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By Suresh Menon
Indian cricket is wasting a crisis. Presented with an opportunity to change things, to clean the Augean stables, as it were, the Board of Control for Cricket in India, the root cause for much of the damage chose to sweep things under the carpet and go back to the bad old days.
The BCCI is in a mess. The IPL is in a mess. Of the two most powerful men in the sport worldwide till recently, one has been banned for life and the other has been told he cannot function as BCCI President until the cases in court are resolved. The Supreme Court’s ruling has not really hamstrung Mr N Srinivasan, the President whose son-in-law faces charges of illegally betting on his IPL team. This because he has taken the precaution of filling the posts in the BCCI with his own chosen men who will do his bidding even without being asked.
The time is right for a knight in shining armour to emerge from the ranks and restore the credibility and the dignity of the board. Somehow that does not seem to be a priority of the Board itself.
But a reluctance for would-be knights to put on shining armours is depressing. The motto has been, sadly, ask not what you can do for cricket but what Srinivasan can do for you. Some of the worst excesses of the game, from spot fixing to alleged money laundering to a host of other incidents have taken place during Srinivasan’s watch. You have to look beyond the selfish and to the larger interests of the game when its credibility is threatened.
Here’s a possible job description for newcomers: Candidates should be below 60, and have had some administrative experience. They should place love for the game and interest in its welfare above all else. A first class career is a bonus, a Test career an even bigger one. The ideal candidate would command respect worldwide and be listened to wherever the game is played. And since we are day-dreaming, here’s another qualification: fans should feel proud that such a one as this represents them in the sport.
In 2008 when Indian cricket was in a muddle on the tour of Australia, one such knight in shining armour emerged to make us all proud that at that point, in those circumstances, he was the captain. Anil Kumble handled the whole issue of ‘Monkeygate’ and the reactions to it with a dignity that was statesman-like. Since then, as the elected President of the Karnataka State Cricket Association, he has brought to the job of administrator a rare combination of awareness and toughness.
Although he is technically an employee of the KSCA, and by extension of the BCCI and the ICC, his real boss is the game of cricket itself. Over the 134 Test matches he played, he was a modern master who claimed 600-plus wickets and brought to his task a nobility and pride of performance that has earned him admirers worldwide.
Of all the ‘Golden Era’ players who have now retired – Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid, Javagal Srinath, V V S Laxman – Kumble appears most qualified to put on a shining armour, get on to his horse and battle the evils that are dogging the BCCI and Indian cricket. He turns 43 this month, and it may disappoint some that he has chosen to throw in his lot with Srinivasan rather than attempt to attack the problems head-on himself. Yet, at a time when ex-cricketers were keeping away from administration and looking for more lucrative and less troublesome jobs in the media, Kumble went through the grime and dirt of the election process to emerge as the President of the KSCA. It is this spirit he – and Indian cricket – needs to tap into.
He is a remarkably focused person who understands the politics of world cricket and commands the respect of those in the BCCI who know him as a tough, no-nonsense individual. The same old faces doing the same old things in the same old way will only lead to more disasters.