting bodies across the world could declare it ‘persona non grata’, much like South Africa was for its heinous policy of apartheid.

But until then, it’s downright foolish to expect to be able to avoid Pakistan in multilateral contests.

At the same time, to simply claim that sports and politics shouldn’t mix is being naïve in this age of realpolitik.

Sports is a metaphor for war without weapons or bloodshed. 

It is also  a vehicle for peace such as when the Pakistani premier visited India for the crucial quarter-final encounter during the 2011 World Cup paving the way for resuming cricketing ties even if it was short-lived.

The issue at hand is complex. Simplistic statements from the BCCI chief muddy the waters especially when he must and should know better.

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Anil Kumble: Surprise selection as Team India Coach


Edited version of original image depicting pop...

Indian cricketer Anil Kumble. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Anil Kumble is the newly appointed  Team India coach.

That must be the most important job in the country after the Prime Minister’s, right?

Wrong, dead wrong.

Sanjay Manjrekar , in his column for The Week, describes the job thus:

“’Tell me, who is this guy with the Indian team, is he a player?’

‘No, he does not step onto the field.’

‘Is he a selector, does he pick the players?’

‘No, he does not, the captain and selectors do that.’

‘Okay, then, does he make the critical game-changing decisions on the field, with regard to bowling changes, field setting, batting order, etc?’

‘Nope, that again is done by the captain.’

There you go, that is the actual reality of an Indian coach and his position within the team. Hence the media excitement, every time, around the appointment of an Indian coach, baffles me.

In contrast, when a far more important and influential position outside the players is filled, it’s only duly noted by the media. That is the chief selector’s position.”

This is not to deride or belittle Anil Kumble’s credentials in any way.

Much has been said and written about his stellar cricketing record, his courage facing the West Indian quicks and his mental strength,

Kumble recognises the above reality and claims that he’ll be more of an ‘elder brother’  to the side.

He said:

“I certainly believe that as a coach of a young team, you need to be hands-on and you need to really get your hands dirty as well – train with them, be a part of their training. And be with them more like an elder brother, in every aspect, not just on the field, but also off it. That’s something I will be focusing on.”

Manjrekar concludes his piece thus:

“In Indian cricket, the captain and a couple of senior players basically chart the destiny of the Indian team. The selectors have an important role to play in this journey. If the captain is able, there is nothing wrong with this kind of culture; many great teams have been built like this.

So what an Indian coach really does is facilitate the needs of the captain and the core group and try and keep them in good spirits.

The coaches that actually make a difference to Indian cricket are those that coached players like Tendulkar, Dravid, and others, when they were kids. The grassroots level coaches.”

Kumble made a three-year-plan presentation to the Cricket Advisory Committee but has been appointed for only a year.

Ravi Shastri’s stint as Team Director and the results under his tutelage paved the way for the selection of an Indian coach.

Can Kumble prove as adept as John Wright or Gary Kirsten in handling this young side?

India play 13 Tests at home and his tenure includes the Champions Trophy.

‘Jumbo’ does not have a long rope and there is speculation that he was not an unanimous choice.

Kumble has no formal coaching experience but then neither had Shastri.

That appears to have made the difference since he was not in the initial shortlist.

The CAC selected Kumble—possibly—because he is a much younger candidate and can keep pace with the youngsters in the side. John Wright and Gary Kirsten were not too long retired when they took over the reins of the Indian side.

A younger person can be more hands-on; Kumble certainly believes he can be.

Is hands-on what the job requires? Depends on how you define it. Kirsten felt that it played an important role while he was coach. He used to spend hours bouncing balls at the senior players. His ability to handle fragile super-egos cannot be underestimated.

Kirsten’s right if we are go by what Manjrekar writes. And he is an expert.

Players like Virender Sehwag and Virat Kohli prefer to consult their old coaches on  technical aspects of their skills.

Is it less likely that it’s not the same for the current batch of players? Ajinkya Rahane and Robin Uthappa have retained Pravin Amre as their go-to person for improving their willow skills.

