April 25, 2001

Assortment of decisions taken at BCCI meeting, Pakistan apart

The Board working committee's momentous decision in New Delhi on Tuesday to throw down the gauntlet before the Government vis-a-vis the prickly issue of playing Pakistan was not on the listed agenda of the meeting, taking many by surprise. But there were several other more mundane issues which were also disposed of in the same surroundings.

Officials of the Goa Cricket Association, already being harassed by police over their involvement in a bogus ticket racket during the India-Australia one-dayer on April 6, face the prospect of being slapped with a show cause notice for trying to wriggle out of their predicament by pointing the finger at the Board. "We understand that certain allegations have been made by GCA officials. They are absolutely false and we totally deny them" said Muthiah. He dampened speculation that the report of match observer KP Kajaria, which has already been submitted to the Board, would contain any bombshells. "The match observer's function is restricted to the ground area. He is generally not concerned with what goes outside it" said Muthiah in a cop out that effectively relieved the Board of any responsibilty for the incident. Muthiah however suggested that the Board was not entirely unaware about the travails of genuine ticket holders in gaining unfettered access to stadia and disclosed that they were anxious to prevent a recurrence. "We as responsible regulators want to ensure that it does not happen again in the future." he assured.

Sponsorship bids for the Indian cricket team in advance of next months's tour of Zimbabwe were also opened at the meeting although no immediate decision is likely. "If the bids fall short of what we want we may invite fresh ones" indicated Muthiah. Four companies are in the hunt including Hero Honda and Sporting Frontiers of which Australian skipper Steve Waugh is non-executive director. Sporting Frontiers has already won the rights to sell in-stadia advertising in 14 of India's international grounds. The quest for a new sponsor began in right earnest after ITC was forced to relinquish their position just before the Australian series by a Government initiative to ban tobacco firms from marketing their products in sporting arenas.

The meeting also finalised the budgets for India's next two international tours, of Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka. An amount of Rs 2.04 crores was approved for the Zimbabwe tour - which kicks off with a warm-up fixture on May 28 - while a slightly weightier sum of Rs 4.47 crores is earmarked for the tour of Sri Lanka, scheduled to begin on July 16.

A verdict on the aspirations of five more local associations Jharkhand, Chhatisgarh, Uttaranchal, Pondicherry and Chandigarh now in the queue for BCCI membership has been deferred. Muthiah said the working committee is not authorised to take a decision in this connection and left the issue to be handled by the General Body. Affiliation to the Board however does not necessarily entail Ranji Trophy status. As a first step, the Board is likely to empower the associations to participate in junior tournaments like the Under-19 level Cooch Behar Trophy as Sikkim is doing at the moment.

The Board has also taken umbrage at the Income Tax department's decision to withdraw tax exemption to them. The IT department had slapped a notice of Rs 10 crore for the 1997-98 financial year , suggesting that the Board was utilising money for purposes other than those for which the exemption was given. "We have decided to challenge the move in court as it is arbitrary and unfair," Muthiah said, adding that the Board required further time to respond to the IT questionnaire. "It raised 38 questions. We need time to reply to them."

Having woken up to the needs of employing a media manager in an exercise to improve their unflattering public relations image, the Board is in the process of homing in on a suitable candidate. "There are four or five short-listed candidates for the post and we will be interviewing them soon," Muthiah said, adding none of them were from the media.

Muthiah also confirmed that the five zonal academies sanctioned by the Board at Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai and Kanpur on the lines of the National Cricket Academy will start functioning from May 1. However he rebutted an earlier statement from Chairman of the NCA Committee Raj Singh Dungarpur that the Board would provide a 50% subsidy to four more zonal academies mooted at the Under-14 and Under-16 levels. "In addition, if state associations want to start academies for Under-14 and Under-16 players, they are free to do so provided they follow the Board's guidelines in this regard. However the Board would not provide any subsidies to these academies," he declared.

Meanwhile the BCCI watchdog K Madhavan, serving in the capacity of anticorruption commissioner, is coming closer to the finish line in his laborious attempt to unravel the enigmatic betting and matchfixing nexus dogging Indian cricket. Muthiah confided with the press that Madhavan's investigations will be complete as soon as he is able to establish contact with some of the current Indian players who could not be reached earlier because of their commitments with the national team. "Now that the Australia series is over, Madhavan will complete his inquiry and submit the report soon," Muthiah assured.