October 28, 2000

Two important issues the BCCI can't duck

At a time when things are looking better for Indian cricket came a leaked report of the CBI findings. The report was published widely in the press with the names of players deemed to be involved and also those who are supposed to have been exonerated. If the timing of the announcement was way off the mark, the South African cricketers made it clear that the announcement of the banning Cronje could not have come at a more inappropriate time.

The UCBSA made a decision to ban Cronje but the wide area covered by implication is being contested by one of the television companies. The way the South African authorities and the officials left no stone unturned to get to the bottom of the matter has to be appreciated. They gave a deadline and the schedule was more or less adhered to a T. Now that the announcement has been made, human psychology in its typical manner has began rallying behind the underdog. Cronje is being sought after by a television to work for them as a commentator. Quite obviously, the media feels that Cronje has the required qualities to do the job despite his involvement in the match-fixing episode. What needs to borne in mind is that the controversy almost wiped the game off and Cronje was in the thick of it. Various suggestions have been put forth with regard to the punishment to be handed out to the players found to be guilty but unfortunately legal complications have it made difficult for the authorities.

The fall out of Cronjegate was the investigation taken up or rather thrust upon the CBI to find out if any Indian cricketers were involved. Raids by the Income-Tax authorities and the depositions by the players, administrators and the bookies would have provided enough pointers as to the identity of the people involved. Adding fuel to the fire was Manoj Prabhakar who assumed the role of a messiah swearing to cleanse the game at all costs. The methods adopted by Prabhakar might tempt the Broccoli production to replace Brosnan with the former Indian all-rounder. Kapil Dev was the name nominated by Prabhakar and the whole episode with regard to Kapil Dev is history now. Ironically the hunter became the hunted when Prabhakar himself was found to be involved in match-fixing if the reports are to be believed (the report has not been officially owned by any agency so far).

Azharuddin, Jadeja and Sharma are the others to have been along with Prabhakar. The Sports Minister was livid that the report was leaked even before he had a chance to see it. The report, to be placed in the Parliament has not provided much help to authorities by stating that criminal proceedings cannot be initiated against the nominated persons. As such the onus will be on the BCCI to deal with the players in the manner they deem fit. It definitely is not a good feeling that those found guilty have at some time or the other have made a meaningful contribution to the game. At the same time it is only fair that they would be expected to suffer for their own misdeeds. It was not a situation where they were sucked into unwittingly.

With that report causing a fair bit of disconcert to the BCCI officials, the indecision about the appointment of a foreign coach is making things even worse for them. The blessed ones in the print media are dishing out conflicting reports by either short-listing candidates or naming the person likely to be appointed. There was a big flutter recently when a panel in Chennai interviewed Greg Chappell and John Wright. As the general perception was that the coach would take over from the Zimbabwe series at home, everyone was surprised when the secretary of the BCCI announced that the foreign coach would take charge only in February next year.

Chappell has had a successful tenure as the Australian captain and is rated very highly for his communicative skills. He played his cricket hard and never flinched from owning up responsibilities for his actions. Currently he is involved with South Australia and that side has progressed under his charge. Wright, on the other hand is sort of a soft-spoken individual but yet capable of keeping things under control. His work at Kent has been appreciated and this has brought him into contention with Rahul Dravid pushing Wright's case more than strongly. The one major difference between the two is that Chappell had to tackle a lot of big names in his side as the Australian captain which is not that easy. As one who has been a part of the Indian cricket scenario for a long time, I must say that a soft spoken individual is not the ideal man for the post as the superstars do need a taskmaster at times to keep them going.

The BCCI has to take some very important decisions without resorting to procrastination. The future of the players found guilty and the foreign coach are on top of the list and both these issues will be of great interest not only to the cricketing fraternity but also to the public, which supports the game with great enthusiasm.