Mumbai cricket is the priority, not me: Sandeep Patil

Sandeep Patil, the World Cup winner, spells out his urge to contest the election for Mumbai Cricket Association president ahead of the October 20 election.

Published : Oct 16, 2022 19:13 IST , Mumbai

FILE PHOTO: Sandeep Patil will contest against Amol Kale for the position of Mumbai Cricket Association president on October 20.
FILE PHOTO: Sandeep Patil will contest against Amol Kale for the position of Mumbai Cricket Association president on October 20.

FILE PHOTO: Sandeep Patil will contest against Amol Kale for the position of Mumbai Cricket Association president on October 20.

From being a World Cup-winning all-rounder to being the India head coach, the National Cricket Academy (NCA) director and chief selector, Sandeep Patil has virtually held every post that matters on the cricketing side.

The 66-year-old has now thrown his hat in the ring for Mumbai Cricket Association’s (MCA) post for president. As the presidential candidate of the Mumbai Cricket Group, he will contest against Amol Kale of the Ashish Shelar-Sharad Pawar Group on October 20.

Patil spells out his vision for Mumbai cricket in a chat with Sportstar.

Q. There is a growing perception that the Mumbai cricket administration is getting messier with every passing year. What has driven you to get into the mess?

I don’t see it as a mess. It is a duty of every cricketer who has played for Mumbai. I am (who I am) today because of Mumbai cricket. I am so happy if I can give something back to Mumbai cricket. I could not do it earlier since I was busy with other responsibilities. From coaching India under-19 and the senior team to director at NCA to the chief of national selection committee. And in between going to Kenya and Oman (as national coach).

Now I have time. And the pandemic has done so much damage to put Mumbai cricket back. It’s going to be a massive, massive job to get it back on track. For two years, there was hardly any cricket played. Still, the clubs survived, the Mumbai Cricket Association survived, the wickets and the groundstaff survived, everyone struggled but survived. We have 325 clubs, more than 10,000 registered (senior men’s) players.

We play 110 total tournaments every year, even in this pandemic we could play 47. We have 79 offices affiliated, and we host two corporate tournaments, which saw 113 teams participating in it. We have six women’s tournaments, of which only two could be hosted during the pandemic.

The MPL hasn’t been staged. There is so much to do and the guy who has played, has gone through this, along with the Mumbai Cricket Group team members, all of whom have been involved with maidan cricket, it’s a massive job in front of us, if elected. To have Prof. Ratnakar Shetty and Milind Rege, two of the finest and the most experienced minds who have been involved with Mumbai cricket for five decades, as mentors is a boon.

Organising cricket is a difficult job, beyond the bat and the ball. And Mumbai cricket has a reputation all over the cricket world. The MCA is still repaying the loan, to make it debt-free… so it’s just not cricket. We want to look into all these aspects. And I am confident I can do it because I have handled various roles in cricket - as a player, coach, administrator. I know what the clubs need, what facilities are required, how we can create opportunities in women’s cricket - we saw the women’s team dominate the Asia Cup, what a fabulous victory, the men lost and women won.

See, you may have a brush but if you don’t have a canvas, you can’t paint. We have the grounds but making other facilities available should be the priority. There’s so much to do, so all these things taken into account, I thought I should give it a go. This is the last chance I have since I am 66 years old and soon after the three-year-stint, I’ll be 70. I am giving it a try.

Q. In the last three decades, Ajit Wadekar and Dilip Vengsarkar failed in their bid to be MCA president. Why do you think there has been so much resistance to cricketers heading MCA?

It’s unfortunate. I can say so many things but ultimately, it’s up to the club secretaries and the voters to decide who is the right person. I don’t know if I am the right person. But I have the will, the vision and the team at Mumbai Cricket Group to deliver.

The people we have - there may not be big names - are the ones with direct contact with clubs across Mumbai. We rely on getting the job done rather than reputation. I am not talking about the other group or other candidates. I am stressing on what we can do, if given a chance.

Q. You seem to have brought all the political parties - and factions - together in the opposition group. What do you feel about political involvement in MCA administration?

Politics is everywhere but it should not enter cricket. We should worship the one who practises what he preaches. Everyone promises a lot but hardly anyone delivers. Whatever responsibilities the BCCI has given me starting with the Under-19 coaching role in 1994 till my chairmanship (of selection panel that ended in 2016), I have always honestly tried to do justice to the role. The results are in front of everyone. There has not been a single allegation against me.

Q. You were alleged to be in conflict of interest with Mumbai senior men’s chief selector Salil Ankola since he is your son Chirag’s father-in-law. Your candidature is cleared by the Electorate Officer but how do you view it?

This is plain nonsense. Salil Ankola’s appointment was not done by me. It was done by the earlier committee and the CIC (Cricket Improvement Committee), who has the power. How do you bring our relationship into the equation? Do you want to look at cricket or our relationship? But anyway, let’s see. I am not having a go at anyone. I want to stress on the fact that I, along with everyone else in the Mumbai Cricket Group, am trying a sincere effort to see that if we get elected, we will try and do a decent job. Mumbai cricket is not just about dominating Ranji Trophy, there’s much more to do, right from club cricket to women’s cricket to schools, college and corporate cricket. It’s not going to be an individual’s job. It will require all the interested parties to come together and work together as a team. Only then will it be possible.

Q. How have you dealt with the personal attack?

I have faced so many hurdles. I have been hit on the head and come out to bat, so I am used to facing all sorts of challenges in cricket. Every person has a right to contest, every person has a right to vote. I am standing with a clear-cut vision for Mumbai cricket. If the club cricket culture of Mumbai is strong, Mumbai cricket is strong. If Mumbai cricket is strong, Indian cricket is strong.

And clubs are the factories, they produce cricketers. If you don’t pay heed to them, not provide basic facilities and organise tournaments… the pandemic has been such a huge setback that everyone - even those who aren’t elected - will have to work together to achieve the objective. Only then will it be possible. Sandeep Patil is not important but the Mumbai Cricket Group needs support from all quarters.

Even our opponents - I have been reading their mandate - imagine if all the mandates are combined, Mumbai cricket will flourish. We have seen enough ego battles so far, high time we overcome it. The priority is Mumbai cricket, not Sandeep Patil.

Q. Over the last few years, the administrators seem to be more involved in their own ego battles. How do you plan to change it?

Exactly, so to streamline all of it, it’s going to take time and sincere effort. Starting with giving respect to Test players - men and women - who are made to stand in the queue and request a seat to watch a major match in Mumbai. They are the ones who have developed Mumbai cricket, right? Right from Vijay Merchant to Prithvi Shaw, you have a legacy of cricketing greats.

From Mama Karmarkar to Vijay Patil, every administrator has contributed immensely. But to get the legacy back on track is going to be a real big challenge. I understand it’s going to take time and I want to give my best effort to save Mumbai cricket, right from a gully to Wankhede Stadium. You have to look after everyone involved, be it scorers, umpires, groundstaff and others.

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