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August 1, 2000

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Kapil Dev to be replaced

Onkar Singh in Delhi

Well before the Indian cricket team leaves for Toronto, it is likely to have a new coach.

While refusing permission to quote him by name, one of the seniormost officials of the BCCI told this reporter that the current coach of the Indian team will be replaced shortly. He further indicated that members of the current team, now under investigation by the Income Tax authorities and the CBI, will not make the cut when the selection is made for the upcoming one day series against Pakistan in Toronto.

Sports Minister Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa has been insisting, lately, that players such as Mohammad Azharuddin and Ajay Jadeja, as also coach Kapil Dev, should not be selected pending the completion of ongoing investigations. While the board has been talking tough of late and insisting that the players will be picked since there was no evidence of their guilt, the board official indicated that no less than BCCI president Dr A C Muthaiah had made up his mind on the subject, and that the tainted players will not be picked.

Asked a direct question, Muthaiah merely admitted that his mind was made up, but would not elaborate on what decision he had taken. "I am going to spell out my plans on August 19, in Bangalore," Muthaiah said. "We have taken the issue of match-fixing very seriously, and are determined to do something about it in the days to come. Just give us some time to take the necessary action."

Earlier in the day, Muthaiah led a six-member delegation that met Dhindsa and handed over a document titled Vision 2000. The 27-page document purportedly spells out the BCCI's plans for developing cricket in the country.

Muthaiah denied that the board was trying to take the government for a ride by submitting a token document filled with grandiose statements but no concrete plans.

A senior official of the sports ministry, however, told "There are no details about how much money the board plans to spend on promotion of cricket in India, which was one of the main problem areas. It gives no details about how the schemes listed in the Vision Statement -- very colourfully produced through computer graphics -- will actually be implemented."

The official said that the minister hadn't examined the document in full yet. But he ended on an ominous note when he said, "The BCCI will soon hear from us."

Muthaiah, when told of this conversation, said, "No, we have not fooled the government. We have outlined our schemes in detail. Should the government of India wish to get more details from us, we will welcome their queries."

Asked in what capacity Jagmohan Dalmiya attended the meeting, Dr Muthaiah said that it was in the capacity of president of the Bengal Cricket Association. Interestingly, the heads of other major cricket associations were not part of the meeting.

"I am satisfied with our meeting with the minister and his deputy, it was cordial," Muthaiah said.

Muthaiah said the issue of the team to be picked for Toronto did not come up at the meeting, nor did the minister ask the board to drop Kapil Dev and Azharuddin.

Asked what kind of money the board was earmarking for promotion of the game, Muthaiah said that already, the board was spending over 80 per cent of its total earnings on promotional activities. A graph highlighting present expenditure is part of the Vision statement, Muthaiah pointed out.

" From next year, the earnings of the board would be something in the vicinity of Rs 40 crore per year, and forty per cent of this would be spent on promotion of cricket," Muthaiah said. "We have decided to give chances to younger players so that we could build up our team for future. Our main emphasis is to help our cricket players in analyzing their weakness and take the help of the coaches to improve upon their techniques.

"Sachin Tendukar told me how Brett Lee, the Australian fast bowler, had used this technique to get him out in one of the matches," Muthaiah said. "Then we are going to have sports medicine experts along with physio-therapists etc. We are going to have doctors on our panel from various hospitals across the country, who would advise the board about the fitness of a particular player. We are engaging the services of Rodney Marsh to ensure that our fitness standards go up substantially," he said.

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