|March 17, 1998||
Ramakant Desai's resignation confirmed
The Board of Control for Cricket in India finally admitted, today, what we have known all along -- that chairman of the national cricket selection committee Ramakant Desai has resigned owing to ill health.
BCCI secretary J Y Lele finally acknowledged Desai's resignation, and indicated that a new selector from the West Zone will be picked in Calcutta during the second Test between Australia and India.
He clarified that the replacement will not be chairman of the national selection committee, but merely one of the five. "The seniormost selector in the remaining four will be elevated to the top post at least until the next annual general body meeting of the BCCI," Lele said.
When the story first hit the headlines, Lele emphatically denied it, indicated that it was a media creation. And BCCI president Raj Singh Dungarpur said that Desai had been persuaded to reconsider his "intention" to quit.
So why the volte face? Obviously, much water has passed under the cricketing bridge since then.
The first attempt by the board higher-ups was to get Desai to take back the letter of resignation. To that end, the outgoing chairman was even told that as far as humanly possible, all further meetings of the selection committee would be held in Bombay, to facilitate his presence.
The reason for this frantic effort is simple -- if Desai quits, the replacement is one of two West Zone selectors: Ajit Wadekar, or Dilip Sardesai.
Sardesai effectively ruled himself out by his public, and repeated, criticisms of the selectors. Which leaves Wadekar -- and therein, for the rest of the selectors, lies the real problem. The former India skipper and manager has stature and respect within the fraternity. Further, he enjoys an excellent equation with the two power centres of Indian cricket -- Mohammad Azharuddin and Sachin Tendulkar. Wadekar, too, is not seen as the kind of person likely to tolerate the in-camera games the selectors play.
Add to this the fact that Dungarpur, a Pataudi crony of long standing, does not exactly share the best of vibes with Wadekar, and the reason for the frantic denial of the Desai resignation while, behind the scenes, attempts were made to get him to recant.
That has now failed. And the BCCI has finally conceeded that the selection committee does not have a chairman.
In the process, it has almost cleared the decks for Wadekar's elevation. With, however, a safety valve in place -- thanks to the decision that the "seniormost member of the selection committee" will take over as chairman, the BCCI has ensured that it is the pliable Kishen Rungta, and not the potentially volatile Wadekar, who will be the visible face of the selection committee.
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