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The Rediff Cricket Interview / Niranjan Shah
'You can't serve the game by starting a league'
July 26, 2007
The recently-launched Indian Cricket League has created quite a stir. The Board of Control for Cricket India has not recognised it. Instead, it has criticised former India stumper and chairman of the selecion committee Kiran More, and former India capain and coach Kapil Dev [Images], for associating themselves with it.
Haresh Pandya spoke to BCCI secretary Niranjan Shah to find out about its stance on the league, the Graham Ford fiasco and the kind of coach Team India is looking for.
Does the BCCI look at the Indian Cricket League as some sort of threat?
Not at all! The BCCI doesn't encourage any unauthorised tournament. And when we feel that some tournament is unauthorised and not good for the BCCI, we take an independent view. It's as simple as that.
By the same token, the BCCI has encouraged the Buchi Babu, Sheesh Mahal and several other such cricket tournaments for many years now, hasn't it?
Yes, but they all came through BCCI-affiliated cricket associations. And they all have been running with the blessings of their respective state associations. So once a tournament is approved of by a state association the BCCI also recognises it.
So what's the BCCI's stand on the ICL?
We can't encourage it, let alone recognise it, because it's unauthorised. And whosoever is associated or involved with the BCCI in some way or the other -- administrators and players alike -- have nothing whatsoever to do with the ICL.
But the ICL has begun to hire star cricketers by offering them undisclosed fees�
Yes, I've read about it in the media. But so what? There is no national pride attached to it when you play or work for something like the ICL. You should understand that most of them are former cricketers whose best days are long behind them. How many people go to watch veteran cricketers in action whenever such matches are played?
Do you suspect the ICL might catch a big fish in the near future by successfully signing a couple of current Indian cricketers?
I don't think so. But it's up to the players. We can't dictate to them. We've no control over them in such matters. But they must be prepared to face the consequences. The working committee of the BCCI has already given guidelines to the officials as well as players in this regard.
Sandeep Patil, one of the frontrunners to replace Greg Chappell [Images], is on record saying he had waited for too long, but when he didn't hear anything from the BCCI, he decided to join the ICL. How far is this true?
Any individual is free to take any decision. It's his choice. So I don't want to make any comment on what you're saying. But I don't think the BCCI had given a promise to anyone, including Sandeep Patil.
Kapil Dev has proclaimed that the ICL is launched with a view to serving cricket. What do you think?
I don't think you can serve the game by just starting a league. The real service to cricket is rendered by loyal players and coaches at camps, not just in big cities but in the smallest towns and even villages across the country. Just look at coaches like Ramakant Achrekar, Desh Prem Azad and others and their yeomen services to cricket. Even in Rajkot, the place I hail from, retired Ranji Trophy players have been helping budding cricketers hone their talents at several camps without expecting anything in return. To my mind, this is the real service to cricket.
Is the BCCI in the process of selecting and appointing a new coach for Team India?
We are in no hurry right now. We're happy with the present arrangement. If you see, the Indian team has two coaches, one for bowling and one for fielding. So, in a way, the team isn't without any coach. When we actually go into the process of choosing and appointing a coach, we'll think more about it. But we need to have a very renowned cricketing name, someone who is well conversant with what constitutes a perfect coach.
Would that man be an Indian or a foreigner?
We're totally open about the choice of a coach for Team India. It doesn't matter whether he is Indian or a foreigner. It's all up to the BCCI panel, which will make the final appointment. We will leave this entirely to the BCCI panel.
Has the BCCI sought applications from the willing candidates?
No, we haven't.
How many persons have applied?
We've received about four or five applications so far. All of them have applied on their own; the BCCI hasn't asked anyone. So we'll look at it once we go into the process.
Have all these applications come from abroad?
Yes. They all have come from abroad.
But an Indian is also learnt to have applied. Isn't this true?
Maybe someone from India has also sent an application, but I don't remember exactly at the moment.
Who is he?
I think it is Chandrakant Pandit.
What lessons has the BCCI learnt from the Graham Ford fiasco?
It wasn't a fiasco, as you put it. I don't understand why people tend to say it's the BCCI's mistake. What is the fiasco there? We made no mistake whatsoever. When a person comes fully prepared for an interview, he is expected to be totally aware that he is there for an appointment if selected by the panel. But once he goes back and changes his mind, what can the BCCI do? You can't have control over a person's mind. Didn't we offer him the position? So I'm not prepared to believe that the BCCI has been responsible in whatever happened after the selection of Graham Ford.
Is it because of this lesson, or experience, that the BCCI hasn't appointed a coach for Team India even for as crucial a tour as England [Images]?
First of all, let me correct you and emphasise that it wasn't a lesson for us. It isn't necessary that we've to copy whatever other cricketing countries or their respective boards do. No, I don't think it's necessary. Team India is already equipped with two coaches, as I said earlier. And then there is a person of a very high repute in Chandu Borde [Images] as its manager. He can also guide the team. So the team is quite well-equipped in terms of coaches, too. Keeping this in mind, I don't think a big name coming as a coach from outside can make a difference to the team's fortunes all of a sudden.
Since the BCCI has been looking for 'a very renowned' cricketing person who is 'well-conversant with what constitutes a perfect coach', does it have any one in mind?
No, we don't have anyone in particular in mind. After all, it's a decision to be taken jointly. Even when Team India went to Bangladesh immediately after the World Cup, all the players, including seniors, were happy with the supporting staff that we had sent along.
If Team India does well in the rest of the series against England on the current tour, would the BCCI like to extend Chandu Borde's tenure? Or is it just a stopgap arrangement for the England jaunt only?
All this will be decided only later on. Of course, it isn't a permanent arrangement. We need to hire a good coach. But we shouldn't be in a hurry to find a coach.
It's completely their collective decision. And the selection committee honoured their wishes. I was very much present when the chairman of selectors, Dilip Vengsarkar, received a phone call from Rahul Dravid and responded to it as well. Dravid told Vengsarkar that he, Tendulkar and Ganguly had decided to opt out of the Twenty20 World Cup.
What do you think could be the real reason for their withdrawal? Sacrifice for the sake of youngsters or fear of failure?
Maybe, they feel Twenty20 cricket is better for youngsters. Anyway, it's good because after the Twenty20 World Cup two very important series are going to be played in India. So it's much better if they preserve their energy for that.
Isn't it going to be a very crowded calendar for our cricketers?
I don't think so. Almost all players in the world play the same amount of cricket and they don't complain about having a crowded calendar. We need to introduce more and more talented players to international cricket. And if some senior players, thinking it to be a too tight a schedule, require some rest, other players can always be played in between.
When is the BCCI going to appoint a full-time media manager for Team India?
I don't think it's necessary right now. Maybe we'll appoint one in the near future. I think having a manager for the team is a good thing. Besides administration and other things, he can always take care of the media, too.
But Team India was very much armed with a professional media manager in the past. So why not now? Most other cricket-playing nations are also equipped with media managers.
So what? As I said earlier, in some other context, it isn't necessary for us to follow other countries in everything. We've our own style of functioning.