Thursday, April 12, 2007

India Cricket: BCCI Post World Cup Report Card Pt 2

In Part 1 of this series we covered five areas that the BCCI believes need to be improved if Indian cricket is to crawl out of today's darkness. In this version of the two-part series we discuss the remainder of the BCCI's proposals and determine whether the high-powered meetings (read Kangaroo Court) of April 6 and 7 produced anything of substance, or if it is just plain and simple hogwash.

Increased Under-19 Activity

An excellent idea, on face value. Increased exposure of overseas conditions and environments can only serve to better prepare and toughen the next generation. However, the fact remains that we have done reasonably well in age-group tournaments to date. Whether it be Under-15 or Under-19 World Cups, Indian teams have nearly always made it to the final and actually have gone all the way on some occasions too.

Where Indian cricketers fall over is after this stage, when they get drafted into the Ranji fold and mediocrity earns them statistically spectacular results. The solution is to undertake more A-team tours, so that players progressing from the Under-19 level have a steady stream of stiff competition.

This is not to say quantity is better than quality in this case. Sending teams to Zimbabwe and Bangladesh is a waste of money, as the same level of competition could be found at home. These tourists need to be sent to Australia, New Zealand, England and South Africa. Therein lies the real competition - for now.

Grade: Getting There

State Academies

Forgive me for being so utterly cynical, but the original proposition for the National Cricket Academy was for it to be supported by other state/feeder institutions. As is India's wont, we love the icing taste delightful, but deem it unimportant to do likewise with the sponge.

The idea of state-based academies is a sound one. However, after listening to the same rhetoric for the past five years, I am holding no hope that the ideas will be implemented any time in the next five years.

Grade: Action Please

A "Young" Team for Bangladesh

This one really baffled me. On one hand the BCCI informs us that it will appoint professional selectors who, one would hope, would be more accountable for their decisions. On the not so distant other hand the Board is telling the, as yet, unnamed panel how they should do their job.

Various reports have done the rounds as to which players the BCCI wants dropped. Names such as Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Zaheer Khan, Harbhajan Singh and Irfan Pathan have been touted in this regard. Undoubtedly, these names were "sourced" from a "source close to" or within the Board - elevating the rumours to 'fact' status.

Point is, if the Board has a disciplinary gripe against the said players, try and sentence them according to the relevant code of conduct. Do not tell your employees how to do their job; a job that you have no qualifications undertake - if you do, why not do it yourself?

Grade: Abysmal

The Management/Coaching Team

Venkatesh Prasad as bowling coach - good move. The guy has qualifications and experience, with a degree of success with the age-group teams he has coached. No harm letting him prove his credentials.

Robin Singh as fielding coach - good move. Same as above and he was an excellent fielder in the pre-Yuvraj and Kaif days.

Ravi Shastri as "Cricket Manager"? I seriously hope that this is only a temporary appointment to buy the BCCI time to find a quality alternative to Greg Chappell. I am not aware of any coaching qualifications that Shastri holds and he certainly has no worthwhile/relevant experience. It is my earnest prayer that his selection is only a temporary measure. If Shastri does see a coaching future for himself, he should get on the first flight to Australia to complete the relevant courses and try and become an understudy to one of the more successful coaches around the world.

In fact, another initiative the BCCI should seriously consider is a coaching structure where talented and capable coaches are identified, given the opportunity to gain the prerequisite qualifications and then placed as an understudy to a successful coach outside of India. After serving their apprenticeship, they can return to India and take charge of a Ranji team in order to show their wares. This, my friends, is a structure that will help Indian cricket immeasurably - in the long run.

Grade: Getting There

I did not touch on the show-cause notice to Tendulkar and Yuvraj because it is not an idea, merely the implementation of an existing policy.

There are many other initiatives that could form Part 3 of this series. Do write in (in the comments section or via email) of any of your own initiatives that you believe will reap rewards. In the meanwhile, be sure to read Part 1 and let your views be known.

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