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Home > Cricket > The Cup > Column > Arvind Lavakare

The Board's hurricane has a chink

April 09, 2007

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Writing this more than 24 hours after the storm burst, one still can't believe it happened. The Cricket Board letting a hurricane loose on our seniors appears surreal. And the notice to Tendulkar for blabbering to a journalist about himself vis-�-vis what coach Chappell reportedly recorded about him must have stunned him like no fast bowler did in his long years at the crease.

In that respect, I admit I was horribly wrong when I anticipated in my last article that Sharad Pawar's team would do nothing except act benignly in his belief that our debacle at the ongoing World Cup was just a part of what is, after all, just a game. On the other hand, the Cricket Board's fiat endorsing Dravid's continuance as the captain and giving a pat on Chappell's back must have added salt to the failed seniors' injury.

The fact that Tendulkar hasn't as yet resorted to the prohibited hook indicates that even he has been forced to duck the greased lightning bouncer from the Board.

Legal complications may well force the Board compromise on its draconian diktat on players' product endorsements though the ruling seems to have been well received by the aam aadmi who is nauseated every time he sees Pathan cartwheeling stumps or hitting a sixer on a television spot when he can't even get a spot in the actual India XI.

But among all other drawings in the blueprint drawn up by the Board, the most revolutionary is its decision to have four-man centralised national selection committee instead of the age-old practice of having a selector nominated from each of the five administrative zones of Indian cricket. Payments to these four full-time selectors appointed for a two-year period is also a long overdue and welcome step.

What is unwelcome, though, is that it is the Board's Working Committee that will appoint this new-look selection committee, thereby again enabling favouritism and politicking by administrators who really do not have the wherewithal to assess the calibre of a selector.

The Board really missed a democratic trick there. As I wrote in my letter of December 21, 2005 to Sharad Pawar:

1.The system of nomination of the five selectors by the BCCI's General Body must be replaced by election of selectors. The responsibility for that delicate and critical task must be entrusted to the cricketers' body known as All India Cricket Players' Association of which Arun Lal is the current president.
2. The Players' Association should hold democratic elections among those of its members who wish to become a national selector. For the first such election, cricketers with a record of at least 25 Ranji Trophy matches and all ex-Test cricketers may be permitted to contest these elections as well as be given voting rights although they may not be members of the official Players' Association. Thereafter, however, only members on the live the rolls of the Player's Association ought to be considered as eligible to contest selectors' elections and to vote at these elections.
3. The elections for selectors must be conducted under the strict supervision of a three-man committee comprising BCCI's Honorary Secretary, BCCI's Joint Secretary and President of the Players' Association with administrative support from BCCI Executive Secretary's office. While the Players' Association will invite candidates interested in contesting selectors' elections and prepare the electoral roll for these elections, the three-man committee will scrutinise these lists, prepare ballot papers, issue voter identity cards and draw up the programme for the elections.
4. Candidates must be allowed to campaign for votes for these elections.
5. While it would be ideal for secret voting to be done at a single venue, postal ballots must necessarily be permitted to make the elections truly meaningful.
6. Those five candidates securing the largest number of votes must be considered as national selectors. Their chairman must be the one who has secured the highest of all votes, and he must continue to enjoy the veto of the casting vote. This alone would ensure that the best five among the cricket players become national selectors, irrespective of the state or regional or institutional association they come from. This alone therefore will ensure that the cricketing public respects the decisions of the national selection committee.
7. The 5-man selection committee elected in the above manner must have tenure of three years from the day their election is announced, though a selector's term could be terminated by BCCI's Disciplinary Committee in consultation with the BCCI's Cricket Committee.
8. Each of the five selectors must be paid a tax-free fee of Rs 500,000 (Rs five lakhs) per year excluding the expenses for travel, board and lodge undertaken for selectoral work.
9. The selection committee elected in the above manner must be accountable only to the BCCI's Cricket Committee which, when convened by the BCCI President, can ask the selection committee to justify any of its decisions that seem irrational prima facie and, in extremely rare cases, can direct the selection committee to change its decision.
10. The selection committee's travel programme for country-wide talent spotting or form assessment in a whole year must be fixed every six months in close consultation with the BCCI's Cricket Committee which will have the authority to convene a Selection Committee meeting for any purpose concerning team selections.

That the Board decided on four selectors instead of the five suggested above is of no great significance. That Pawar didn't even acknowledge my letter is insignificant -- it will be there in his files. What is laudable is that the Board has accepted the need for changing an old system that was creating controversies and heart-burning galore. And, moreover, decided to pay for the change.

If only it had integrated the Cricket Players Association of India, it would have been another feather in the Cricket Board that has long been criticised as autocratic rather than democratic. It would have had the added value of keeping the Players' Association and ex-cricketers of distinction and esteem more intimately connected with the present and future of Indian cricket.

But we shouldn't be idealistic in our hopes, presumably. We should happily accept a cleansing wind, albeit a hurricane, with its chink or two.

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