Investments, not ‘Capital gains’, should be BCCI’s priority
By H Natarajan
The commonalities between actor Govinda and Ranbir Singh Mahendra are pretty striking. If Govinda, with his chokra-from-the-next-galli looks rose to become the unlikely hero No 1 in an elitist industry of incredible hunks, then so does the No1 man in the Indian Cricket Board - an anachronism amid smooth-talking chiefs like Malcolm Speed and Ali Bacher. The dialogue baazi of both Govinda and Mahendra is proven entertainment value. Not long ago, Govinda made a faux fas mixing up PIL with PRO! More recently, Mahendra addressed a press conference, televised live by several national networks, that showed his Govinda-like predilection for verbal buffoonery.
Mahendra’s latest tragi-comic utterances came during the course of his interview to the BBC Hindi programme, Aapki baat BBC ke saath.
A cricket fan wanted to know from Mahendra his priorities as BCCI President. And what do you think was his priority? Professionalising the BCCI administration? Re-look at the domestic cricket? Focusing on World Cup 2007? None of that. His No.1 priority was to shift the BCCI HQ to from Mumbai to Delhi!
“Since the latter is our capital,” reasoned the BCCI chief.
Delhi was the capital when Indian gained Independence in 1947 and continues to be the capital ever since. How come this sudden realisation?
Mahendra would do well to credit the people of India with some intelligence. The least he could do is to offer explanation that people will pause to think, if not accept it. The prime reason for the shift is that the Cricket Club of India, which is where the BCCI HQ is located, has Rajsingh Dungarpur as its chief. Not a comforting thought when the office is in the premises of a former president who is trenchant critic of the ruling faction. Obviously, it has less to do with logistics and more to do with politics.
It would have been much nicer to hear Mahendra say that the BCCI intends to move into an edifice of its own with full-fledged administrative wings and modernised office. The existing BCCI HQ is an apology. The entrance is so narrow that Inzamam-ul-Haq may have to be completely side-on to get inside. If the entrance is easily missed then the entire office is the size of an unostentatious 2BHK flat in Mumbai suburbs.
Even the tiny neighbouring nation of Sri Lanka has been more progressive. The Lankan board, which got full ICC status 1981 – almost five decades after India, has an entire building with a fleet of administrative staff.
How are modern day professional sports bodies run? Let’s take Cricket Australia as an example. The apex body for the game Down Under is headed by a Chief Executive Officer who reports to the Board of Directors. The 14 Directors are appointed by their respective member associations and managed by a Senior Management Team. There’s approximately 60 staffers working as full-time employees. It’s the responsibility of the CEO and the Senior Management Team to execute the strategies for the game’s governance. Apart from the executive wing, Cricket Australia has six other wings that look into the commercial operations, cricket operations, finance and administration, legal and business affairs, game development and public affairs.
In contrast, the BCCI has antiquated and honorary administrators in whose lexicon accountability and professionalism do not exist. There is an executive secretary with a handful of clerical staff working from what seems a hideout than the office of the richest sports body in the country.
The BCCI is the only one, apart from Zimbabwe among the 10 full member of the ICC, not to have a website of its own. Associate members like Gibraltar and Nepal and, at a lower rung, even affiliate members like Luxembourg and Norway have their own websites! In fact, the next time someone makes a derogatory comparison of cricket with the unassuming panwala, just tell the person that even panwala has progressed with times. He may not understand technology but he has become street smart to understand its benefits. Don’t take my word. Check out http://www.paan.com/ to understand what I am talking.
Even if there is a website, what is kept in the public domain and what is not make a difference. The NZ cricket board website, for example has placed the minutes of its meeting on their website. That’s what transparency is.
Another listener on the BBC show quizzed Mahendra as to why the BCCI is not paying due attention to domestic cricket. The BCCI chief replied: “On the contrary, I think it has been due to the efforts of the Board towards domestic cricket that the game is alive and kicking in the country. Our Board is perhaps the only one in the world which spends 26% of its income on domestic cricket….” He made it sound as if the board was doing domestic cricket a huge favour!
Money can be a tool to achieve an end but cannot be an end by itself. Where and how the money is ploughed into should be the question as also the state of affairs despite the quantum of money spent. Therein lies the answer. The fact is that the Board has been so obsessed with the money-raking internationals that the grass root has suffered. You cannot get a bumper harvest with a poor crop. Domestic cricket has to be of qualitative and competitive. One way to ensure that is to make it mandatory for India players to play for their states.
Mahendra will do us a favour by not talking again that the Board is probing into the leak of the Greg Chappell’s email to the media. Who is to probe whom? The email was written to heavyweights of the BCCI. Obviously, one of them is the culprit. The leak was premeditated and seemed part of a conspiracy to deflect attention from the BCCI AGM. Under the circumstances, the probe has to be from an external agency, free of vested interests. At present there is no sense of urgency or a sense of seriousness to nab the culprit. Yet, these are the very people who pontificate on discipline!