Firm hands on the rudder

The idea that only those with impressive records as cricketers are fit to serve the game is nonsense. Recognising as much, New Zealand has named a bowls player as its chief selector, Australia has asked a rugby man to work as its manager and another outsider to serve as its director of cricket. Over to Peter Roebuck.

Cricket is starting to acknowledge the importance of leadership off the field as well as on it. Not so long ago anyone could become coach or manager or chief selector or CEO or chairman, or so it seemed. In many cases it was a question of connections. Book makers, time servers, opportunists and such like rose beyond their capacity and so hurt the game.

Every country made dubious appointments but fools and shysters did not last as long in some dispensations. Players assumed that most officials were incompetent and did their best to work around it. When a wise man appeared on the scene they celebrated. Alas some of the best died young, not least Frank Worrell and Malcolm Marshall — has cricket suffered two more grievous losses?

Now standards are rising and expectations are higher. Pakistan has replaced Ijaz Butt, its blustering Chairman. Alas by the look of things he has been replaced by a sugar baron and an ally of the State president. About the only consolation is that the new man can hardly be any worse. Happily Pakistan has always had a lot more to offer than beards, bombs and buffoons. Intelligent youngsters like Syed Abbas Ali Zaidi are working hard to promote democracy and peace. When they succeed cricket and the country will rise.

India, too, has found some capable leaders in the back rooms and the dressing rooms. Notwithstanding differences of opinion on various topics and unease about conflicts of interest, it's obvious that the current senior officials at BCCI are better qualified than their predecessors to run the business of sport. Srinivasan, Shetty and company know their way around books and administration. Admittedly Kerala is a mess, Hyderabad is under scrutiny and Mumbai recently put a politician ahead of Dilip Vengsarkar but overall the position has improved.

England's surge has been led by Hugh Morris and Geoff Miller, both shrewd thinkers and, incidentally, past players. The idea that only those with impressive records as cricketers are fit to serve the game is nonsense. It is self-serving, too, and of late has been heard mostly from retired West Indians unwilling to roll up their sleeves. Cricket does not owe anyone a living. Every task requires specialist skills that a former player might or might not possess.

Recognising as much, New Zealand has named a bowls player as its chief selector, a choice that prompted locals to crack jokes about bowling underarm in the Australian tradition (no one can hate half as well as a neighbour, Indians hardly need to be reminded of that). Australia has asked a rugby man to work as its manager and another outsider to serve as its director of cricket.

A paisa to a rupee says these appointments work out well, a confidence that comes from a conviction that the candidates were carefully chosen. Certainly the cosy custom of jobs for the boys was rejected. Cricket's greatest lesson is to take every ball on its merits, an approach that can be applied in every part of life.

Now Australia has named John Inverarity as a full time national selector. It is a superb choice. At 67 Inverarity is old enough to collect a pension but then Sir Alex Ferguson is not exactly a greenhorn. Happily he is sagacious as well as silver haired, modern as well as ancient. Australia is clearing out the dead wood so let rivals beware.