India news December 29, 2013

Bishan Bedi to contest DDCA elections

Bishan Singh Bedi, the former India captain, has become the latest high-profile cricketer to throw his hat into the ring of the cricket administration and will square off against BCCI vice-president Sneh Bansal for the post of Delhi and District Cricket Association president. The association elections are scheduled for December 30.

Bedi has teamed up with former World Cup champion and India coach Madan Lal, along with Test players Gursharan Singh and Abbas Ali Baig to contest against the ruling lobby in the DDCA, headed by former BCCI vice-president and veteran politician Arun Jaitley. Kirti Azad, who has co-ordinated the cricketers' movement, is not contesting. Jaitley, meanwhile, has demoted himself to an executive committee member and will not contest for the president's post, due to forthcoming federal elections in India.

Despite being the second-most successful Ranji team, and consistently providing top cricketers to the national team, the governing body of the DDCA has frequently been in the midst of an administrative mess. During Jaitley's 14-year regime, corruption charges have surfaced time and again and a Serious Fraud Investigation Office of the Delhi government recently indicted DDCA of committing financial and electoral misappropriations between 2006 and 2012.

The selection process for various Delhi teams has also been questioned. Age-fudging cases have grown in age-group tournaments and the selectors have also been accused of being influenced by top politicians or some of the big names in the cricket fraternity while finalising the squads. Moreover, cricketers from the adjoining states of Haryana and Uttar Pradesh have become regulars on the club circuit, making the selection of "outsiders" a contentious issue.

Bedi's panel is entering the election with a simple agenda: "to clean the game". Bedi, India's first cricket manager, who has a reputation for being a straight talker, has been campaigning for freeing Delhi cricket from corruption. Former India cricketer Madan Lal, who will be contesting the secretary's position against Sunil Dev, a seasoned DDCA official, said his team was focused on decentralising the association's administration.

"With cricket having grown in stature and big money coming in, the need for DDCA is to get organised," Lal said. "And to get the cricketing side of affairs organised, we want to contribute actively. We feel it is time to decentralise administration. While cricketers should look after the cricketing activities, non-cricketing administrators should take care of the commercial and administrative side of affairs."

Dev who was India's team manager during their triumphant World Twenty20 campaign in 2007, countered Lal's claims: "A cricketer doesn't necessarily need to have played international cricket. And most of the incumbent cricketers have either been regulars on the first-class or club circuit during our playing days, so you can't say non-cricketers are running the show."

Dev, however, conceded there was scope for improvement within the association.

"There has been a complaint regarding the books of accounts. But that doesn't mean everything is in a mess," Dev said. "The complaint is being investigated and manuals have been prepared and circulated to avoid a repeat. A professional approach is being adopted and things will surely improve with it."

In state politics, the recently formed Aam Aadmi Party came to power in Delhi riding on an anti-corruption wave. However, the cricketers' panel has the numbers stacked against them, due to a proxy voting - a process by which members of the DDCA delegate their powers of voting to another individual. Of the 4200-odd voters in the association, it is learned that almost 3,600 have deputed their proxies in favour of the ruling faction. Still, Lal felt the cricketers were making a point.

"See it's not about Bish, Kirti or Maddi. Most of us have played the game at the highest level and have contributed to Delhi cricket," Lal said. "Now we want to do it again. In a set-up full of proxy voters, we have been appealing to the registered members to come and vote personally in order to have a good administrators. When you have proxy voting, the players are always scared to go against heavyweight politicians. If you have open voting, then anybody can get elected.

"Even if we don't get the mandate, our services will always be open to DDCA. We have made a start to speak out against the policies that are taking Delhi cricket backwards. Irrespective of whether we are elected or not, we will continue to fight for the betterment of Delhi cricket."

There has been a rise in the number of former cricketers entering cricket administration, although they have faced mixed results. Anshuman Gaekwad, the former India opener and India manager, was elected as the Baroda Cricket Association secretary earlier this month, while Kiran More, the former India wicketkeeper and chairman of selectors, lost the same post to BCCI secretary Sanjay Patel. Former India captain Anil Kumble and pace bowler Javagal Srinath recently bowed out of the Karnataka State Cricket Association after working as president and secretary for three years. In 2011, former India captain Dilip Vengsarkar lost the Mumbai Cricket Association presidential election to then union minister Vilasrao Deshmukh.

Amol Karhadkar is a correspondent at ESPNcricinfo