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Anand Vasu in Kolkata
November 29, 2005
Sharad Pawar, the new president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India, said in his first press conference in the post that his team would be focusing on the development of infrastructure as a priority. "To develop infrastructure has become very expensive," he said. "Instead of keeping a lot of money in the bank, we have to take some decision to develop infrastructure on a regular basis. That should be done in a fair manner. Also, the existing infrastructure at Test and One-Day grounds need to be improved and raised to international standards. The board also has to consider ways in which we can support our state units."
Pawar said that it was a priority of the board to set up a media committee. "It is high time to bring professionalism in the functioning of the Board. We deal with public at large, media and sponsors. It is our responsibility to keep very good relation with this cross section... We have to take a professional approach in day to day running of the Board." Among other things he listed finding a sponsor for the Indian team [Sahara's contract has already run out and was extended till the Sri Lanka series] and finalisation of player contracts as key issues that needed to be addressed urgently.
Pawar, speaking to the press in a large banquet hall at the Oberoi Grand hotel, was seated alongside the other three winners on the day, Niranjan Shah, N Srinivasan and MP Pandove. He was quizzed on several detailed aspects of the board's functioning, but as was only to be expected of someone who had just assumed office, he said he needed time for himself and his various committees to apply their minds to the question at hand. But he was unequivocal on certain points.
For starters, he did not think his involvement in politics [he is the federal agriculture minister] would pose any problems. "I have been in public life for 40 years, and also involved in sports for 40 years. There have been many people from Sudhir Wankhede, NKP Salve, to even Ranbir Singh Mahendra, who have been involved in both politics and sports administration. I don't see why one needs to affect another." Pawar had earlier resigned from the marketing committee of the board, saying he was too busy. When asked how he would now go about being president, he quipped, "Now I'll find the time."
Pawar also made an effort to be different from his predecessors, admitting that the constitution of the board needed looking into. He said that TS Krishna Murthy, the court-appointed observer who conducted the elections, had made several suggestions, and these would be looked into. When pointedly asked for his views on the chairman's vote in presidential elections he said, "Depends. But I can tell you if it came to that, I would not vote for myself."
The questions on Sourav Ganguly's future, and the manner in which Kolkata, Bengal and the East Zone would be treated by the BCCI, Pawar was deadpan. He repeatedly assured questioners that his team would not favour any particular region, and stressed that the board would leave matters of team selection to the selection committee. However, it's not entirely clear if he was being tongue-in-cheek when he said, "Sourav Ganguly is one of the best allrounders produced by this country."
Pawar also re-iterated the fact that the board's offices would be based in Mumbai. He had earlier spoken of a need to consolidate the various offices of the board, and get all relevant files under one roof. "As per our constitution the permanent headquarters of the board is Mumbai. This has been around for 30-40 years."
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