Rich in pitch nous

Sanjay Jagdale at his dream Holkar Cricket Stadium.-S. SUBRAMANIUM

“I know the importance of a good cricketing pitch. It is essential to have good pitches in order to get good cricketers,” Sanjay Jagdale tells Vijay Lokapally.

Sanjay Jagdale has always been a dedicated cricket administrator. As an all-rounder he played 53 first-class matches, aggregating 2077 runs and claiming 85 wickets, in a career spanning 15 years.

His association with the game continued even after his days as a player as he took to coaching at the Cricket Club of Indore (CCI). He has been doing this for 35 years now, even tending the ground and rolling the pitch, teaching his students to be complete cricketers. Narendra Hirwani, Amay Khurasiya and Naman Ojha have been his trainees at the CCI. His biggest contribution to cricket in Madhya Pradesh has been the tireless effort that culminated in Indore having the Holkar Stadium, as modern a cricket venue as can be.

His father, M. M. Jagdale, played 64 matches for Baroda, Central India and Holkar. His father’s influence was huge as Sanjay grew up watching a galaxy of stars like C. K. Nayudu, Mushtaq Ali, C. S. Nayudu, Khandu Rangnekar and Chandu Sarwate. “I was privileged to have grown up in an excellent cricketing atmosphere,” Sanjay recalled.

Sanjay can be called a complete cricket personality. He played the game, became a coach, was a junior and senior National selector, worked to enhance the profile of the Madhya Pradesh Cricket Association (MPCA) as an administrator with a vision and also rose to become the Secretary of the Board of Control for Cricket in India.

Known as a cricketer’s friend in the Board, Sanjay focussed on areas that had been ignored in the past. Pitches and curators became his priority as he put his experience to great use. But Sanjay quit the Board in circumstances that hurt him following the spot-fixing scandals and the overall damage it caused to the image of the BCCI.

The 63-year-old Sanjay spoke to Sportstar during the Challenger Series for the NKP Salve Trophy recently.

Excerpts:

Question: How would you rate your tenure in the BCCI?

Answer: Individuals are not important. In BCCI the decisions are taken jointly. We tried to focus on domestic cricket and to some extent we did succeed. The format, the pitches, the playing conditions and the outfield have showed considerable improvement in the last decade or so.

You have encouraged the curators a lot.

Jagdale sizing up the Indore pitch in the company of curator Samandar Singh.-S. SUBRAMANIUM

We gave a lot of importance to the curators because they had been a neglected part of Indian cricket. You need good curators to improve the playing conditions. We tried to focus on that. The standard of cricket is directly connected to the playing conditions on offer. This was our priority and I am happy the BCCI has worked in this area in a big way in the past couple of years.

How different was it from the approach of the previous administrators?

We started the curators’ course as we needed to educate the curators also in a scientific manner. We had dedicated people in Daljit Singh, P. R. Vishwanathan and Venkat Sundaram. There are some up and coming curators also (Taposh Chatterjee, Sunil Chauhan, Samandar Singh and Narayan Raju). You also see venues like Lahli (Haryana), Dharamshala and Indore. It is a healthy sign and I hope it continues.

How much did your role at CCI help you?

It played a major role. I have been coaching for 35 years now and I was always involved in preparing the pitches at my club. I knew the importance of a good cricketing pitch. It is essential to have good pitches in order to get good cricketers.

Does it help to have players in the ground staff?

It helps. See Daljit and Sundaram were good cricketers and that helped them become good curators. Only a good cricketer will know the significance of a good pitch. The concept should be clear; something for the bowlers, for the batsmen. It is not easy but if you are prepared it can be done. If they can have it in Australia and South Africa why not in India where you have such fantastic facilities and infrastructure!

Normally the host captain dictates the pitch preparation in domestic cricket. Have you been able to stop that?

It has been happening. I won’t say it has stopped completely. It is a process that has started and I am pretty sure results will show.

V. V. S. Laxman in his pomp, Eden Gardens, 1981. Jagdale says he's fortunate to have witnessed this Laxman gem of 281.-S. SUBRAMANIUM

How would you rate the standard of pitches in India?

You can’t have pitches like they have in Australia or South Africa. Conditions and soil matter. But you should have good pitches and I am sure we will have them with time and experience.

Does a captain (in domestic cricket) get attention for his report on pitches?

We have been giving them importance, the captains’ and coaches’ reports are considered largely. There is a match referee too. The format changes (in domestic cricket) have come only from captains’ suggestions. We had a committee involving Anil (Kumble) and Sourav (Ganguly) and a lot of thought process went into improving the format.

What do you feel about the present system of domestic cricket, especially the Ranji Trophy format?

This system needs to be given time. We can’t be changing the format every second year. Give it some time, the results will come. The number of teams (27) is huge. We need to concentrate on quality. That’s why the current format. It has some loopholes, but will be fine in a year or two.

How much can a cricketer contribute as an administrator?

It depends on the individual. You have to be passionate, should want to contribute, improve and give time to the game. It’s not necessary for one to be a cricketer to be a good administrator. You must be willing to serve and give something back to the game. That is what I strongly feel. You may make some mistakes but it is always a learning process.

What is the most striking aspect of India’s domestic cricket?

We have a very good junior domestic structure. The way talent is spotted and groomed is also excellent. There is dedicated staff for this. It is rare that talent goes waste. India is a big country but we have been trying our best to identify and nurture young talent.

What were the reasons for you to keenly promote the India ‘A’ and the under-19 tours.

When I took over (as Senior Selector and then the Board Secretary) I realised there would be spots vacant in the Indian team. We needed to prepare for that, give time to the youngsters, give them platforms to learn. The transition from first-class cricket to the international arena is tough. We gave the under-19 and the ‘A’ players more time to get tuned to the challenges overseas. I have always believed that one has to back one’s abilities and that comes from self-belief. There are no short cuts and our junior programme has confirmed it.

You also favour taking big cricket to non-Test centres.

I have been proposing this very thing for the last two years. There is a change now. Cricketers are coming from smaller towns and it is a very healthy sign. We need to encourage the smaller centres. The big centres conduct Tests, ODIs, and IPL. I feel too much of anything for anybody is not good.

We had 20,000 people watching the Salve Trophy in Indore because big players came to a small centre. We must have a two-tier system for Tests and ODIs. Why not Test matches at smaller centres? Teams like Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and New Zealand can play at smaller centres. It will be good for that particular association and the spectators of that region.

What were your best moments in cricket?

The World Cup win in 2011. It was a terrific moment. I was also lucky to watch V. V. S. Laxman’s great knock (281) against Steve Waugh’s team (in Kolkata in 2001).

How much have you succeeded in your association with the game as a player and administrator?

Let people decide. Personally, I have always loved watching cricket. I still watch cricket whenever I get time. But I give more time to my family now.