It does appear that what a coach brings to the side is intangible but the results are visible and rewarded or penalised with much more alacrity.

Simply put, the coach is the fall guy should anything go wrong.

 

 

 

 

 

Has Chris Gayle overstepped the line again or is it simply publicity for his autobiography?


Chris Gayle never learns or so it seems.

The macho West Indian star first made the front pages this year for his infamous ‘Don’t blush, baby’ line to Mel McLaughlin in an on-field interview at the Big Bash League (BBL) in Australia.

Gayle escaped with a warning and a stiff fine of AUSD 10,000.

But the smarts just wouldn’t end.

The Jamaican enjoyed rubbing it in naming his newly-born daughter—with partner Tasha—Blush.

Why draw her in into his mess, Chris? 20 years down the line, would your daughter like to be reminded of the circumstances around which she was named so? Go figure.

Trouble goes around in threes.

And there was surely a ‘threesome’ in store.

Chris Gayle pressed down on the accelerator—ignoring speed bumps— when interviewed by Times journalist Charlotte Edwardes where he talked about sex, female equality and homophobia.

Gayle told Edwardes that he had ‘a very, very big bat, the biggest in the wooooorld’  and whether she thought she “could lift itand that she’d need both hands.

The Jamaican embarrassed her further by questioning whether she’s had any black men and been part of a threesome.

The interview touched on other aspects as well.

On women’s equality, Gayle said:

‘Women should please their man. When he comes home, food is on the table. Serious. You ask your husband what he likes and then you make it.’”

“Women should have equality and they do have equality. They have more than equality. Women can do what they want. Jamaican women are very vocal. They will let you know what time is it, for sure.’

On homophobia:

“The culture I grew up in, gays were negative. But people can do whatever they want. You can’t tell someone how to live their life. It’s a free world.”

The timing of the interview could hardly have been more ‘fortuitous’.

Gayle is on the verge of releasing his autobiography, ‘”Six Machine” excerpts of which have been published (where else?) in the Times.

Reacting to Freddie Flintoff’s description of him as a “bit of  a chop” after the McLaughlin incident, Gayle said:

Freddie Flintstone, a young boy like you taking Viagra? Don’t lecture me. The only chop Freddie (Flintoff) knows is when he used to bowl short to me and I would chop him past backward point for four.”

Describing the McLaughlin fiasco, he added:

“Now T20 is different. It’s not Test cricket. It’s chilled and fun and let’s do things different. So when Mel asks me that question I stay in the T20 mind, and answer informal and fun. I meant it as a joke. I meant it as a little fun. I didn’t mean to be disrespectful and I didn’t mean it to be taken serious.

Channel 10’s commentary team could be heard laughing in the background … but someone above them clearly decided to step in, and a throwaway comment in a fun format escalates and blows up and within hours it has turned into a major international incident.

The southpaw had even stronger words reserved for Ian Chappell.

“Ian Chappell, calling for me to banned worldwide, a man who was once convicted of unlawful assault in the West Indies for punching a cricket official. Ian Chappell, how can you ban the Universe Boss? You’d have to ban cricket itself.”

Former Australian opener Chris Rogers was one of his most vocal critics claiming that he set a bad example to his younger teammates.

Gayle responded thus calling him a bit of a “Roger Rabbit”.

He said:

“Chris Rogers, how can you claim that when it was you and me at the bar most nights? I’m not a snitch, but I’ve heard from your own mouth what you’ve done. Next time you want to open your mouth, maybe chew on a carrot instead.”

Is Chris Gayle in trouble yet again? Has he landed in deeper, hotter waters this time around?

His detractors would like to believe so.

Melbourne Renegades have decided not to continue with the T20 star.

This, however, does not prevent any other BBL side from signing him on.

While Somerset chief executive Guy Lavender admitted that he was disappointed with Gayle’s latest blowout, he added:

“But as I’ve said before, we found him to be fantastic the last time he was here, in terms of activities both on and off the pitch.

