• Clayton Murzello: Board clean bowled by axe factor

    Clayton MurzelloJan 05, 2017, 08:29 IST

    Ajay Shirke and Anurag Thakur, the outgoing BCCI secretary and chief respectively
    Ajay Shirke and Anurag Thakur, the outgoing BCCI secretary and chief respectively

    Nothing lasts forever. Not even the arrogance of some Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) officials, who now have to retreat to another world with their tails between their legs; legs which once walked the pathways of the cricketing globe with swagger of a distasteful kind.

    Autonomy was the BCCI’s broadest bat, its refuge. Not any more. That willow has holes in it and the edges have become ugly with indentations. It’s probably apt to recall the words of the late MAK Pataudi, who said in 2010: “We would like to see a more proactive, more eloquent and a more constructive BCCI in world matters. It is, of course, a democratically elected body and we are fine with that. But it keeps its doors very closed.” It’s a pity that Pataudi, whose birth anniversary is today, didn’t live to see the BCCI of his dreams.

    The axing of BCCI president Anurag Thakur and secretary Ajay Shirke was a result of stubbornness and arrogance, as if to say, ‘We won’t obey the orders of the Supreme Court of India and will run the game in this country how we want to.’ The BCCI was living a dream until Monday. Thakur and Shirke came into focus because they are faces of the BCCI. However, the state associations are the real offenders.

    I can’t help think about all the misuse of power and the insensitivity the BCCI displayed just because of their mighty financial sword.

    A few years ago, the parent body, through their state associations, thwarted coaching programmes that helped players from other countries.

    When the Mumbai Cricket Association agreed to host the England Performance Programme (EPP) side at the DY Patil Stadium in Navi Mumbai in 2012, it did not impress the Indian cricket board bosses, who wanted to know why their permission was not sought for an activity that took place during the India vs England series. Sure, the MCA was guilty of ignoring the BCCI’s letter to state associations which said that they must “not entertain any foreign teams without the prior permission of the board,” but where’s the spirit?

    The virtual ban on helping other countries progress affected small tours here as well. A former South Africa Test player wanted to get a team here to play matches, but on hearing about all the permissions he would have to procure, he slipped into ‘not-worth-it’ mode.

    Other programmes were thwarted too. The reason being people were cashing in on these coaching gigs. Since when did BCCI have exclusive rights to make money from cricket? ‘Don’t question us, just toe the line,’ seemed to be the message.

    If the BCCI has some sharp critics, it only stands to reason. In 2009, New Zealand’s former all-rounder Craig McMillan was pulled out of a Sky Sports commentary team on India’s tour to New Zealand reportedly because he had participated in the rebel Indian Cricket League by representing Bengal Tigers. Any doubts of a BCCI hand in McMillan’s ouster were dispelled when the then Indian team manager Niranjan Shah told a reporter: “It’s our Board’s decision. We have to go as per the stand of our Board.”

    A few years later, in 2013, commentators Danny Morrison and HD Ackerman didn’t impress the czars when they viewed Virat Kohli as a future captain during the Indian Premier League. And why is Harsha Bhogle no longer in the commentary box? No one has the official take, including the celebrated commentator himself.

    Only recently, I heard that a BCCI biggie had expressed reservations when Ajit Wadekar was being discussed to be a candidate for the CK Nayudu Lifetime Achievement award in 2011 because Wadekar was part of the ICL. That Wadekar led India in two of their first three overseas Test series wins was less significant to this administrator, who is now well entrenched in the pool of officials who did more harm than good for Indian cricket. Thankfully, other views prevailed and Wadekar received his reward.

    Will this Supreme Court-driven clean-up be enduring, is a big question. Trickery in the form of fronts could come into play. Sons and associates of the banished may also emerge, but the Supreme Court, match referee as it were, will never be obscure.

    Despite its bad apples, everything is not rotten in the BCCI. There will be a few good men from the current regime who qualify to be key administrators and they must be encouraged. Few can deny BCCI credit for running the playing side of the game well. Overall, they’ve done a good job. The work that is undertaken on the second floor of Cricket Centre on ‘D’ Road, Churchgate cannot be understated and if cricket still remains the envy of other sports it’s because of outstanding organisational skills. But the toy pistols who became big guns got intoxicated by power and shot themselves in the foot.

    A new era dawns for Indian cricket. Despite the Supreme Court order not being perfect, it is not stumps for the game. The wheel has turned, but there’s still a road to travel.

    mid-day’s group sports editor Clayton Murzello is a purist with an open stance. He tweets @ClaytonMurzello. Send your feedback to mailbag@mid-day.com

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