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'We want Sachin, Rahul, Laxman in the BCCI'

By Harish Kotian/Rediff.com
March 23, 2015 18:36 IST
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'The BCCI believes that with great power comes greater responsibility.'

'We are conscious that the cricket world looks at us as "leaders." We will strive to lead responsibly.'

Anurag Thakur, the Board of Control for Cricket in India's newly-elected secretary, speaks to Harish Kotian/Rediff.com

The HPCA stadium in Dharamsala

Image: The Dharamsala stadium, which BCCI Secretary Anurag Thakur conceived as president of the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association. Photograph: BCCI

He comes from a family entrenched in politics, yet Anurag Thakur has made a name for himself in Indian cricket.

Son of Prem Kumar Dhumal, a former chief minister of Himachal Pradesh, Thakur is the president of the Bharatiya Janata Party's youth wing and a three-time MP from the Hamirpur constituency in HP.

Earlier this month, Thakur, 40, took a significant step in his career as cricket administrator by edging out incumbent secretary Sanjay Patel by a single vote in the Board of Control for Cricket in India elections at the BCCI's annual general meeting in Chennai.

While he will continue to play an active role in politics, Thakur promises to dedicate more of his time to the BCCI and "take Indian cricket forward" along with newly-elected Board President Jagmohan Dalmiya.

The new BCCI secretary, left, below, discussing his plans for the Indian cricket via e-mail, tells Harish Kotian/Rediff.com it is his endeavour to make the Board's working even more transparent.

The BCCI secretary's job must be one of the toughest in the world, maybe even tougher than that of the captain of India's cricket team. Are you feeling any pressure?

Isn't the secretary more involved than the BCCI president in the daily running of the Board?

It is an honour to be elected honorary secretary of the BCCI.

In a country where cricket is a religion it is a huge responsibility and opportunity. I am thankful to all those who believed in me and my capabilities. I am confident of living up to the expectations.

You have been involved in the BCCI for nearly 17 years. You were joint secretary for the last three years and now secretary. How has the Board evolved in recent years?

The Board recognises that it needs to work even harder to administer the game and popularise it even further.

Earlier, cricket was perceived as an 'urban' sport. Most of the members of the national side would hail from the 'metros', but things are changing.

The composition of Indian teams of recent times suggests that cricket has spread to every nook and corner of the land.

To facilitate the development of cricket and cricketers in the interiors the Board and its member units have taken the initiative to create state-of-the-art stadia and academies. These have yielded astonishing results.

The BCCI has to its credit the most robust and competitive domestic and junior cricket structure in the world.

You worked with Jagmohan Dalmiya, the new BCCI president, nearly a decade ago when he won the 2004 elections. Tell us about Mr Dalmiya's style of functioning. How do you two plan to take Indian cricket forward?

I was fortunate to work under Mr Dalmiya in 2004, and I am delighted to get the opportunity to work with him again.

To say that he loves cricket would be an understatement. He is someone who leads by example. You can rest assured that we will do our best, with the support of our colleagues and the BCCI staff, to take Indian cricket forward.

Cricket seems to be your first love despite being so involved in politics. How do you juggle both roles?

If you feel passionately about something, then the word 'juggling' never comes to your mind.

I am as committed to my constituency and party as I am to working towards the betterment of Indian cricket. I believe I have it in me to handle all the responsibilities that I have been entrusted with.

You are credited with building the stadium in Dharamsala, which is regarded as one of the most beautiful cricket stadiums in the world. What made you come up with a concept to build a cricket stadium in Dharamsala?

My priority, when I was elected president of the HPCA (Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association) in 2000, was to create and develop cricketing infrastructure across the state. Only that would enable us to produce better cricketers and cricket teams.

The cricket stadium at Dharamsala was a step in this direction. There were those who expressed their doubts, but we worked hard and the results are there for everybody to see.