It’s a shame, because it detracts from his cricketing ability. The fact is, what he has said is inappropriate. But we haven’t had an opportunity to discuss [it] with him. I’m sure we will. But I don’t see it as grounds not to have him playing for us this summer.”

And in India, IPL chairman Rajiv Shukla is taking the matter seriously.

Talking to Times of India, he said:

“The players must behave themselves. We expect the players to adhere to a certain kind of behaviour when the tournament is on. The players should maintain the sanctity of the league. These kind of statements are totally uncalled for in public domain. I will take up this issue with the president and the secretary of the BCCI.”

BCCI’s secretary Ajay Shirke said:

“At this point, we’ll not look into it. We’re focused on completing the IPL, which has reached its final stages. What has happened in this case is between two foreign individuals. It is a personal matter between people who aren’t from India. At the same time, that doesn’t mean that we’ll ignore it. If a complaint is brought to us, we’ll act on it. If it develops into something more, we’ll look into it at an appropriate stage.”

Gayle , in his latest interview, believes that most of the criticism directed his way after the McLaughlin imbroglio was racially motivated.

He says:

“Successful black men are struggling because people do things to put them down. I would say this anywhere in the world, in any sporting arena, right now in 2016: racism is still the case for a black man. Trust me. They just want to get a little sniff of the dirt. They find out some shit and they want to sink you. It’s reality. You have to deal with that as a successful black man.”

Racism has always been an issue in sport.

Henry Gayle was born in a Kingston slum and used cricket as his vehicle to become one of the world’s most beloved and entertaining sportsmen.

Writing for the Guardian, Andy Bull says:

“In the last year the Zimbabwean Test cricketer Mark Vermeulen was banned by his board after he referred to black Zimbabweans as ‘apes’ on social media, while Vermeulen’s old team-mate Prosper Utseya accused that same board of racism in their running of the sport. And several Pakistani players have spoken out about racism in English county cricket, in the wake of the offence committed by Craig Overton. These issues are always there, bubbling under. But it’s rare for a star player to address them directly, as Gayle has just done.

Gayle was talking about something more insidious, about attitudes ‘off the field’, especially, he seems to be saying, among the media. And some aspects of our coverage should make us uncomfortable. As Peter Oborne pointed out in his book Wounded Tiger, the Pakistani team is often subjected to the most ludicrous stereotyping, which has stretched as far as the suggestions, widespread at the time, that certain members of their 2007 World Cup team may have had a hand in the death of their coach Bob Woolmer. Innuendos always swirl when they play poorly, quicker to gather around them than their competitors, though cheating, and fixing, are universal problems.”

Racism is not restricted to the Western hemisphere.

Foreign cheerleaders in the IPL have complained several times about the treatment and slurs they are subjected to by Indian men.

In 2008, British dancers Ellesha Newton and Sherinne Anderson were prevented from performing during a Kings XI Punjab game.

Anderson said:

“An organiser pulled us away. He said the people here don’t want to see dark people. The ‘n’ word was used and they said they only wanted beautiful white girls. We were crying. I could understand if it were the crowd but they were very receptive. This kind of thing has never happened to us – not in Europe, not here, nowhere. “

There have not been any black cheerleaders in any edition of the IPL since.

An unnamed cheerleader in a free-wheeling chat on Reddit’s Ask Me Anything (AMA) had this to say:

“I hate the racism. Why is my team made up of 99% white girls? Why do Indians feel it’s ok to dress white girls up in skimpy outfits but they won’t let their fellow Indian women do it? It’s messed up.

I’ve asked my managers [about why no Indian girls as cheerleaders] and they don’t know. I’ll keep asking around, though, because I’m curious too. They could probably just get good dancers and train them; there’s no shortage of those.”

 

Chris Gayle adds in his autobiography that some people consider him “lazy“.

He writes:

“People think that [my] attitude towards the game stink. That’s how it come across: lazy.”

If Gayle’s indolent, his record proves otherwise.

He has played 103 Test matches in 14 years, scored two triple centuries and is arguably the best T20 batsman in the world.

