I don't know much about what transpired at the Cricket Centre (BCCI headquarters) in Mumbai on the 7th of March - there was the current India captain, the coach, the top brass of the BCCI, the chairman of selectors and as many as 6 former India captains ( Shastri, Gavaskar, Srikkanth, Kapil Dev, Chandu Borde and Venkatraghavan). But the results are there for us to see, and if this is what the brighest cricket minds in India together came up with, it's indeed a sad state of affairs - and the future of Indian cricket looks only grim.
1. Reduction in ODI match fee / Contracts scrapped : I guess the BCCI never really wanted to share so much of the cash with the players, just that they were forced into it. When they got their first chance, the Board did what it had always wanted to - tighten its purse strings even further. Do these fine brains really think that reducing the match fee from 1.6 lakhs to 1.0 lakhs will goad Sachin further? That Sehwag is more likely to be consistent if he is paid less. Aren't they turning the basic principles of management upside down?
2. Venkatesh Prasad as Bowling coach : Is that the best we can do for our team? Is that the finest bowling coach that the world's richest cricket board could come up with? This guy has an ODI average of 32+ over his career, he took 5 wickets in an innings all of once and his speed didn't really set the pitch on fire. I mean this bloke was a fine gentleman, but inspiring? The BCCI was always in love with him - I could never understand why he was so often made the captain of the Board President's XI ( he might be the record holder for that, am pretty sure). And now he has been thrust on the team as the Bowling coach - i fear Munaf will lose further speed, and Sreesanth will go down the same way.
I'm not a big fan of Ranjit Fernando's commentary skills, but the Lankan made a very pertinent point during a recent Lanka match in the World Cup - queried by his fellow commentator about Lasith Malinga's action, Fernando told him in no uncertain terms that had Malinga been in India, he would have been sent to the MRF Pace Academy, his action would have been converted to classical, and he would lose about 10 -15 mph and become like one of India's many medium-pacers.
3. Restriction on advertisements: What Dravid or Pathan or Dhoni do when they are not playing cricket is their private business - unless they are intaking Nandrolone or some such pills!! Has the board started catering to every idiot on the road? There is no other logical explanation to this bizzare ruling of '3 endorsement per cricketer' except for gallery-play.
The one much delayed but sane decision was to remove the zonal selection system. Everyone knew that this one was straight out of the dark middle ages, yet it took a World Cup disaster to get it sorted out. That's how our BCCI works - any wonder then that Sachin will be playing the Twenty-20 cup next week and not a World Cup match.
What could have been done?
- The BCCI should have set some deadlines for itself to get the pitches in India to be of whatever type they should be of. Surely, we can get 5 real bouncy pitches if we want to. One person should have been made accountable for this - and I think it's time for the BCCI President to raise his hand for this - after all this has been cited as the biggest reason why India keeps failing abroad, and it wouldn't be wrong for the biggest cricket official to take up the biggest challenge. Let's see, Mr. Pawar, if you have the heart or the guts for that. ( or if you think that being the Agriculture Minister of the country is a tough job, then please quit and let someone take up this one as a full-time occupation).
- Come up with some original ideas ( and not just copied from the Australian or English cricket boards)
- Make Ravi Shastri the captain of the Indian cricket team
If Rahul Dravid has to be retained as captain simply because of the TINA factor, then why can't this board float the idea of a non-playing captain. Let Dravid be responsible for on-field captaincy only, while Ravi Shastri can take care of everything else. Every expert agrees on the fact that Shastri is one of the finest cricket brains in the country - with a simple tweaking, we could exploit those Marathi grey cells for the fullest advantage of Indian cricket.
- Quantify selection / dropping procedures
This is circa 2007, where the smallest companies in the world work on well-defined and quantified models for their business. Then why is that Cricket, one of the biggest business, works in such out-moded fashion. Why does the entire nation need to debate on Raina's exclusion or Sehwag's incusion? Can't we create a mathematical model which will be transparent for everyone to see - the board, the fans, the experts and the player himself. If someone in India can't do it, get Messers Duckworth & Lewis to do it for you. Let Sehwag know what is expected of him in terms of runs, averages and strike rates - wouldn't that be nice?
Now, i'm not saying that it has to be purely mathematical - neither is that the case with other businesses. You can allot a certain percentage to the 'quant' data and some to the 'qualitative' data. Give the captain a certain say - may be, he can be given the power to overrule 2 'quant' anomalies per year. So, if Dravid thinks that Sehwag needs to be included irrespective of whatever he has scored in the past year, so be it. I respect Dravid's cricketing acumen, and like Vengsarkar, i want a happy Indian captain. But then Dravid must also know that he cannot go about doing it all the time - he has 2 chances per year, so he will use it intelligently, and sparingly.
There is so much else that can be done - just that someone needs to sit down and think. If the collective IQ of our former cricketers is not good enough, I recommend we use the fine brains of Ramachandra Guha and other cricket experts. It's no one's case that only former players can think - if someone else can do the thinking, so be it.
If you liked this article, you may also like to read 'Rahul / Azhar vs Ganguly: A matter of Captaincy"