All eyes on Friday's ballot

The biennial elections of the Mumbai Cricket Association have become the talk of the town

Waleed Hussain
The biennial elections of the Mumbai Cricket Association have become the talk of the town. With all the groups concentrating on canvassing heavily with promises and dreams galore the motive of the election seems to be lost somewhere. The ballots will be cast on Friday at the Wankhede stadium.
The immense hype has built up due to Nationalist Congress Party leader Sharad Pawar's decision to contest for the President's post. Now, practically speaking Sharad Pawar's role as President will have no effect on the MCA's daily routine work and neither will Ajit Wadekar's. The fact of the matter is, the head of a sports association could be a politician or sportsman himself.
Sharad Pawar has held the Presidentship of several sports associations in the past, heading the MCA will not be a new issue for him. He currently heads the Garware Club House as well. He is a noted politician and a devoted worker. The hype has been created on the grounds whether a politician of Pawar's status will be able to devote time and efforts to the MCA. The answer to this hypothetical question is that the President of the MCA does not have to indulge in the daily routine work of the MCA. So the question of him devoting time to the office or not fades away.
On the other hand, Ajit Wadekar has held the position of Vice- President in the MCA in the last term. His contributions to the cause and to the working of the MCA need to be considered. During his term in office Manohar Joshi was the President of the MCA. Mr. Joshi has not chaired the meetings of the MCA during his tenure as President owing to his political commitments.
The one major aspect that brings doubt into the minds of the common man in Mumbai, is the inclusion of Wadekar's name in the CBI matchfixing report. The recent enquiry by Mr. Madhavan has clouded Wadekar's chances for the post. Even though, both the Bal Mahaddalkar and Manohar Joshi groups have pledged their support to Wadekar, it seems that a sense of doubt may be in the minds of the representatives. Wadekar has been a successful captain and even earned accolades in The Management of the national side but his administrative skills in the MCA will be fully tested.
The advantage that Sharad Pawar has at this time is the Chairmanship of the Garware Club House. In 1974, when the MCA shifted its office from the CCI to the Wankhede stadium, the reason was to have a home of its own. At the Brabourne stadium, the CCI club house had become the primary body and the MCA's functioning became secondary. The motive of shifting the premises was served for a little while but soon Garware Club House rose to become the primary body depriving the MCA of its status.
The issue here is that Pawar being the head at the Garware Club House is in a position to work out a compromise between the two bodies. The expenditure towards legal fees in the duel so far, has crossed the crore mark, which has left both bodies stunned. Both the Garware Club House and the MCA are searching for a solution, which puts Pawar in an obvious position to provide it.
The other important issue is the location of the Zonal Academy. The MCA has already laid its claims in this regard but they do not fulfil the requirements for the academy. There are certain conditions that qualify the Association to stake its claims for the academy such as a sports gymnasium, rest rooms for the players, proper practice wickets etc. The MCA has a good infrastructure in terms of dressing rooms, stadium, practice wickets but what it lacks is the cooperation from the Garware Club House for the rest rooms and swimming pool. Therefore a solution to this issue, is of highest priority at this point of time.
With all the hype and hoopla on the Presidential candidate, the work done by the present office-bearers in the MCA have not even been considered by the media. The Jt Hon Secretary Prof Ratnakar Shetty was instrumental in voicing the over-age stigma in the Board's meetings, His herculean efforts were visible when the Board made it mandatory for all associations to conduct and submit medical reports of all the participating players in the age restricted tournaments. He is a popular figure all around the Maidans of Mumbai and is in touch with the needs and requirements of the grounds.
The other Jt Hon Secretary Pravin Barve made his efforts appear on the headlines of Mumbai's newspapers. His untiring efforts helped MIG club, Bandra acquire the status of a first-class cricket venue, in the process helping Mumbai boast of its sixth first-class ground. Even the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Nayan Mongia, Ajit Agarkar and Zaheer Khan spelt praise in recognition of Barve's efforts.
A fact that needs to be considered here is that during the tenure of Manohar Joshi as President, the efforts were all put in by the two dynamic Jt Secretaries. The same scenario will continue irrespective of whomsoever becomes the President.
In a function prior to the elections, all the contesting groups laid out their priorites which revolved around the upliftment of junior cricket and development of the Maidans. There was a lot of talk in this regard but the most amazing fact about which none of the groups mentioned anything are the sanitation facilities at the Maidans. The Azad Maidan and the Cross Maidan have altogether 30 wickets which have 60 teams participating at one given point of time. There is no toilet in the vicinity of both the Maidans that the players may use during the match. The closest ones are at the two railways stations, Churchgate and Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus.
It still remains to be seen how many of these issues will be resolved and what will appear on the priority list of the elected candidates. All eyes are on the ballot box that will decide the working committee of India's cricket cradle on Friday.