But playing the race card in this seemingly complicated mess only addles the issue.

Racial discrimination is not the only kind that exists. Women everywhere face sexual biases on a daily basis. To claim that one is better or worse than the other sidesteps the issues raised by Gayle’s nonchalance towards the ramifications of his ‘jokey‘ sideshows.

Discrimination of any kind is to be frowned upon.

To clear things up, one would probably hark back to the rustic retorts Indian women (and defenders of their modesty) dish out to eve-teasers and molesters, “Tere maa, behn or beti nahin hai kya?  (Don’t you have a mother, sister or daughter?) How would you feel if someone dealt with them in the same way?”

No racism about it—just a question of right behavior in a public space.

That, Chris Gayle, is the crux of the matter. Not anything else, not anything more.

 

Azhar: Simply not true enough to be paisa vasool


Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5.

Language: Hindi.

Directed By: Tony D’Souza

Produced By: Shobha Kapoor, Ekta Kapoor, and Sony Pictures Networks

Written by:  Rajat Aroraa

Cast:

Emraan Hashmi as Mohammad Azharuddin.

Lara Dutta as Meera

Prachi Desai as Naureen, the first wife of Azharuddin.

Nargis Fakhri as Sangeeta Bijlani, the second wife of Azharuddin.

Kulbhushan Kharbanda as Azhar’s Nanu.

Rajesh Sharma as M. K. Sharma

Azhar, the movie, does not claim to be a biopic.

It is a fictionalised picturisation of Mohammad Azharuddin’s life-story. Azhar was the skipper of the Indian cricket team—making his way from a middle-class home to the pinnacle of Indian sport, from simplicity and humility to the easy arrogance of Armani suits, from a reclusive , reticent person to seeking and gaining the favour of one of Bollywood’s top actresses.

The movie is an attempt to whitewash and dramatize the Hyderabadi’s part in the match-fixing scandal that rocked the cricketing world in the 2000s.

Emraan Hashmi essays the title role with aplomb and mimics the former Indian skipper’s mannerisms to a T but is unable to dominate the frame in the way you’d expect  a larger-than-life Azharuddin to do.

Azhar’s teammates are reduced to caricatures jealous of his success, philanderers and simply unwilling to be embroiled in the messy match-fixing soup the protagonist finds himself in.

The famous showdown between Navjot Singh Sidhu and Azhar during in the 1996 England tour wherein the Sikh famously walked out of the side and returned home is not even alluded to in the film.

Jaywant Lele, in his autobiography, reveals the reason was that Sidhu was constantly abused by his captain.

The movie focuses on the court case filed by Azhar against the life ban imposed by the ICC and the BCCI which incidentally he won in 2012. The ban was revoked by the BCCI in 2005.

English: Mohammad Azharuddin Sangeeta Bijlani

Mohammad Azharuddin Sangeeta Bijlani (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The movie fails to capture other aspects of Azhar’s life such as the tragic death of his son Ayazuddin in 2011. The separation from Sangeeta Bijlani is skipped over and there is no mention either of this third marriage to long-time friend, Shannon Marie or his rumoured affair with Jwala Gutta—which incidentally both deny vehemently.

There is also little focus on his aggressive fielding at point and the training that made him one of the most brilliant fielders of his generation.

The women protagonists have surprisingly substantial parts in the film.

Prachi Desai as Naureen is demure, sensitive and suffering. She is dignity itself while certainly not a women’s lib proponent.

Hashmi portrays Azhar as both bewildered by the turn of events and his personal turmoil yet fascinated by his new love interest, Sangeeta Bijlani.

Bijli catches Azhar on the rebound from her failed relationship with Salman Khan, leader of the brat pack of Bollywood. Azhar’s dedication of his match-winning knock to his new love interest at a man-of-the-match ceremony—signalling the end of his first marriage—is crass and cowardly.

Nargis Fakhri as Sangeeta is disappointing, unable to capture her glamour or her chutzpah at snaring a married cricketer under the noses of his unsuspecting spouse and the media. She comes across as a weak-willed woman who succumbs easily to the advances of a married man. The melodramatic scenes evoke very little emotion. Fakhri is no thespian. Period.