The HPCA cricket stadium is situated at a height of 4,110 feet above sea level, with a picturesque landscape and snow-capped mountains abutting it.

The venue is embellished with all the facilities that make the sport a pleasurable experience for the players, spectators and the media.

The HPCA is in the process of constructing cricket grounds and academies for male and female cricketers in every district of the state.

We have one international stadium, three national level stadiums, three residential and nine district-level academies, as of now.

Anurag Thakur

Image: Board of Control for Cricket in India Secretary Anurag Thakur. Photograph: BCCI

Would you say that having a cricket stadium in Dharamsala and hosting international and IPL (Indian Premier League) matches have gone a long way in youngsters taking up cricket in Himachal?

Without a doubt! The HPCA cricket stadium, as also other grounds and academies that are in the process of being created across the state, and the international and IPL games that have been played at Dharamsala so far, have encouraged boys and girls to take up the sport. The HPCA is proud to have several talents in its ranks.

Ankush Bains, the wicketkeeper-batsman, was a member of the Indian team that played in the ICC Under-19 CWC (Cricket World Cup) 2014. Rishi Dhawan was the highest wicket-taker in the Ranji Trophy in the 2013-2014 season.

Paras Dogra is another consistent performer. Sushma Verma, the wicket-keeping all-rounder, was a member of the Indian women's team that toured England in 2014. She represented India in the recent series against South Africa.

These cricketers are role models for youngsters across the state.

When you got elected, you first said: 'Our utmost priority is to restore the confidence of the people in cricket and work on the image of cricket and the Board.' How are you working towards the same?

The BCCI is committed to cricket. We are aware of our responsibilities and will do our best to live up to them.

I have just assumed charge, and we are presently preparing for the eighth season of the IPL. You will see a lot of things happening over the next few months.

You recently met Pakistan Cricket Board chief Shahryar Khan in New Delhi on the revival of India-Pakistan cricketing ties. Is the BCCI open to play with Pakistan at a neutral venue? Is the UAE, as a venue, okay with the BCCI?

The BCCI and PCB have been discussing some issues. You will know when there is a breakthrough.

The BCCI is also accused by some other countries of using its money power to dominate world cricket.

Would you say it is justified that the BCCI gets more revenues from the International Cricket Council and also has a major say in the running of world cricket?

I think these accusations are baseless. It is natural that India gets a greater share of the revenues, considering the popularity and appeal of the Indian cricket team across the globe.

However, the BCCI believes that with great power comes greater responsibility.

We are conscious of the fact that the cricket world looks at us as 'leaders.' We will strive to lead effectively and responsibly.

Under the previous regime many felt the BCCI was run by a single person; many former cricketers and fans were unhappy with the Board's style of functioning.

Will you and Mr Dalmiya look to involve the members a lot more than in previous years and bring transparency in the running of the BCCI?

The BCCI has always been run through teamwork. The senior office-bearers have been complemented by the BCCI staff in the administration of the game.

It will be our endeavour to make the working of the Board even more transparent.

Would you like our legendary cricketers, like Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and V V S Laxman, to play a role in taking Indian cricket forward?

Cricketers like Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and V V S Laxman are icons. We will be delighted to have them on board in the BCCI. We will certainly speak to them about getting involved in Indian cricket in an active capacity.

Many Indian politicians are involved with state associations. BJP President Amit Shah is the Gujarat Cricket Association chief, you are president of the HPCA, Sharad Pawar is chief of the Mumbai Cricket Association. Why do so many politicians want to be involved with cricket?

I think you should look at the intent, not the background.

It is just a coincidence that the individuals you have mentioned are politicians. They entered cricket administration because they loved the game.

They have rendered exemplary service to Indian cricket, like the late N K P Salve and S K Wankhede, to name two individuals who were also politicians, did in the past.

If you have the determination and intent, and have the support of your colleagues, then there is no reason why you cannot realise your objectives, regardless of your background.

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