Desperate Rajasthan players raise call for help
A group of nearly 60 Rajasthan cricketers, led by senior pace bowler Pankaj Singh, assembled in Jaipur on Thursday to urge concerned stakeholders to resolve disputes related to the Rajasthan Cricket Association and clear the way for the state's teams to participate in various domestic tournaments this season. The group, which includes members of junior squads, has appealed to the court and state government to find a resolution to a problem that has plagued cricket in the state over the last one year, after the RCA was barred by the BCCI following Lalit Modi's election as president.
The players have also filed writ petitions with the Jaipur and Jodhpur benches of the Rajasthan High Court, seeking intervention in the matter.
"The women's matches are going to start in less than ten days' time. And there are only three weeks left before the senior team and even the Under-19 tournaments begin," Pankaj told ESPNcricinfo. "So we are appealing to the court and state government so that we get the opportunity to play in the domestic season."
Last year, the BCCI's decision to bar the RCA had left the players' participation in the season uncertain. The matter, however, was resolved a couple of weeks before the start of the 2014-15 domestic season after the Rajasthan High Court in Jaipur asked BCCI-appointed selection committees, along with a co-ordinator, to run cricket-related affairs. The committees were overseen by the Rajasthan Sports Council. The tenure for the committees was only the 2014-15 season.
In the lead-up to this season, the BCCI was required to approach the court to seek an extension for the selection committees and the co-ordinator. However, on September 4, the BCCI announced an ad-hoc committee to run Rajasthan cricket and ensure the participation of teams from the state in the 2015-16 domestic season. Amrit Mathur, a former manager of the India team, was appointed as co-ordinator of the committee, which includes CK Khanna, Milind Kanmadikar, Snehal Parikh and PV Shetty. This move, it is understood, is being challenged by the Modi faction.
Pankaj said it was frustrating for players to be in the dark once again: "This is happening for the last two years. Rajasthan cricket has suffered a lot of losses and once again the situation is such that we don't know whether Team Rajasthan will play or not. Hence we are requesting the court, government, BCCI, RCA, to find some way."
According to Pankaj, the players had approached the BCCI in August and asked the board to take charge and re-start cricketing activities, which had come to a halt after the RCA premises were locked. He also said that the players were left with little option except to turn to the court. Both petitions filed by the players are up for hearing over the next week. Incidentally, the players had followed a similar route last year as well, with a petition filed on behalf of 75 players in September 2014.
"We as players had no option but to approach the courts," he said. "If the case keeps getting delayed then definitely not only will Rajasthan cricket suffer, but it will become very difficult for Rajasthan teams to play in different tournaments.
"And the future of all players depends on playing cricket. As cricket players, the most we can do is to send the message across to find some way that will help us and Rajasthan cricket. We wanted to make everyone aware of how cricketers are in trouble and how we are suffering."
What has irked the players is that neither the BCCI nor the RCA factions gave them directions after the 2014-15 season ended. "The RCA members told us this season would be clear. Newspapers were reporting things would get clear soon. But nothing was happening," Pankaj said.
Pankaj also pointed out that players were unhappy being dragged into the politics surrounding rival factions and the RCA. "A cricketer wants only cricket. We don't want to be in this party or that party," he said.
Vineet Saxena, the Rajasthan opening batsman and another senior player, said the cricketers were anxious to play.
"The bottom-line is we as cricketers want to play," he told ESPNcricinfo. "So we have nothing to do with the controversy that is going on. The most affected are the players. It is request through the media that a lot careers at stake. And (not playing) one year could be a big loss for us guys."
Saxena also said that the issue had not allowed players to train properly for the forthcoming season. "We have not trained at all [as a team]. We guys are training on our own. But we have not done as a unit and that is a big disadvantage," he said.
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo