A cricketer at the helm of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) is not a new phenomenon. Raj Singh Dungarpur led the board with a drive and flourish that set new benchmarks in Indian cricket administration. He was a player’s man. So is Sourav Ganguly, the man in charge of cricket affairs in India. As of now, for 10 months, but he might well dig in for a longer innings.
The unending felicitations and the number of promises he has made since assuming charge raise the degree of expectations from Ganguly. It’s a different role than playing the game. He knows that and is warmed up to take up the challenge. Like he said, it is easier to administer than play the game. Batting can be a one-ball session, but not the responsibility of running the game.
Former India captain and coach Anil Kumble welcomed the ascent of Ganguly to the seat of BCCI president. “I am really glad that dada has become the president. I am very happy for him and happy for Indian cricket,” Kumble told Sportstar . “It’s wonderful to have someone of his capabilities and calibre as president. I only hope that it’s more than those 10 months. Ten months is too short a time. I am hoping that somehow he’ll complete his term. I’m not sure, but it’ll be good if that can happen. It’s a nice development for Indian cricket to have dada at the helm.”
Ravi Shastri, who did have differences with Ganguly at various stages of his career, was also excited with the new development. Ganguly, asserted Shastri, played the game on his terms. There is no doubt he did. Would that mean Ganguly will steamroll the opposition in the apex council of the newly elected BCCI? “Not necessarily,” argued a former board official. “Ganguly will need support because of the new constitution and the new equation where the BCCI president is not as powerful as the previous ones,” contested the official.
The BCCI has had some stalwarts leading the BCCI with exceptional administrative skills — M. Chinnaswamy, S. K. Wankhede, N. K. P. Salve, S. Sriraman, I. S. Bindra, Dungarpur, Jagmohan Dalmiya, Sharad Pawar and N. Srinivasan, the last named earning more brickbats than the bouquets he deserved for introducing measures that benefited players and the game. “He paid the price for ignoring well-meaning advice from his colleagues,” said a veteran official.
For Ganguly, the challenges ahead are huge. Because the expectations are huge. But then, he has accepted the job knowing well that once he takes guard nothing less than a stroke-ful century would justify his elevation to the post. To be where he is Ganguly has to relinquish some lucrative work that kept him busy — television commentary where he was rated one of the finest, his Indian Premier League association with the Delhi franchise, and media work as a columnist and an expert. The fact that he wanted to serve Indian cricket meant a lot more to Ganguly than looking at things from outside the boundary.
Ganguly’s rich experience as an administrator at the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) should propel him to a position from where he can dictate. He rose through the ranks at Eden Gardens — from joint secretary to president. He introduced a sense of loyalty and commitment at the CAB even if it meant antagonising some old hands. “It’s not as easy as you think. Once you assume office, you realise it’s tough to keep everyone happy,” he had told this reporter when hosting India’s 501st Test (against New Zealand) in 2016.
One can expect Ganguly to call the shots in his new cricket avatar. Things won’t change overnight, but don’t be surprised if he fast-tracks a few suggestions that have come his way — a new structure at the National Cricket Academy (with inputs from Rahul Dravid) and emphasis on accountability in every position in Indian cricket, be it playing, coaching, umpiring or administration. Ganguly can he be very exacting in his expectations from the people he appoints and that can be good news for those who believe in commitment in the real sense.
At the CAB, he appointed V. V. S. Laxman as batting consultant and Muttiah Muralitharan as bowling consultant as part of its Vision 2020, the aim being to bring in top-class professionals. He has always believed in giving the best, having received the best as player and captain of India. He can be accommodating, too, like travelling economy class for domestic cricket when representing Bengal. A man who understands the needs of the players, and someone who is very receptive to suggestions from fellow players, past and present, Ganguly promises “action” in his new role.
Can Ganguly restore Test cricket’s popular image of the past by working to attract spectators to the venues? Can he convince the team to play day-night Tests? How will he respond to Virat Kohli’s suggestion of having five permanent centres for staging Tests? Ganguly has a long list of expectations to meet. He was a player’s man when he led India.
His critics and well-wishers are convinced that he would need support from every quarter in the board. Not an easy task, but then, Ganguly is used to batting in difficult situations. He mocked at those who termed him a “quota” selection in 1996 by scoring a century on Test debut.
He is in a similar position, leader of a team that is inexperienced in cricket administration. But, as his friends point out, dada is at his best when pushed against the wall. Time will tell.
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