Bollywood and cricket can never be divorced. Dalliances happen all the time but seldom end well.

Lara Dutta as Meera, the defending counsel, has the most substantial role after Hashmi in the film. She’s bold and gutsy, speaks her mind and makes no bones about turning from friend to foe, fan to hater.

Ajay Sharma, Manoj Prabhakar, Ajay Jadeja and Azharuddin were all banned by the BCCI—Prabhakar and Jadeja for five years.

Jadeja’s ban was lifted in 2003 and he made a return to domestic cricket but he was never the same batsman. He never played for India again. Nayan Mongia—accused by Azharuddin—-was forced to retire despite not being found guilty by the CBI.

Hansie Cronje was the most tragic victim of this match-fixing scandal dying in a plane crash.

MK Sharma (MK Gupta) is the bookie turned approver who introduces Azhar to the sordid world of match-fixing.

Azhar—in the movie—purportedly accepts a bribe but only to shield his teammates from temptation. The reasoning is so spurious that one would best walk out from the movie hall at this point.

Navneet Mundhra writing for SportsKeeda does a competent job of listing the facts and distortions in the movie.

(Mundhra’s piece refreshed my memory about the facts of the case. The match-fixing controversy was the first to hit Indian cricket and it was the reason why I stopped following Indian cricket for a while. The Indian cricket fan has never been the same—the joys of victories tinged with suspicions about losses. Tehelka made its reputation for hard-hitting journalism based on its revelations with Manoj Prabhakar’s assistance.

My memories of Azza are of a wristy batsman who burst on the scene as a bundle of talent scoring three consecutive Test centuries on debut in a home series against England after staking his claim with a series of excellent scores in domestic matches. Azhar had arrived.

He was not—by any reckoning—a brilliant skipper, more a lucky one. He began the trend of having pitches suit the home side in Indian cricket.

He had a weakness against short-pitched pace bowling which he responded to in a counter-attacking style—all aggression , preferring to die by the sword rather than live on his knees.)

The scoreboard listing  the mangled  names of Sri Lankan and Indian players gives the game away.

The movie would have appealed to viewers more had it attempted to be a more accurate portrayal of Azhar’s feats and foibles. Look no further than The Program for a template.

The movie is bland and boring.

If you’re a die-hard Azhar fan, you’re better off staying home and catching his batting and fielding videos instead on Youtube or DVD.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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West Indian cricketers flourish while administration languishes


While the Supreme Court continues to flay the BCCI and its associate members for dragging their feet on the Lodha Panel reforms, it has gone quiet on the Western front specifically the CARICOM coast.

It’s been a time of jubilation and turmoil for West Indian cricket.

The Calypso swingers under Darren Sammy uncorked an unprecedented second T20 World Cup win in astounding fashion with Carlos Brathwaite proving an unlikely hero. Their women’s team had the very same afternoon clinched their first ever World Cup in any form of the game.

Sammy , ever the team champion, utilized the occasion to roundly castigate the West Indian Cricket Board (WICB) for its step-motherly treatment of the players.

He said:

“We started this journey … we all know we had … people were wondering whether we would play this tournament. We had a lot of issues, we felt disrespected by our board, Mark Nicholas described our team as a team with no brains. All these things before the tournament just brought this team together.”

The WICB President David Cameron was quick to respond.

In a statement purportedly praising the World T20 organisers India and Bangladesh, Cameron said:

“The President would like to however apologise for what could be deemed inappropriate comments made by the West Indies’ male captain, Darren Sammy, in a post-match interview and would like to apologise on behalf of the WICB to the millions of fans who witnessed. The President has pledged to enquire the reason and will have the matter addressed.”

He had earlier tweeted:

The ICC would later join the WICB in reprimanding Darren Sammy and his teammates for their comments that were “”inappropriate, disrespectful and [bringing] the event into disrepute.”

