`I did not allow the BCCI boat to be rocked'

G. VISWANATH

"In the logistics of organising tours, I think I have done well enough to benefit the Indian team, touring international teams and teams taking part in the domestic championships."-K. BHAGYA PRAKASH

FOR 12 years, Kerala Cricket Association's S. Karunakaran Nair served the BCCI in several key positions such as treasurer, chairman of the Finance Committee and secretary. In accordance with the BCCI resolution that fixed a maximum limit of three years for all office bearers, he stepped down as secretary after the Board's 76th AGM in Kolkata in November. The job was certainly not an easy one for Nair. "Because I was based in Thiruvananthapuram, I had to travel for three days to attend a meeting which lasted just one day," he said. "This put me under stress. I have enjoyed working for the BCCI for 25 years, but in the three terms as secretary, I struggled to survive." But the administrator took pride from the Indian team's performance. "The team was generally performing well. Reaching the World Cup final during my term will be a cherished moment for the rest of my life," said Nair, who is now focussing on developing facilities in his home state. The former secretary of the BCCI spoke exclusively to The Sportstar. Excerpts:

Question: Has it been a happy ending for you with the BCCI?

Answer: The secretary's job is well cut out. He has to work within a framework, has to be in tune with the president of the BCCI and also with other fellow office bearers. He's part of a team and plays a pivotal role.

The Secretary is the convenor of selection committee meetings and also other standing committees. Which one did you find comfortable to deal with?

Having been part of several committees, I did not have problems confronting issues. I was the Board's treasurer for five years and Chairman of the Finance Committee for four years. However, when you are more independent and you have to take decisions on your own there's greater satisfaction. Using the available discretionary powers in the matter of the logistics of organising tours was a challenging area of work. In this department, I think I have done well enough to benefit the Indian team, touring international teams and teams taking part in the domestic championships. The Pakistan tour of India early this year had to be handled with a great deal of care. From the moment the Pakistan team landed in the country to the team's return home, I went through a trying time. At the time, the BCCI was caught in several court cases concerning the television rights issue and therefore even routine meetings could not be held and as a result decisions were not taken at the proper time. This hindered my work. But I was able to take decisions on cricketing matters. Concerning off-the-field matters, a stone-throwing incident on the Pakistan team bus at Jamshedpur could have snowballed into a serious issue. I was at Jamshedpur then and hence I could talk to different government agencies and bring matters under control. I arranged a chartered flight that cost the BCCI around Rs. 12 lakhs for the team to be flown from Jamshedpur to Mumbai. I did not wait to get the clearance from the top management of the BCCI and Pakistan Cricket Board Chairman Shahriyar Khan appreciated my decision. It was a harrowing 24 hours for me after the stone-throwing incident.

The number of court cases and the TV rights issue must have been the most unsettling.

There have been a couple of unsettling issues. But as Mr. Sharad Pawar said at the AGM, the BCCI has a culture wherein all differences are forgotten after the elections, which on occasions has been fought in an environment of acrimony. But in the 2004 elections there were a lot of court interventions that stalled the functioning of BCCI President Ranbir Singh. A stalemate was created. But amidst all the confusion, I did not allow the BCCI boat to be rocked.

It must have been a real task controlling selection committee meetings?

The selectors always took decisions in the best interests of the team and after looking into the players' performances and attitudes in international and domestic tournaments. The practice over the years has been to not record the minutes of the selection committee meetings, where threadbare discussions take place. The selectors use the opportunity to express their views in a free and frank manner. Nobody is suppressed. There have been heated discussions, but at the end of the day they arrive at a decision based on consensus. Even the selectors feel it's not necessary to record the proceedings.

Do you think the captain and the coach need to be given the right to vote?

It's a debatable point. There are pros and cons to it. But an unfortunate development of recent times has been that the deliberations in the selection committee meetings have come into the public domain. I don't doubt the integrity of the selectors, but what's happening is not good for them. Even though the minutes are not recorded, discussions that happened on vital issues in the selection committee meetings have come out into the open. After the Abhijit Kale incident, the BCCI prepared a code of conduct for the selectors. One crucial point is that nobody has any proof of the source from where information is leaking, including Greg Chappell's observations emailed to the BCCI. This is precisely the reason why the voting right to the captain and coach is a debatable issue, because people will come to know who has favoured whom.

"Because of the recent phenomenon of news leakage, it is debatable whether the coach and captain should be allowed a vote in the selection committee meetings." (Above, the former selection committee meets in Bangalore in June. Clockwise from left are Chairman Kiran More, S. K. Nair, Greg Chappell, Pranab Roy and V. B. Chandrasekar.)-G.P. SAMPATHKUMAR

Do you think it would be advisable to make split decisions of the selectors public in the light of what happened recently when Kiran More said it was a unanimous decision to pick Sourav Ganguly for the Test series?

Kiran More clarified in a few lines why player `X' was not considered for captaincy. But the situation had changed the next day when the selectors met to select the team for the first Test against Sri Lanka. In situations when the arguments of the selectors vary in the matter of selecting a particular player, efforts are made to arrive at a general consensus following a majority decision. No dissent is recorded at the meetings. Unless a division is recorded, how can the Chairman of Selectors make an announcement that it was a 4-1 or a 3-2 decision?

Do you think the three-selectors proposal of Brijesh Patel and the Review Committee should replace the present system of five selectors representing the five zones?

It's a suggestion the BCCI can take forward. It's not a bad idea. The BCCI can have the three best people to do the job. Their integrity should be impeccable and their decisions should not be questioned. It will be very good for the national team. Some of the selectors have been criticised for carrying regional baggage. So it is imperative that the three selectors of the proposed set-up are careful while selecting the team.

Should they be paid?

Any change in system should always be welcomed as long as it is going to obtain better results for the Indian team. The selectors too have to be made accountable. Their inputs will have to be treated like the professional service offered by the coach, physical trainer, physio, and the biomechanical expert.

Has there been an instance of the captain and the coach being unreasonable and not vibing well with the selectors?

The team management consists of the captain, vice-captain and the coach and they discuss all cricketing matters. If they find there are genuine problems, these will be discussed in the team meetings. The objective is that players should have open minds and not nurse egos. The problem starts when one among them tries to thrust his opinion on the others.

Have you suspected the selectors of forming groups in the team?

No, I have not. I have never seen any selector carrying a brief for someone in the team. By and large, I have found that there have been differences of opinion in the selection committee meetings. I am in no position to comment what happens before and after the meetings. I don't think there's animosity between the selectors.

It was a harrowing time for me when the Pakistan team bus was subjected to stone-throwing in Jamshedpur early this year. I did not wait to get the sanction of the top management of the BCCI to charter a special flight to take the Pakistani team to Mumbai and Pakistan Cricket Board Chairman Shahriyar Khan (above) appreciated my decision."-AP

The BCCI has once again imposed a media gag on players?

The BCCI gave freedom to the players to express their opinions. But due to certain developments, it went beyond proportions, which the BCCI was not in a position to tolerate. The media gag was therefore necessary. We did not want the players to get into a controversy that could have indirectly affected their game.

After so many years with the BCCI, you must be keen to work full time for Kerala cricket now.

I have maintained excellent relationships with both factions of the BCCI. I have not retired from cricket administration. I will now focus on matters concerning cricket development and excellence in Kerala. I have been with the BCCI for 25 years and interacted with players and ex-players beginning from Kapil Dev. I will cherish this experience all my life.