July 29, 2000

BCCI must get the commitment of players

WV Raman

David Boon, the former Australian batsmen remarked that the biggest pitfall to avoid for the visiting teams in India is the prevailing culture with regard to the cricketers. He made this statement when he was sharing his experiences in the Grade III coaching course recently. He reckoned that the visitors could not afford to get carried away by the adulation of the cricket-loving public in India. A simple statement of fact, but it had a lot of sense in it. The way the public treats its heroes needs no elaboration and at times one felt that it was far too superfluous.

Besides the public, both the print and the electronic media did their bit to provide big hype to a few highly talented cricketers. Some of the cricketers were made larger than life figures and people adored them with unshakeable belief bordering on fanaticism. It was not only restricted to the public and the media because even the BCCI officials also thought some were bigger than the game. A cricketer recently informed a BCCI official that he was retiring because he was dropped from the team and the official cajoled him not to do so! It is ridiculous considering that the cricketer's form of late has been nothing to write home about.

It is under this privileged situation that the "cricketgate" blew up in the faces of a few superstars. With the IT raids yielding a lot of documents, the allegations (deemed as baseless so far) may well be proved. Personally it is not a great feeling to see fellow cricketers going through this ordeal but the fact remains that they brought it upon themselves. Understandably, the entire focus is on the cricketers and obviously not many are expressing sympathy or kindness towards them.

Regardless of whatever the investigations throw up in the future, the onus right now is on the BCCI to do something about the cricketers who are under scrutiny. Inevitably a decision will have to be made with regard to the future of the game as well as these cricketers. The Sports Minister, Dhindsa, has suggested that the BCCI has the ultimate authority when it comes to cricketing matters. The problem the BCCI will have is that there are a lot of fingers being pointed towards some of its own officials. Such being the case, it will be of great interest to see the future course of action from the apex body.

At the moment the only reaction from the BCCI is the release of a code of conduct. The CoC has always been there and it also has been a butt of many jokes. The afterthought of the initial draft of the CoC came up with a clause that no religious card should be played. I am sure that no one would play such an insipid card after seeing Azharuddin's plight when he made that infamous statement. This is the bane of the system in the sense that a clause is added because one person starts off something silly.

One other question that arises is that how much tightening can be done with the CoC. In the end everything boils down to the individuals as is evident now with only a few being involved in controversies and not the entire lot. During the regime of Wadekar as the coach, he came up with his own code of conduct, which was adhered to, but the lads themselves wanted to focus better. Like always that came about at a time when the team lost in South Africa in 1992. All sorts of things surface only in the wake of defeats. It was so funny in Sri Lanka once when personal stereo players were banned in the dressing room because we lost a one-dayer from a winning position.

The best way to go about the code of conduct is to get a firm commitment from the players themselves. What this will do is that it will ensure that the players stick to their own commitment. Otherwise the players will expend their mental faculties to circumvent the code of conduct thrust upon them. Considering the famous spine of all the managers and the coaches, only the fringe cricketers will be reported upon. I have seen a lot of managers and coaches with only one objective - to retain their posts. Some of the coaches contributed hardly anything in terms of strategies and the only thing they all did well was to try and get into the good books of the BCCI officials.

With the Sahara Cup only a few weeks away, the BCCI would do well to make some sort of an announcement about the tainted cricketers. It would be impossible for them to play at their best being embroiled in a major controversy. Then, of course the habit of passing the buck is far too deeply ingrained in the system and it may well be a case where the BCCI President will be left with a devil's alternative. A decision or indecision will be subjected to criticism and his worst problem would be that some of his colleagues might sit on the fence rather than take the bull by its horns.

Spare a thought for Dr.A.C.Muthiah, the BCCI President, as he has had to contend with all the accumulated mess left behind by his predecessors.