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Professionalising selection committee must be the first step - Suresh Menon Column
by Suresh Menon
Oct 03, 2008
Krishnamachari Srikkanth heads the first selection committee in India that will be paid for its work. This may well be an important step towards 'professionalising' the entire cricket set up. "We do an honorary job out of sheer love for the game, therefore we cannot be held responsible for what we do", has been the (unspoken) excuse that has been the hallmark of selection committees and office-bearers in the past. It is as if we ought to be grateful to the same faces who hold official posts for decades. It is time for a CEO who can be held accountable by shareholders.

The selectors are still picked on a zonal basis (it is time to pick the three best, regardless of geographical location), but now they are treated like professionals. Their job description is simple: To pick the best available Indian team with an eye on the future too.

So what's the next step? Paid office-bearers? That seems logical. That is one way of introducing transparency and accountability, two elements foreign to the Board at the moment. If the Board can take away one lesson from the success of its IPL tournament, it is the efficacy of professionalism. Not just among the players, but in the administration too.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India, to give the governing body its full, anachronistic name, can begin by removing 'Control' from its name, and call itself by a shorter, smarter one. Perhaps Indian Cricket. Or Cricket India. That 'control' is from the feudal days when the board was god, and treated its players whimsically with ego and emotion ruling rather than objectively on performance and potential.

On being made selector, Srikkanth told the media that his committee would be "fair, responsible and honest," and that "there will be no bias of any kind." The implication - that previous committees were not necessarily fair, responsible or honest and bias of some kind played a role - cannot be escaped. The system almost demanded bias. The selector had to keep his parent body happy (by choosing local players), if he wished to continue in the job the following year. A salary alone cannot change that; we need a change in the mindset too.

For inspiration, the Board needs to only look at the new county champions in England - Durham. They were elevated to the big league only in 1992, and by 2004 they were almost bankrupt after finishing among the bottom three regularly. That year, however, Durham were converted into a private limited company, and run by business people. This is not an ideal solution - businessmen are not famous for their social consciousness or for ignoring the bottom line while making decisions that might actually cost money.

But the Durham Board was kept small, there were not so many committees (look at the number who have to be accommodated in the Indian Board, either as PR exercises or for service rendered), and it was made clear that cricket was the core business. The biggest advantage of such a move was the introduction of both transparency and accountability into the system. Durham is a small team and Indian cricket is a huge operation; but the essentials can be borrowed with profit.

Shareholders go by the result. And the shareholders in Indian cricket number about a billion. That is something that will have to be borne in mind should the system be overhauled to accommodate creative businessmen doing a job that brings in both victories on the field as well as financial profit. The one usually leads to the other.
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