The ICC press release read:

“The board considered the behaviour of some of the West Indies players in the immediate aftermath of the final, and unanimously agreed that certain comments and actions were inappropriate, disrespectful and brought the event into disrepute.

This was not acceptable conduct at ICC events played out on a world stage in front of millions of people around the globe.

The board acknowledged an apology by the WICB but was disappointed to note that such behaviour had detracted from the success of what was otherwise a magnificent tournament and final.”

Flag

Flag (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The gloss of the glorious treble of the U-19 World Cup, Women and Men’s T20 triumphs was wearing off quickly.

It wasn’t all rocky ground for West Indian cricket.

The newly minted BCCI and ICC head Shashank Manohar has been in an expansive mood notwithstanding the BCCI’s travails in the Supreme Court.

The Vidarbha lawyer first stated that he’s not in agreement with the ICC revenue-sharing formula wherein the Big Three—India, England and Australia—share the spoils and the leftovers distributed among the rest of the members.

Then the BCCI announced that bilateral ties between India and the West Indies would resume later this year. The cash-rich Indian body waived a $42 million damages claim against the abandoned 2014 tour. The West Indian cricketers flew home after the WIPA and WICB failed to resolve a long-standing pay dispute.

Late last year, the CARICOM cricket review panel suggested an immediate dissolution of the WICB. The panel was constituted by the Prime Ministerial Committee on the Governance of West Indies Cricket as a response to the crisis created by the damages slapped  on the WICB following the pull-out from the India tour.

The panel recommended formation of an interim board to install a fresh governance framework with the assistance of a change management expert.

The WICB rejected the report and its findings unilaterally claiming that none of the members of the board were consulted by the panel members.

Legends of the game were not so forgiving. Coming together under the banner Cricket Legends, Garry Sobers, Viv Richards, Wes Hall,  Andy Roberts and others met with Grenada premier Keith Mitchell, chairman of the Prime Ministerial Committee on the Governance of West Indies Cricket and sought the WICB’s termination.

That’s how the matter rests for now.

The following column will pore over specific recommendations from the panel and the WICB’s reasons for rejecting their proposals.

Ravi Shastri: What he said, really meant and definitely didn’t


Ravi Shastri is no Mad Hatter.

What he said:

“When the moment is important, Ravi Shastri is the last one to back away. So if you’re asking if my hat is in the ring, it is in there. Maybe three hats!”

Ravi Shastri’s tenure as Team India director has ended. He and his team— Sanjay Bangar, Bharat Arun and R Sridhar—have done a creditable job following Duncan Fletcher’s departure.

When asked if he’d be up for the job of the new team coach, the former left-arm spinner and right-hand bat responded:

“I have had a discussion much earlier with the Board on as to where things should go, and how. At the end of the day, they are my employers. They are the ones who are going to make the decision. So whatever I have grasped in these 18 months, I have let them know.

See, it is a very challenging job. It has been a very enjoyable job. It is a very important moment in Indian cricket.When the moment is important, Ravi Shastri is the last one to back away. So if you’re asking if my hat is in the ring, it is in there. Maybe three hats!”

Talking about Team India’s performance, Shastri is against change for its own sake.

He said:

“Look at our performances in the last 18 months. We are ranked 2, 2 and 1 in the three formats. And that can’t happen if you have people within the system who are not interested in the game. If, by any chance, it was the other way around, you would have heard from me straight.”

On how he handled coming into the fray as Team Director:

“I want to cut across barriers and come straight to the point, which is communication and trust. For me, that was the first nail I had to put in. I always believed they were a terrific side. They were low on confidence and they were probably not approaching the game in the right way, the way it should be played when you consider the talent they have.

Those were the two areas you had to focus on, and you kept things simple. You said, let’s hit those areas first, let’s get the trust, let’s get the communication going. Let’s get the work ethic better, where there’s no shortcut. It might take time, it might take three to four months before we are back to winning ways. And then you know things will fall in place. But what I saw was a transformation that was quite immediate. I didn’t expect that. But then again, it’s why I jumped in, because I knew there was huge talent there.”

