BCCI SOPs for domestic cricket put Arun Lal, Dav Whatmore in a fix

The BCCI’s guidelines have put most of the associations in a spot, but the state units are hopeful of finding a solution before the season gets underway.

Arun Lal

Bengal coach Arun Lal, who turned 65 on 1 August, has been left in a fix after BCCI's SOP advised that coaches above 60 years of age be discouraged from participating in training.   -  P. K. Ajith Kumar

The Board of Control for Cricket in India’s (BCCI) standard operating procedure (SOP) advising that coaches as well as members of the support and ground staff above 60 years of age be discouraged from participating in training has left most state associations in a fix.

The Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) has appointed Arun Lal, a former India international and a cancer survivor who turned 65 on 1 August, as head coach, while the Baroda Cricket Association’s (BCA) choice for the role, Dav Whatmore, who took charge of the team a couple of months ago, is 66.

Another former India cricketer, Karsan Ghavri, 69, was until recently the head coach of Ranji Trophy champion Saurashtra. This season, however, the Saurashtra Cricket Association (SCA) is unlikely to continue with him and may hand him a mentor role with the junior side, keeping his age in mind. “We have received the SOP just yesterday and we will have to acquire necessary permissions from local administrations before taking any decision. We don’t want to rush things by starting cricket right away,” SCA chief Jaydev Shah said.

Ghavri, however, said that he would not take up any full-time coaching role this season. “I have already announced that I won’t take up any full-time head coach or any other coaching roles because the season is too long and that requires me to stay out of Mumbai for too long, which is not possible,” Ghavri said. But he is willing to be associated as a mentor with junior teams. “If I am given such a role, then I would like to associate myself and help out the youngsters,” the former India international said.

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For the CAB, the SOP could have a significant effect on the association’s planning for the season. In addition to Lal, the CAB’s chief curator, Sujan Mukherjee, too won’t be able to be part of the process as he is above 60. “Since commencement of sports activities in the state have not been allowed as yet, and also since there is a considerable amount of time left for domestic cricket to start, no decision pertaining to change of support staffs are being considered at present. However, we would keep monitoring the situation from time to time. The Coaches appointed for various teams would continue to monitor their respective teams via video conferencing, as they have been doing throughout the lockdown period,” CAB chief, Avishek Dalmiya, said.

When contacted by Sportstar, Lal said it’s too early to decide on anything. “Every day is different with the way things are transpiring. Let’s see how it goes. We are not starting training in a hurry because of government guidelines,” he said. Ever since the lockdown began, the Bengal coaching staff – Lal, Joydeep Mukherjee, Ranadeb Bose and Utpal Chatterjee – have been coordinating with the players over Zoom calls. “At the moment, it doesn’t seem to be much of a problem. Let’s see how it goes. It’s so uncertain at the moment,” Lal said.

The BCA, which has appointed Whatmore as head coach for a two-year term, will have to address the issue in its apex council meeting and decide on the course of action. Though secretary Ajit Lele told this publication that the association will have to think about all the other factors before taking a decision, insiders in the BCA indicate that it may be difficult to go ahead with Whatmore as the head coach for now. However, since contracts have been signed, the association is exploring various options. “We have to analyse the entire SOP and decide accordingly. It’s not just about Whatmore. There are many local coaches who are above 60. What do we do with them?” a BCA insider said. Whatmore wasn’t available for a comment.

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Not just the coaching staff, the SOP may have a severe impact on the ground staff and umpires as well. “In the country, most of the state units have curators and umpires who are former cricketers and a large number of them are above 60. So, it could be difficult to find so many replacements,” said a BCCI veteran, hoping that there will be changes in guidelines before the domestic season begins sometime around December. “There is still some time and we will have to work out on things. For now, there’s no other option but to wait and watch,” he said.

The BCCI’s guidelines have put most of the associations in a spot, but the state units are hopeful of finding a solution before the season gets underway.

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