November 22, 2010

Karnataka's gamechangers

Three of India's most successful bowlers have taken the ultimate gamble - to see if they can run their sport

Why do the results of a state cricket association election matter? The news that Anil Kumble, Javagal Srinath, Venkatesh Prasad and the team behind them had swept the Karnataka State Cricket Association elections was received with the enthusiasm usually reserved for award announcements or squad selections. A club cricketer in Mumbai dashed off an open letter to the three former India bowlers within half an hour of the results coming through. A lawyer in Delhi taking on India's corrupt and inefficient sports administrators in court fired off a text message calling it historic. The internet was abuzz with excitement among those who follow Karnataka cricket.

Under normal circumstances, state cricket elections make a couple of paragraphs on the wires with the latest winner making lofty promises. For latest winner read a prominent politician, sometimes a scion learning some muscle-flexing ropes or a businessman making some early space for his political godfather.

When a cricketer crosses over into his sport's administration in India, he must understand very quickly that his on-field achievements alone will not be enough to perpetuate his legacy. He needs to draw on the qualities that made those achievements possible; a yorker or a googly is useless in the board-room, what is needed instead is a vast quantity of patience and persistence that perfected the delivery during the cricketer's active career. What works is the willingness to stay stuck into the job over a period that stretches longer than an innings, a Test, a series, a season.

It is a disconcerting, risky experience, which is why very few even venture in that direction. Who would want to go from being youth icon to middle-aged target?

Today, three of India's most successful bowlers (surely someone must work out why it's the bowlers who are more willing to rock the boat than the batsmen), with 1799 international wickets between among them, have decided to take that risk. They are ready to take on the ultimate gamble - to see if they can run their sport.

In their retirement, the three cricketers now in power in Karnataka have stayed in close touch with the game - Srinath as ICC match referee, Prasad in various high-profile coaching roles and Kumble as the mentor, unofficially and now formally, of India's young talent. Being thoughtful, capable and generous with their knowledge, they would have kept being co-opted into cricket administration in one form or another. Their decision to stand for KSCA office, though, was in itself a statement of intent - that they were ready to fight their own battles because winning them would mean being able to dictate their own agenda for the sport. The victory, as new KSCA vice president Roger Binny, said, "will change the perception of sportsmen entering sports administration". It is why the result today feels refreshing, hopeful. That some of the best brains in Indian cricket can enter administration on their own terms.

What works in the players' favour now is their record in cricket itself. Not in the romantic sense of their on-field 'character' but their off-field operations. During their senior years in the Indian team, Kumble and Srinath were proactive agents of change among a core group of forward-thinking players. Operating within the rules and relationships that govern the BCCI, they pushed for setting up team practices whose benefits are being enjoyed today, whether it was getting a professional coach from overseas in 2000, introducing a data analysis system in 2001 or getting a player-contracts structure into place as recently in 2003.

Together, their skills lie in picking the right advisors, planning, thinking ahead and man- management. They have spent the last few weeks putting together a team and campaigning hard. Rough calculations have the score at about 200-odd meetings with members and 600 or so phone calls to voters, which is a lot of talking and a lot of requesting. They have had to listen for a long time too - not to adoring fan but over and over again to disgruntled member, neglected club, distant district. One of the players said he had learnt more about communication in a week than he had in his entire life. All this to win a term in office to take on a responsibility with no guarantee of success.

It's going to be one long, hard spell but there couldn't be better people running in for Indian cricket. As they say in Kannada, change maadi.

Sharda Ugra is senior editor at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on November 24, 2010, 10:05 GMT

    The grass is always greener on the other side..

  • Dummy4 on November 23, 2010, 23:20 GMT

    Glad to see Mr.Integrity in a top job. Cricket administration is entirely different from Cricket though, lots of honorary posts and egos to deal with. Wickets, scoring runs, instant TV interviews after a good/bad match wont be there. Hopefully, the trio will remain patient and work around the existing system while also slowly changing it. Best wishes!

  • Dummy4 on November 22, 2010, 18:03 GMT

    i am very happy that trio of indian and karnataka cricket has won the elections and would be looking after karnataka cricket. but they have to be cautious. look at elsewhere in indian cricket. there are former cricketers in the associations but instead creating good goernance they have created mess and are stumbling blocks. i hope this does not happen in karnataka cricket because the trio itself is well educated and they have a sincere desire to improve the association which gave them first oppourunity in ttheir younger days. they want to repay. their motive and integrity is undoubtable. but they sholuld gurad against cheaters and fraudlant elements.

  • Dummy4 on November 22, 2010, 17:14 GMT

    Who's next ? Dada to take over CAB?

  • kiran on November 22, 2010, 12:50 GMT

    This is a relatively positive thing for KSCA as it probably is the first time, that there has been such a huge turn-around in the administration of a state cricket boad in India. Definitely a good sign for Indian cricket. However, this is a totally different ball game for Kumble and Srinath and I think it would be a little too early to predict that they "will change the perception of sportsmen entering sports administration". Let's wait and hope that money or any other factor would have a minimal influence over their administration. I think it's also time for something like this to happen at the Hyderabad Cricket Association which is filled with a bunch of crooks currently. Hope VVS would be gritty enough (as he always shows at times when needed) to form a good team and take over HCA post-retirement.

  • P Subramani on November 22, 2010, 8:38 GMT

    It is a moment to celebrate not just because three cricketing legends of Karnataka have humbled a true heavy weight in the elections for a state cricket Association but,because this could be the beginning of a new chapter in cricket administration in India.This momentous victory might make many want other associations to move in the same direction but the problem is that there are not many cricketers who can be said to posseess the qualities that these worthy gentlemen possess in terms of education, ability to be objective,articulation and above all the charecter of perfect gentlemen.In fact thisis the kind of change the country needs in politics. That is the reason why the results in this election have met with universal endorsement. I have no doubt that they will be very good administrators. It is possible that the BCCI may go the same way. But more than the concept of good cricketers running the show, it must be accepted that only the best among them that can make the grade

  • Satwik on November 22, 2010, 6:48 GMT

    Congrats to all the three! This is indeed a great moment. I don't want to get my hopes too high or say too much and jinx it but i am keeping my fingers crossed and hope for great things!

  • Dummy4 on November 22, 2010, 6:40 GMT

    Trend-setter for Clean-up of all administration?

  • Dummy4 on November 22, 2010, 6:39 GMT

    These three men were the reason every Kannadiga raised his head proudly and I'm sure they will bring to the board the same sincerity and commitment that they brought to the ground. However, they should know that its easier cleaning up the top order batsmen of the best lineups than clean up the filth infested KSCA... Here's wishing them all the very best!!

  • Agnel on November 22, 2010, 6:32 GMT

    Hearty congratulations to the foursome (yes, and not just the 3) bowling attack, including Roger Binny, that has taken over the reigns of KSCA. No doubt it will be a precedence that the sportsmen must manage the sports association. They will be able to handle the cricketing matters well, and in Kumble, they have a good manager/leader as well, but it is also necessary that the top brass should rope in professionals to run the affairs. Please note that a Harsha Bhogle or a Boria Majumdar are capable analysts though not cricket players. Likewise, there could be people around, who may or may not be playing even club cricket, but will possess cricketing acumen combined with legal and managerial abilities. I think the foursome of Kumble, Binny, Prasad and Srinath will require professionals to manage the Association. Good luck to you all.

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