What he really meant:

“I’m all for continuing as team coach. My record speaks for myself. And I’m always up for the challenge. It’s certainly something I enjoy doing more than commentating!”

What he definitely didn’t:

“Speaking of myself in the third person, now, that’s something I never did on the microphone. And I’m all for three hats: Commentator, Manager and Team Coach. To hell with conflict of interest , I’m Superman!”

Higher prize money on offer by Hockey India does not tell the full story


Prize Money: BCCI versus HI
Award (in lakhs) BCCI HI
Male player of the year 5 25
Female player of the year 0.5 25
Junior male player of the year 0.5 10
Junior female player of the year 0.5 10
Lifetime achievement 25 30
Total prize money 43 130
Prize Money: BCCI versus HI

Prize Money: BCCI versus HI

Hockey India are more generous employers than their cricketing counterparts—the BCCI.

Would you believe that?

It’s true.

India’s national game body gives away Rs. 1.30 crores in prize money every year, while the BCCI doles out a measly Rs. 43 lakhs.

Don’t bolt for the astro-turf fields yet.

This doesn’t account for the moolah in the IPL and that cricketers are  the highest paid (sporting) endorsers of Indian goods and services.

Other games have a long way to go. But they may be getting there.

 

Commentary on Lodha Commission recommendations to BCCI – IX


Chapter Ten: Constitution & Functioning of Members

The Lodha Commission believes that there should be uniformity in how the BCCI and its member associations are structured.

The BCCI is registered as a society. Members are either societies or companies.

English: Four Indian boys playing cricket in t...

Four Indian boys playing cricket in the street with a new tennis ball provided to them. Photo is taken in Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Problems:

Membership & Privileges

Member associations do not have uniform rules for membership. Some associations allow clubs and individuals, others only have clubs while the rest have both individuals and patrons.

There exist very few guidelines for admission. Former Indian cricketers are denied membership to these associations.

Promotion of the game is hardly the priority at some associations. Tickets to games are made available to members first reducing the number available to fans substantially.

Associations are housed on premises at stadia constructed on leased premises.

Posts & Tenures

No specified terms for posts and no limits on the number of terms for an administrator are the main problem areas highlighted in this scection.

Voting

Proxy voting has given rise to unscrupulous practices when it comes to holding elections at member associations.

Compliance

Are member associations registered as not-for-profit entities compliant? It does not appear so.

Furthermore, associations registered as societies are less transparent than bodies registered under the Companies Act.

Expenditure & Infrastructure

The exists no or little accountability for the grants for ‘development of cricket’ provided by BCCI to members.  The facilities at stadiums remain abysmal and very few wickets or grounds outside of existing stadium are developed.

Lack of professionalism

There exist no separate layers for governance and management. Accounting systems are maintained on an ad-hoc basis.

Member associations lack vision and drive to generate revenue streams for themselves. They depend largely on the BCCI’s largesse.

Dual posts

The Lodha Commission prefers that when an administrator is elected to the Board, he/she must not be allowed to continue as an administrator at their respective state associations. This would prevent conflict of interest situations arising. National interest must come first.

Interference in selection

Merit is ignored when it comes to selecting players. Influence appears to be the main criteria. States are not fielding or selecting their best available talent.

Transparency

Transparency is lacking.

Constitution, bye-laws, accounts, expenditure, ethics guidelines and player statistics are rarely available or up to date on association websites.


The Lodha Commission states:

“Each State Association will necessarily have a website that carries the following minimum details:

  1. The Constitution, Memorandum of Association and Rules & Regulations, Bye-Laws and Office Orders and directions that govern the functioning of the Association, its Committees, the Ombudsman and the Ethics Officer.
  2. The list of Members of the Association as well as those who are defaulters.
  3. The annual accounts & audited balance sheets and head-wise income and expenditure details.
  4. Details of male, female and differently abled players representing the State at all age groups with their names, ages and detailed playing statistics.
  5. Advertisements and invitations for tenders when the Association is seeking supply of any goods or services (exceeding a minimum prescribed value), or notices regarding recruitment, as also the detailed process for awarding such contracts or making such recruitments.
  6. Details of all goals and milestones for developing cricket in the State along with timelines and the measures undertaken to achieve each of them.
  7. Details of all office bearers and other managerial staff (including CEO, COO, CFO, etc.)
  8. Details of directives from the BCCI and their compliances.

