Three contenders are vying for the post of joint secretary of the Board of Control for Cricket in India at the BCCI's 74th annual general meeting in Kolkata this weekend. They are: BCCI vice-president C K Khanna, Goutam Das Gupta from the Cricket Association of Bengal, and Mumbai Cricket Association honorary secretary Ratnakar Shetty.
Chairman of selectors Brijesh Patel was keen on taking up the job, but a heart bypass operation put paid to his plans.
Now, even before the two-day meeting this Saturday and Sunday, a clear winner seems to have emerged from the trio named above.
Professor Shetty will most likely replace Jyoti Bajpai.
Shetty told rediff.com that if elected, his foremost objective would be to streamline junior cricket in the country.
That may sound like stating the obvious, seeing that the joint secretary's responsibility is junior cricket, but the professor indeed has concrete plans to achieve his goal.
"There is talk about changing the under-19 format to the current Ranji Trophy pattern," Shetty said, "but it has to be modified. The same template won't work in junior cricket. We have to ensure that the load is not too much on the young players."
Junior cricket, he pointed out, needs proper attention. "They [the players] are in the developing stage. They should not have to travel too much; they should get good ground facilities and guidance."
A man who always speaks his mind, Shetty has been joint secretary of the MCA since 1996, and his perseverance has brought rich rewards. Youngsters now train at nodal centres around Mumbai and do not waste endless hours commuting to the city for practice.
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"It was a 43 day tour and I heard a lot of suggestions from the players," Shetty recalled. "I thought it was astonishing that someone who was playing his 100th one-dayer was getting the same amount as someone who was making his debut. I spoke to the Sri Lankan board and learnt about their graded payments scheme. When I returned, I submitted the idea to the Indian board."
The report, however, gathered dust in the BCCI's office until the matter resurfaced in 2001. Dr A C Muthiah, board president at the time, asked Shetty to be a member of the committee that would speak to the players about the contracts.
"Graded payments might soon become a reality and it feels good to be a part of the process," Shetty said, clearly proud of his role in this long-awaited reform.
The idea of the Indian team having a foreign consultant and physiotherapist was also suggested by Prof Shetty. His request was granted in the form of former consulting coach Bobby Simpson and former physio Andrew Kokinos.
"The players wanted these facilities; they used to tell me, 'See the difference in having a foreign physio like Sri Lanka's physio Alex Kontouri'," he explained.
Shetty rubbished allegations that he does not share a good equation with BCCI president Jagmohan Dalmiya. "We have excellent relations," he said. "I enjoy his confidence, and, irrespective of my association leanings, we have always been on good terms, interacting since 1996.
"We did not vote for him in the last election, but what about the two elections before that? MCA voted for the Bindra-Dalmiya faction when I S Bindra became president and then when the Maharashtra association's candidate, Dnyaneshwar Agashe, challenged Raj Singh Dungarpur, MCA voted for Raj Singh [who was Dalmiya's candidate]."
On the eve of the AGM, Shetty sounded as confident as ever. "I have done my homework well," the teacher said. "Let us hope for the best."