Niranjan Shah out of office, but at work

In the build-up to the first match of the India-West Indies Test series in Rajkot beginning Thursday, SCA hands have turned to the seasoned cricket administrator for help. 

With Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI)’s new constitution coming in place, Niranjan Shah stands ineligible to hold any position, neither in the board nor the state association.   -  K.R. DEEPAK

After an association of more than four decades, rules can take a man out of the office, but they cannot force the office out of him. Hence, Niranjan Shah has had long hours at the 'office' without being an office-bearer of the Saurashtra Cricket Association (SCA) any more.

In the build-up to the first match of the India-West Indies Test series in Rajkot beginning Thursday, SCA hands have turned to the seasoned cricket administrator for help. 

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“I am not officially a part of the association, but I am guiding the next team on how to conduct matches and handle each and everything properly,” Shah, 74, tells Sportstar on Wednesday.

As he speaks, some SCA officials seek his advice on hospitality issues. After a quick word with them, he says, “I try to guide them. I have no problem. After hosting three-four matches under my guidance, these guys will learn how to handle big matches.”

With Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI)’s new constitution coming in place, Shah stands ineligible to hold any position, neither in the board nor the state association.

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The Lodha committee reforms, with the age cap of 70 for office-bearers, shut the doors on him.  The former BCCI secretary and a long-serving SCA secretary admits he is a bit disappointed, but says he has learnt to deal with it.

“I have been in the association for 45 years as secretary. Now, my innings is finished. But it is okay, the Supreme Court has given a mandate and we need to abide by it,” he says.

“Yes, it is disappointing for me because you get a chance to become the president of the BCCI and suddenly, you are ineligible without any reason. You can punish whoever is guilty, but you can’t punish everyone for some individual’s guilt.”

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Shah feels big institutions such as the BCCI need to have people with experience.“Here you make rules and regulations, but you can’t control the ICC (International Cricket Council). You will be left behind in experience. The other boards and the ICC will take advantage. You are powerful, but even then, you won’t have any powers because they have nothing to do with our judicial system. It is not a level-playing field in the ICC,” he says.

He fears the situation will worsen. “It will take time, but it will deteriorate… We have already lost our supremacy in the ICC. Now, smaller countries like Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka are also not giving the full support they used to earlier. Even when 80 per cent of money is generated from India, you will not be that powerful.”

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He does not foresee a quick solution. “There is rigidity everywhere,” Shah says.“You have to understand the legacy of the institute. The officials have worked for the love of the game and honorarily. There could have been mistakes, but you can’t say that the system is corrupt,” he adds.

Shah admits he does feel a bit sad to part ways with cricket administration. “You too helped in building the institute and suddenly you are not there. Yes, we don’t like it, but then, life goes on… All the committees are disbanded now. Everything is autocratic these days,” says the ‘on-paper’ National Cricket Academy chief.

Before the first Test in Rajkot, quite a few SCA eyebrows were raised when the board sent chief curator Daljit Singh, and Vishwajit Padyar to inspect the wicket.

Shah believes this is counterproductive.  "Every association has curators who are experienced enough to prepare the wickets. Suddenly, you sent outsiders. But then, they are also part of some state associations, how can they be so good and these guys not? Our curator could feel disheartened if an outside curator, who is equivalent, comes in.

"In Ranji Trophy, there are allegations of doctored pitches, but in international cricket, such things are taken seriously. After so many years, you do not need outsiders,” says Shah.

The SCA office on the stadium premises has several pictures of Shah. Even out of office, his presence is hard to miss.