These websites will have to be maintained and updated at least on a quarterly basis. All the above information will have to be maintained at the registered office of the State Association and when sought, the same shall be shared with the applicant on the payment of a reasonable fee, as may be prescribed by the Association.”

The Lodha panel further dictates that the BCCI should encourage State associations to have as many cricketing grounds and fields instead of multiple stadia. This will enable greater usage and access. Existing grounds and facilities should be renovated and converted to turf wickets thus making international standard facilities available at a young age.

Furthermore, existing stadium should be made multi-sport facilities enabling other games such as hockey and tennis to be hosted if necessary.

Commentary on Lodha Commission recommendations to BCCI – VIII


Chapter Nine: Match-Fixing and Betting

While the Lodha Commission recommends the legalization of betting, it also urges making match-spot-fixing a criminal offence.

The panel prescribes amendments to the BCCI and IPL regulations on Corruption, Betting and Misuse of inside information.

The following safeguards would have to be provided while making betting legal:

  • Regulatory watchdogs to check betting houses and bettors.
  • Players, administrators and others closely associated with the sport to give income and asset details.
  • Bettor licenses.
  • Penal sanctions on offenders of bettor licenses.

To sensitize young players to the dangers of betting and the benefits of ethical behaviour, the following measures are to be adopted:

  • A Cricketers Handbook on the lines of Athletes’ Handbook, 2013 (prepared by Go Sports Foundation) containing the Do’s and Don’ts and FAQs.
  • Lectures and frequent interactions with cricketers and sportspersons with regards to game ethics.
  • Integrity unit consisting of former players of repute to act as guides and mentors to young players.

BCCI must coördinate with States and their police departments to create a special investigating unit to probe betting and/or spot/match-fixing incidents.

The database of undesirable elements (bookies, fixers, etc.,) maintained by BCCI-ACU is to be shared with players and officials.

Every prospective franchisee owner has to be verified for criminal antecedents.

Commentary on Lodha Commission recommendations to BCCI – VII


Chapter Eight: Transparency and Oversight

The Lodha Commission remarks that the BCCI website does not have the Constitution and bye-laws available for consumption by the general public.

It adds that the functioning of the cricketing body is neither fair nor transparent. The Board either rebuffs seekers of information or wins them over to their side with enticements.  People whose professional livelihood comes from the BCCI chose “to remain silent rather than upset the applecart”.

The Lodha panel also remarks that commentators engaged by the BCCI are prohibited from criticising the BCCI or its selection process.

The panel further recommends that all the Rules, Regulations, Codes and Instructions of the BCCI be made available in both English and Hindi on its website.

The most interesting and controversial recommendation is about curtailing broadcast advertisements during international games to just the drinks, lunch and tea breaks. Additionally the screen space is no longer to be reduced by in-tv advertisements except for the display of a sponsor logo.

Financial prudence is advised to avoid unnecessary expenditure by the board.

Hiring of professionals and handing out of  infrastructure contracts, media engagements, television rights and equipment supply are to be done in a fair and transparent manner. Norms and procedures are to be laid to down to ensure this happens.

Besides all the documents and information required by the general public to understand the functioning of the BCCI including the reports of the Ombudsman/Auditor/Electoral Officer/Ethics Officer, the BCCI website will have links to various stadia listing their seating capacity and direct ticketing facilities.

The Committee also recommends that the legislature bring the board under the purview of the Right to Information (RTI) act.

State associations are to submit detailed reports about their expenditure from grants from their parent body. The Auditor will carry out a performance audit.

Expenditures on various heads have to be limited and streamlined.

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