India in South Africa, 2006-07 November 13, 2006

A far from uniform send-off



Rahul Dravid addresses the media shortly before India set off for South Africa © AFP
The Indian cricket team are in the embarrassing position of embarking on a two-month tour of South Africa without blazers or any other form of official attire. When they left Mumbai shortly after midnight on Monday, November 13, they had not received any of the formal clothing they were supposed to and had to fly out in hastily arranged grey trousers and t-shirts from Nike, who supply the clothes for training and actual match play.

The players, who were told not to bring along any formal clothes, were helpless, and not particularly amused at the fact that they were representing India on an official tour and were made to look bad. "It's a problem with administration," said a player. "There's no point in blaming anyone but it's really strange to be leaving for an international tour without any official clothes."

The Indian board had earlier signed a deal with Pantaloon, an Indian clothing manufacturer, to supply the team with official kit. It has been learned that measurements of the team had been taken in Jaipur during the Champions Trophy, but that the clothing manufacturer had intimated to the board that they would only be able to get the kit in time on the 25th of the month, which, of course, would be 12 days after the team left for South Africa.

What will be particularly embarrassing for the team is that they have to attend an official function hosted by the Indian High Commission on November 17 in Johannesburg ahead of the first one-day international on the 19th. "It's not done to turn up for a function like that wearing a t-shirt."

For all the advances the BCCI has made in the last year, this is an almost unprecedented situation. It is the India blazer that players cherish the most - and wear with pride - with the BCCI logo emblazoned on the breast pocket. They are supplied with other casual clothing to wear when they travel internally in a country, and address press conferences that are not on training days, and Nike has arranged this as a matter of course.

However, to see Rahul Dravid, the Indian captain, and Greg Chappell, India's coach, appear at the official pre-departure press conference dressed respectively in a black top, and an unmarked white shirt, while Niranjan Shah, the honorary secretary of the board, and Professor Ratnakar Shetty, the head of administration of the board, were well turned out in blazers, was an unusual sight.

It was one that should have been avoided by the world's richest cricket board which is already under fire for getting things spot-on when it comes to marketing and commercial aspects but failing to make the grade when it comes to other things. Attempts to contact both Niranjan Shah, the board's honorary board secretary and Prof Shetty late on Monday evening failed.

Anand Vasu is assistant editor of Cricinfo