<b>Close-in:</b> On the right track
The ongoing third Test between India and Australia has many historical milestones. Apart from Ranchi hosting its first ever Test and becoming the 26th Indian Test venue, the match will have two other significant occasions. The match played on these very days 140 years ago marked the beginning of Test cricket. Australia played England in Melbourne in 1877 then. Australia won the match and must be hoping to get a similar victory in the important third Test at Ranchi. This is also Australia’s 800th Test, a remarkable figure showing their tenacity to still continue being one of the leading sides in world cricket.
The Ranchi pitch seems barren of any grass, and although initially the well rolled strip may play reasonably well, the bounce will, thereafter, become lower and the top soil will erode to give reverse swing bowlers and spinners a fair bit of assistance. Leg before the wicket (LBW) will play a major part in the dismissals and the DRS will become a very important option for a decision. India will need to bat extremely well in the last innings to win the match.
The resignation of India’s Shashank Manohar as the chairman of the ICC is another bewildering move, especially as it came after his recent meeting with the appointed Controller of Administrators (COA) and the CEO of the BCCI. The challenge now would be to find a high profile individual as a replacement. The front-runner, one presumes, would definitely be Maharashtra strong man Sharad Pawar, who has been at the helm of the world cricket body and has the acumen to get the best deal for India. Manohar, projecting himself as the messiah of world cricket, nearly brought about a change that would have radically impacted the finances of the BCCI. Being the prime revenue earner for the ICC, India asking for maximum share of funds is to me, most reasonable.
The Lodha report to the Supreme Court (SC) and the judgment thereafter clearly stipulates the inclusion of the North East states and Puducherry as full members of the BCCI. These areas will require a significant amount of funding to establish cricket infrastructure in their respective regions. They will need some major funding and the additional finances from the ICC kitty would help the BCCI quite significantly. The quick-footed COA have put an opposing move into action to block the ICC resolution and one hopes that they can garner enough support from other voting members to do so.
An important decision awaited from the Supreme Court is to give the sole authority to the COA to restructure the cricket associations affiliated to the BCCI. Most associations were always going to be a hurdle for any transformation and their condescending attitude in challenging the Lodha reforms are quite preposterous. Rather than accepting the inevitable, one gathers that some of the associations are planning to jeopardise the IPL to garner importance in their respective states. This shows that these individuals have only one interest — “power” — rather than Indian cricket at their hearts. The IPL is a very important tournament with respect to the finances of the BCCI, players and overall development of the game. To try and sabotage the golden goose is unbelievable and any individual intending to do so should be barred for life from having any involvement with cricket in India.
The successful selling of five-year sponsorship rights by the BCCI to Oppo shows the strength of Indian cricket as a platform for brand building for companies. The long, unending legal battle being fought to get clarity on Indian cricket is making the process of improvement a long drawn affair. The Supreme Court now needs to come forth with a final verdict to end any ambiguity or else cricket in India will remain in uncertainty.
The BCCI awards held recently in Bangalore showed the change that one is expecting from the Indian cricket body. To invite cricket legends to give away the awards was a splendid idea. For a cricketer to receive award from the hands of a former star has far more value than anyone else. The idea of a change of name from Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) to Cricket India or any such title does make sense. The word “control” is no more what one associates with and is passé in today’s world. A friendlier term would be wonderful for identifying cricket in India.
(The author is a former Indian cricketer)
Yajurvindra Singh