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After the Ganguly v Chappell bout 18 months ago, April 6 and 7 could easily be billed as the most strenuous and trying moments that the BCCI has had to endure since. It is not easy to coerce the BCCI into talking cricket and suggesting ways to improve its standard in India.
Thankfully, unlike the head-in-sand results of the Ganguly-Chappell hearings, the BCCI has actually conjured up policies that seem to have a little more substance. Admittedly, the suggestions are not its own, but that of former captains - but, it is a start.
However, beneath all the glitz and glamour of the recently announced measures lie more questions. Following is Part 1 of the discussion of the BCCI's ingenious ideas:
Internationals To Play Domestic Cricket
A very noble idea and if implemented will form a great platform for disseminating international know-how to the next generation. The problem lies in the execution. How much cricket do you expect national squad members to play when they are forced into playing meaningless matches in far-flung corners of the world? The BCCI needs to cut down on the junk and prop up its own system first.
"Fast & Lively" Wickets
This issue has been an easy way out for administrators over a number of years now. What are fast and lively wickets going to achieve? They will result in fast bowlers who get results handed to them on a platter, batsman might get slightly better and the breed of twirlers will be fast driven to extinction. Spinners have been our traditional strength and now is not the time to ditch them.
Indian cricket does not need fast and lively wickets. It needs pitches that bounce more than they currently do and are a little harder than at present. It also needs conditions and facilities that help young spinners practice their art. It is at this stage in their career that they require more help than their faster peers.
How many WACA-style pitches are prepared in Pakistan? None. Yet they still churn out genuinely fast and skillful bowlers. We should caution against forgetting our core strengths and blindly following the leader. Put some thought in and get the balance right.
Grade: Needs to develop logical thinking ability
Restructure of Domestic Cricket
Another very useful idea, but why has it taken so long for it to escape from the BCCI's offices? A six team Pura Cup style competition is not feasible for India, only because of the population and logistics involved. However, a 10 team premier league on top of a second and third division, based on the English football structure, is the need of the hour.
A structure such as this will promote tough competition amongst similarly skilled opponents and will test the mental fortitude of younger players as they play with proven performers. This all assumes that politics and bribery will not play a role in the selection process for the various representative teams.
The zonal teams can then be selected to play in a short and limited competition, loosely based on the Australian NRL's "State of Origin" series.
I am not sure what the BCCI hopes to gain by reserving the power to allot the venues for the big games. It would be better for it to employ and retain qualified and knowledgeable curators at each of 10 "Premier League" grounds so that the surfaces are up to the mark for all games.
We all know that term is not commonly heard in the corridors of the BCCI. However, after decades of hearing that professionals will be appointed, the BCCI might finally be getting around to it. A professional manager for the team and a professional media manager for the Board. Exactly what the doctor ordered, especially so that the likes of Lalit Modi can be prevented from unleashing their stupidity on the rest of us.
The most exciting news in this segment was the possible appointment of professional selectors at all levels - "possible" because nothing is sure with the BCCI until it is actually accomplished. This decision might finally herald an era where player is selected on merit alone, and not not the basis of how much money he is able to transfer to a selector's bank account or how many parties his daddy throws.
Players' Endorsement Deals
It has been said many a time since the announcement, but true to form the dimwits within the BCCI have scaled their Everest. Stripping players of the right to sign as many endorsement contracts as their popularity will allow reeks of nothing but opportunism.
Sponsorship is the result of good performance. The most indisputable evidence of this is the blanket review of many players' deals in light of the World Cup debacle. It is not the BCCI's moral prerogative or legal right to restrict the amount of money an player can make outside of the game. Further, appearing in TV ads does not help or hinder a player's performance on the field.
Reviewing a contract to ensure clauses that will hinder the team's are not included is fine. However, limiting the number of sponsors or having a say on which products a player can endorse is infringing on an individual's right and leaves the BCCI open to many ugly and unnecessary lawsuits and distractions.
Here's hoping that Rahul Dravid's diplomatic noises bear fruit and the matter can be settled before it reaches boiling point.
This is Part 1 of the BCCI's Report Card. Part 2 can be found here, be sure to check it out and leave your own comments on what you think of the BCCI's various ideas, or anything else that takes your fancy.
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