September 4, 2013

What are cricket boards for?

Andrew Hughes
Haroon Lorgat speaks to the media after the ICC executive board meeting, Dubai, April 16, 2012
Can we have some dull ties, please?  © Getty Images
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There is a lot to be said for daydreaming. The world is full of tediously focused people who never take their eyes off the ball, but who wants to watch the ball when you can gaze aimlessly at the crowd, the sky, the pitch, the birds, or your own shoelaces?

Some of humanity's best brain-work came through daydreaming. Galileo hadn't given much thought to suns, orbits and suchlike, until his mind started to wander during mass one Sunday morning. Lalit Modi had no interest in franchised hyper-leagues, cheerleaders, megalomania or world domination until he found himself stuck in a Mumbai lift listening to the Lighthouse Family for 27 minutes.

Even a commoner can benefit from daydreaming. Only this week I came up with three chin-strokers while I was stuck in a conversation about illegal parking with an angry policeman.

Firstly, what's the difference between a medium-fast bowler and a fast-medium bowler? For example, in the Playfair Cricket Annuals, David Capel was always MF, but Neil Foster was FM. (Graham Gooch was SM, and by the end, Ian Botham was more VVSM.)

Secondly, why are the Army Barmy? If it's a self-help group for people with mental-health issues, then surely there are more sensitive titles. Or couldn't they be bothered to find another rhyme for Army? That's unforgivable when just ten minutes with a rhyming dictionary threw up the Balmy Army (purveyors of soothing lullabies) the Smarmy Army (supporting England in an unctuous and insincere manner), the Origami Army (adept at creating paper representations of the day's play), and the Pastrami Army (always bring their own sandwiches).

Thirdly, what are cricket boards for? Every other species of board has a purpose. Floorboards stop you from landing on the breakfast table of the family who live downstairs. Cupboards solve that tricky age-old problem of where to put your cups. Washboards make fine musical instruments. And waterboards help certain governments in their quest for global justice.

But cricket boards?

I think I know what they should do. Arrange matches for the benefit of spectators. Keep things running smoothly. Make sure players get paid on time. Steer clear of media squabbles. Maybe even work together with other boards for the good of the sport.

What they actually do is rather different. In the last week alone, we've seen the following examples of board misbehaviour: bad-mouthing senior players in the media (SLC); not paying their players (ZC); attempting to bully another cricket board over fixtures (BCCI).

The problem is that cricket boards are usually staffed with politicians, businessmen and former players. Politicians are skilled at lying, presenting things in the best possible light, and character assassination (or in some cases, literal assassination). Businessmen spend their lives persuading us to buy things we don't need, sacking people, and extracting money from every situation. And former players just want to be loved.

So our cricket boards scheme, spin, and chase after dollars with the gusto of a pack of slavering, if slightly overweight, basset hounds in pursuit of a fox. They are forever launching new franchised leagues that nobody really needs, giving us their opinions without our having asked for them, and being photographed leaving courtrooms wearing expensive suits. We have some of the most ruthless, Machiavellian, commercially minded boards in history.

But we don't want our cricket boards to be dynamic, ruthless and exciting, just as we don't want our hospitals to be dynamic, ruthless and exciting. We like our hospitals to be roughly in the same place they were yesterday, reliable, reasonably efficient at doing the thing that they are supposed to do, and largely free of flesh-eating diseases.

Cricket is crying out for the return of the old-fashioned, ego-free administrator; the pen-pusher; the bureaucrat; the man in the dull tie who will come into the office on time and do exactly the same thing he did yesterday; who will do the boring things and do them so well that we won't even know what he looks like, and our only clues to his existence will be that every cricketer gets paid on time, the fixture list has regular gaps in it, and coverage of the sport is widely and freely available for everyone.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England. He tweets here

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Keywords: Administration

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Posted by Praxis on (September 5, 2013, 19:56 GMT)

Mr. Hughes, this definitely is one of the best you've written yet.

Posted by KiwiPom on (September 4, 2013, 23:35 GMT)

The problem lies with the word board. We don't need "boards" we need committees. We don't need people with MBAs from Harvard - or equivalent. We need people who love cricket more than they love themselves.

Posted by Unmesh_cric on (September 4, 2013, 16:53 GMT)

Good article, Andrew! This article reminds me of one of your very old articles which was titled something like "Whose game is it?". In that article, you had pointed out how badly the spectators are treated even though we are the ones who actually run the game. Right now, the fans are looking forward to India-SA Test series which should consist of at least 3 to 4 Test matches. The idea of how the young Indian batsmen counter the likes of Steyn, Morkel on bouncy pitches is mouth- watering for fans. But instead we are mostly going to get a 2 Test match series. All because of these administrators! I don't care what the problem is between these boards and who is at fault. Fans from both India and South Africa want a 3-4 Test match series. How difficult is it for these boards and administrators to sort this thing out? Aren't they paid exactly for this?

Posted by ThatsJustCricket on (September 4, 2013, 16:37 GMT)

Very well said, indeed...

Posted by SagirParkar on (September 4, 2013, 14:57 GMT)

well said Andrew.. well said indeed.. i doff my cap to thee !

Posted by ramli on (September 4, 2013, 14:15 GMT)

ATTEMPTING TO BULLY OTHER CRICKET BOARDS OVER FIXTURES ... well, is it a crime to alter fixtures? Was this not done earlier? CSA paid the price of taking BCCI lightly and going ahead to announce the fixtures on their own ... they will be careful in future ...

Posted by   on (September 4, 2013, 13:00 GMT)

Well said

Posted by   on (September 4, 2013, 8:20 GMT)

Bravo! Well said! To the return of the native then,...

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andrew Hughes
Andrew Hughes is a writer and avid cricket watcher who has always retained a healthy suspicion of professional sportsmen, and like any right-thinking person rates Neville Cardus more highly than Don Bradman. His latest book is available here and here @hughandrews73

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