A step in the right direction

EVERYONE connected with Indian cricket is in a hurry to introduce reforms that they feel will definitely help improve the standard of the game.

Chandu Pandit, who quit as the Mumbai coach, says that coaches migrate to associations which really back them.

Pakistan's Intikhab Alam, by taking over as the coach of the Punjab team, has set a new trend.-THE HINDU PHOTO LIBRARY

EVERYONE connected with Indian cricket is in a hurry to introduce reforms that they feel will definitely help improve the standard of the game. There are two ways of looking at it. One, some measures may serve as an effective upgrade. Second, if they don't, then one can go back to the earlier methods until another workable solution comes up. It's indeed a happy sign that many young minds with their thinking cap on are suggesting some ways which could change the face of Indian cricket.

It seems Greg Chappell's entry into Indian cricket motivated officials to work on something. But one has to compliment the Punjab Cricket Association for taking the lead in inviting Intikhab Alam to coach the Ranji team. Now the young President of the Maharashtra Cricket Association, Ajay Shirke, by inviting Australian Darren Holder to be the Director-Cricket of MCA and Ranji team coach, has changed the scenario.

Shirke, in fact, has introduced a new selection policy by having the coach and the Chairman of the selection committee as the manager and one selector in the three-man selection committee. For more than a decade, the BCCI has been talking about it and had a committee to discuss and suggest, but inspite of everything, they were going in the reverse direction with unconvincing arguments.

In one of my columns, I had mentioned that we have over 500 state selectors to watch 2000 players. Some of the state selection committees have seven members and some years back a selection committee meeting had to be adjourned because they just couldn't select the team of 15 in four hours.

With the new formation of the three-man selection committee that the MCA will be having, Ajay Shirke wants them to be accountable. "Trading charges against each other was the only thing people connected with the team were doing. The coach would want all players of his choice and selectors felt that was their prerogative. But no one wanted to take the responsibility for faulty choices. I thought of appointing a cricket improvement committee and asked them to prepare a blueprint and have accepted their recommendations."

The step at the moment is in the right direction. There could be pitfalls but unless one starts, one can't move ahead. It takes minimum two years for a new system to get established. What Ajay Shirke is trying to do is to have selection procedure manual so that everyone knows their individual responsibility. But for such a novel scheme to be successful, it's important that the best persons are appointed. If the system clicks, possibly other associations will go for it.

VINO JOHN

The other trend is the state coaching. Punjab initiated the move with Intikhab Alam as the coach. Now you find coaches from one state going to another state. Foreign coaches for the national team is understandable but to get a foreigner to coach the Ranji Trophy team or get a coach from another state is making everyone think.

Chandu Pandit who quit as the Mumbai coach has the answer. "Once a coach takes up coaching as his profession, he has to perform, and to perform consistently, he needs the support of the association. When he feels that he may not have the backing of administrators, he will not be able to perform. Why should anyone blame the coach if he is getting a better offer from another association? It's a profession. Don't we change our jobs from one company to another when the second one offers better opportunities?"

So the opportunities are what the coaches are looking for and the associations, in order to improve performance of their teams, are inviting experienced coaches. What is intriguing is that suddenly Mumbai players and coaches have decided to go to other states. First the captain. Next is the coach. And with a few more players thinking of switching over to other states, one doesn't know where Mumbai cricket is heading for.

It's not the money that is making these Mumbai players think of other states. They seem to feel that they don't get what they deserve because when Vengsarkar was the Chairman of the state selection committee, he refused to attend the zonal selection committee meetings as he didn't want to sit in the selection committee with his junior Kiran More as the Chairman. This, the players felt, affected their chances despite performing consistently.

With the amount of money pouring into the BCCI, all that some of the former cricketers-turned-officials are interested in is representing their respective states in the BCCI and being directly involved in the decision-making process at the highest level.

Sample what happened a couple of days after Chandu Pandit quit as Mumbai coach.

Normally a high powered committee (in Mumbai's case the Managing Committee) would dwell on why the coach had to leave in an apparent and reported huff. But surprise, a majority of time at the meeting was spent on discussing who should represent the association in the BCCI working committee. Clearly, Mumbai cricket is suffering from an agenda problem.

Imagine two former Test cricketers — MCA vice-president Dilip Vengsarkar and MCA secretary Lalchand Rajput — in the managing committee of Mumbai contesting for representing the association in the BCCI. Rajput getting the nod of nine members and Vengsarkar managing only two votes.

With current as well as former Mumbai players migrating to greener pastures, where does that leave Mumbai? And who do we blame for this?

The Maharashtra Cricket Association in Pune is busy introducing a result-oriented system and the Mumbai Cricket Association which has won the Ranji Trophy 36 times seems to have a different agenda.

Apart from Tendulkar, only two other players from Mumbai — Ajit Agarkar and Munaf Patel — are in the list of probables for the Indian team. And the Mumbai Cricket Association's officials were too busy pitching for a seat in the BCCI to care about the talent leaving for other states.