Millions of Indian cricket fans are looking forward to the 5-Test India -England series. The hopes of India coming through victorious in an important overseas tour looks very positive, especially if one considers their recent Test match performances and a predicted hot summer wave expected this year, in the old blighty.
Indian cricket, at present looks to be on a major upswing. Cricketers are being churned out from what seems like a well-oiled factory and money is pouring in in abundance. Unfortunately, this does not filter into the way cricket is being conducted domestically. Money has made cricket into a dream opportunity for aspiring cricketers and, therefore, several unorganised structures have mushroomed all over India to cater to this. Every town and city seems to have coaching centres and academies flourishing, which is very good for the game, but the credit taken by the Board of Control for Cricket in India(BCCI) and their affiliated associations is far from the truth.
The recent turmoil with regard to the domestic matches and itinerary and the sad case of a shortage of umpires shows the problems that seem to hound the Indian cricket administrators. The delay in the final judgement from the Supreme Court as regards a new Constitution, has led to further uncertainties and most cricket organisations are in a state of complete confusion. Cricket activities which were running smoothly, like a well-tuned engine, are still chugging along but without any set direction.
The prolonged BCCI court case has taken its toll on the domestic cricket machinery. After the Supreme Court verdict over two years ago, the Lodha committee recommendations were to be accepted as the way forward. This required a radical change not only in the Constitution but in every department of its operations as well.
The BCCI has been in existence for the past 90 years. There have been plenty of ups and downs during those years. The cricket tournaments that were put into place, somehow, went on without a blemish. The three major senior tournaments, the Duleep, Irani and Ranji Trophy as well as the junior and University tournaments, took place every year without much ado.
The prestigious Duleep Trophy that was once the corner stone to playing for the country, if one did well in it, has now become a colour coded battle between teams that do not inspire any empathy or emotions amongst the players. The previous zonal format evoked a certain camaraderie between the players from each zone and winning the tournament was celebrated as a great achievement. Presently, winning has now become irrelevant and players are playing for only one reason and that is for their individual glory and fame. The Irani Trophy has become a tournament that has lost its importance, as it is normally played without the participation of any of the present Indian capped players. It has become a box to be ticked to showcase continuity.
The Lodha recommendation of fielding a cricket team from each State of India to be a part of the Ranji Trophy cricket circuit is a good thought to expand cricket all over the country. Unfortunately, cricket is not as easy a sport as a layman seem to think. It requires many hours of hard work, sweat and toil in order to reach a certain standard. By including nine new teams, which have no cricket infrastructure, facilities, grounds, top level cricketers or even normal playing kits. It is like asking a non-swimmer to dive into a pool filled with water and hopes that he survives. Cricket, as a game cannot be devalued and, therefore, by including teams without a proper laid down system will only lead to disaster. This is what will happen when 37 teams participating in four groups play this year. The BCCI have gone back to the Elite and Plate Division. The Elite A & B are the senior lot, whereas, the Elite C comprises of teams that did not fare well. The Plate division is made up of the nine new members. The funny sequence to this is that the top two teams of the Elite C and Plate group will find a spot to play in the knock out stage of the Ranji Trophy. This would, therefore, have four teams who do not deserve to be there.
This shows that there is a complete break-down between the old hands of the BCCI representatives, the COA and the BCCI executives. This has caused total mayhem in most cricket bodies. The local tournaments and the pre-season cricket activities and selections have been badly affected by this and many cricket associations are in a complete quandary. Some of them are using the Lodha proposal to their advantage, while, others are finding solace in the delay of the legal proceedings.
The umpire fiasco that one read about it in the newspapers is another area of concern. The way in which the examinations are being conducted and the training imparted was an issue earlier, but to learn that it still prevails is quite disturbing. The career of a cricketer depends a lot on an umpire. A bad decision could ruin him/her. One can now quite understand why the 1st class teams and players were so vociferous in their complaints about the standard of domestic umpiring last year. Nepotism is also prevalent in the appointment of trainers, coaches and nutritionists.
The BCCI looks to be in a reverse mode and if it continues off the field in the same way, it may take years for it to recover.
(The writer is a former India cricketer)