November 4, 2010

The perfect man for the job

Anil Kumble is a born leader who likes to roll his sleeves up and get involved. His decision to contest the KSCA elections could be a stepping stone for bigger roles in Indian cricket administration

Anil Kumble's decision to get into cricket administration needs to be lauded for many reasons. Not least because he is actually contesting the election. Most cricketers like to be offered the job. No cricketer wants to put himself through the election process, and risk losing, which can be humiliating for somebody who has been a hero through his playing career. That Kumble has chosen to go through this process is typical of the man who bowled with a broken jaw. He has shown he has got a lot of courage outside the cricket field too.

Kumble is not the first cricketer to get into administration, yet he is different. He has just finished playing the game, and is one of the legends of Indian cricket. He has various other, more lucrative career options available, which cannot be said of many other cricketers who got into administration.

Kumble could have become a coach, he could have become a good voice in the media or in the commentary box, but I feel that he thinks that being in the media or becoming a commentator is not the best way to make a difference to the game. He knows the only way he can bring a change, is to get it through the system, become a part of the decision-making process.

And I am sure that if he has got into this field, he strongly feels that some things need to be changed in Indian cricket. He has taken this option purely because he feels this is the best way to make the difference to Indian cricket after retirement.

Kumble is not somebody who will stop short of giving it his all, in whatever he chooses to do. I saw this quality when I was part of the Indian team, and he had organised a benefit match for one of the Karnataka Ranji players. Now we all do that sort of thing, but I don't know anybody who would get into the deepest of nitty-gritties in the manner that Kumble did. Right down to travel, logistics, little details like rooms, he was the hands-on manager of that particular match. Kumble himself was a big star then.

For him, Anil Kumble the cricketer, the name, the brand, is one thing, but when he chooses to do something outside cricket he goes right down to the basics and looks to acquire all the knowledge one needs to have. He just doesn't march in as the great Anil Kumble, and hope that his aura, his stature, will see him through. That is perhaps why the people backing him have chosen him for the highest post.

The job Kumble has chosen will call for going all the way. Cricketers before him, too, have felt the need for getting into the system to make a change, but the first reaction of people they share their thought with is that it is a dirty world, full of politics. Kumble, though, knows the system better than many of us active players did. We, as current players, generally had no idea how the system worked. It was only after retirement that I came to know about the election system, how the officials were elected, who the secretary or the treasurer of an important association was.

Kumble is aware of what he is getting into. He and his colleagues, Srinath and Dravid, are educated people, they have seen life and they are not 20-year-olds, but mature guys with families. Kumble won't be easily threatened by the politics part of it. I am sure he is not expecting a bed of roses. It is people who have no knowledge of the system, and have only the passion, who will find themselves on thin ice.

"It is not about making speeches and slogans - Kumble is willing to work one step at a time, roll up his sleeves, and get dirty if need be."

I don't see Kumble getting disillusioned very quickly. He is not that naïve. I am sure he expects the worst. He has seen the world outside the cricket field. One of his possible associates in the future, Dravid, is also aware of how the world functions - the media, governance, the system, the people in it - he knows all of this, more than any other current cricketer I have met.

Kumble seems to have that natural feel for administration. When I was a part of the indian team and when it would come to sharing the prize money (25% for the Man of the Match and the rest split among the rest of the team), somehow he would be the man making all the calculations. We all know the role he played in formulating the contracts system in Indian cricket, which is such a security for a large base of cricketers.

Kumble is used to taking the lead not by just being a role model and making idealistic statements. He actually gets involved. It is not about making speeches and slogans - he is willing to work one step at a time, roll up his sleeves, and get dirty if need be.

There will be quite a few established administrators who will be squirming a bit after this news. This decision of Kumble could spur other big names and recent retirees to get into administration. Such people have obvious advantages that others do not.

But administrators with integrity who have real passion for the game need not worry. Only those who are in the system for the wrong reasons would feel threatened. In the last few years a lot of people from outside the cricket world who had never followed the game before in their lives suddenly discovered this great love for Indian cricket for reasons we know well.

I am not a person who believes that only players can make good cricket administrators. All you need is an administrator who wakes up every morning thinking what is best for Indian cricket and looks to work towards it. With Kumble, that passion, and knowledge of the game is ample, only his management skills will be put to test.

It will be important for him to forge partnerships with the right people in cricket politics, more so outside his own state association. If he can find and then join hands with people who think a bit like him and are willing to make a healthy contribution to Indian cricket, he can become a real force in Indian cricket administration.

It will be difficult for him to make a difference only on his own. He will not be able to achieve much if he stays in the minority in BCCI. And when I am talking about making a difference here, I am not talking just Karnataka cricket, I am talking Indian Cricket. Not only me, but everybody who are today excited by Kumble's decision, are hoping that KSCA is just a stepping stone into Indian cricket administration for Kumble.

As told to Sidharth Monga

Former India batsman Sanjay Manjrekar is a cricket commentator and presenter on TV. His Twitter feed is here

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