'Hope Srinivasan will take measures to restore the BCCI's image'
Niranjan Shah may not have held dream positions in the Board of Control for Cricket in India during Narayanaswami Srinivasan’s regime, but, in the past, when the individuals he was loyal to reigned supreme, he had the distinction of being the BCCI’s secretary, not just once but twice.
Besides managing the Indian team on a couple of overseas tours, he was also a BCCI vice-president and an Indian Premier League vice-chairman.
With nearly 40 years of administrative experience behind him, both in the BCCI and Saurashtra Cricket Association, where he is still the undisputed and unconquerable Badshah, it is a truism of sorts that you may like or dislike the man, but you just cannot ignore him!
Haresh Pandya spoke exclusively with Shah in his plush Saurashtra Cricket Association office in Rajkot on Monday, a day after Srinivasan was re-elected unopposed for a third term at the BCCI’s 84th Annual General Meeting in Chennai.
You have attended many Annual General Meetings of the BCCI over the past three decades and more. Was the one on September 29 any different in some way, if at all?
Well, not much. Maybe there was more media attention this time round because of the recent controversies surrounding some cricket officials, as well as the alleged spot-fixing scandal involving a few players in the last edition of the IPL.
Were you happy with the way the AGM was held or conducted?
As in the past, it was held in a democratic way and as per the constitution of the BCCI.
Image: Niranjan Shah
'The good of Indian cricket is the need of the hour'
Despite controversies and court cases, Narayanaswami Srinivasan continues to dominate and influence the BCCI. How do you view his reappointment as BCCI president for another year?
The image of the BCCI has taken a beating in the recent past. I hope he will take measures to improve and finally restore the BCCI’s image. More than anything, the good of Indian cricket should be the aim and motto of everyone concerned with the BCCI.
With many of his close allies holding important positions in various committees, the damage-control exercise should not be a daunting task for him. What do you feel?
I hope so. But I know from years of experience of my association with the BCCI that it will not be as easy as it may appear to some from outside. Selfless collective effort with a common goal, the good of Indian cricket by all means, by all concerned, is the need of the hour.
It seems groupism is rife in the BCCI, more so in recent years, isn’t it?
It is not a new phenomenon. You have always had two opposite groups in the BCCI. One group feels that nothing has happened or, to put it more clearly, nothing wrong has happened. The other group tends to believe that nothing right has happened. The group you belong to determines your thinking. Well, almost!
It goes without saying that you do not belong to the Srinivasan group. Having been the BCCI secretary twice, a vice-president, an IPL vice-chairman, in addition to holding several other key positions over the years, you are now relegated to a mere member of the Finance Committee in the new set-up. How do you feel?
Whatever position I have held, I have always served the BCCI to best of my ability. I strongly believe that it is not the position but the good of Indian cricket that matters. So it does not really matter to me whether I am holding a high-profile post or made a mere member of a particular committee.
This is nice to hear, but have you never harboured ambitions to become the IPL chairman?
Who isn’t ambitious in this world? Positive ambitions are a good sign, aren’t they? To tell you honestly, I did hope to replace Lalit Modi as the IPL chairman when he was sacked. I was already a vice-chairman. But it was not to be. Fair enough. No issue. I have held no grudges against anybody, whether he belongs to the opposite group or the one I support.
Not even against the late Jaywant Lele, whom you eventually pipped to the post of BCCI secretary?
No, never. We had differences of opinion on odd occasions, but it was more because we belonged to different groups. We were never sworn enemies. Just like in politics, there are no permanent enemies in sports administration, too. After all, the BCCI elections are just, well, elections, not a war.
Image: Niranjan Shah, as vice-chairman of the Indian Premier League attends the IPL Auction 2010 on January 19, 2010 in Mumbai
Photographs: Ritam Banerjee/Getty Images
'The BCCI must capitalise on Dalmiya's vast experience as an astute administrator'
Like you, a man of Jagmohan Dalmiya’s standing has also been relegated to being the chairman of almost an inactive sub-committee, North East Development Committee, instead of making the most of his rich experience as a former BCCI secretary and chairman as well as ICC president…
I really cannot comment on the first part of your question. As you rightly said, this is a new set-up, so most of the key positions have gone to the loyalists of a particular group. But, yes, the BCCI must capitalise on Dalmiya’s vast experience as an astute administrator for the betterment of Indian cricket, irrespective of where his loyalties lay or lie.
What do you think of Lalit Modi now that the BCCI has banned him for life?
He has paid the price for what he has done. What more can you say about someone who tarnished not only his own image and reputation but also sullied the name of the very organisation which made him somebody from a nobody?
Don’t you think the BCCI should fix some criteria for the appointment of the IPL chairman? It appears odd when someone who has not played enough first-class cricket pips a giant like Gundappa Viswanath, who has played 91 Tests, to the high-profile position?
Fortunately, the BCCI elections are not contested on the 22-yard territory of a playing field! Hence you have more administrators who have little experience of actually playing cricket.
Image: Niranjan Shah (centre) with former BCCI and ICC presidents Jagmohan Dalmiya (left) and Sharad Pawar
'The selectors should decide, not Tendulkar, whether he is good enough for the team or not'
Do you think the BCCI should do away with the five-man selection committee when it comes to choosing the national team? Can’t we have just a two-man or at the most three-man selection committee regardless of the zones the chairman and his fellow selectors hail from?
India is such a vast country, with people playing cricket in every nook and cranny, that you need to have five selectors from five different zones. In the past we had tried, though unsuccessfully, a three-man selection committee, but pretty soon we realised that the five-man selection committee is the ideal one.
How do you assess Mr Sandeep Patil and company?
I must say they have done an excellent job so far. They have not been hesitant in dropping non-performing seniors and encouraging talented youngsters. The results are there for all to see.
But they are not as bold when it comes to taking a decision on Sachin Tendulkar, who seems to be playing on his past reputation now. He is increasingly made to appear bigger than the game in this country…
I think the Tendulkar issue has been blown out of proportion. The selectors are free to take a decision.
So what is your suggestion?
Ideally, the selectors should decide, and not Tendulkar, whether he is good enough for the team or not.
Image: Niranjan Shah with former India coach Greg Chappel