Beyond Lodha & Ram Guha, 10 Steps Required to Fix Indian Cricket
Not cricket administration, there are urgent changes Indian cricket needs to make to be able to move forward.
The Lodha committee identified various virus strains weakening Indian cricket and prescribed strong medicines to cure the ailment. With focus on good governance, the Committee suggested sweeping reforms, mostly progressive and forward looking.
But some suggestions were strikingly debatable.
Why, it is baffling to understand, did it choose to tread on technical matters which were not its area of expertise or competence. What it said on issues of selection and the selection committee, for instance, is simply a big no ball.
Compared to that, Ram Guha's resignation letter contains serious thought, articulated with clarity in a tone that is measured yet forceful. He highlights issues and suggests they are addressed by consistently applying sound principles. Unlike Lodha, Guha has not presented a grand blueprint for 'fixing' Indian cricket. He is a concerned whistleblower flagging important matters that need attention.
Beyond Lodha and Guha though, there is plenty that remains unaddressed in Indian cricket. We present 10 steps that need to be taken to take Indian cricket forward:
1. Scrap Neutral Venues for Ranji Trophy
The change from the 'home- away' format to neutral venues, started last season, has not worked. If anything, the move has only reduces teams to travelling nomads banished from their homes for months at a stretch.
The change was fundamentally flawed as it ignored the core issue of doctored tracks. If the problem was that teams were abusing home advantage by preparing unfair pitches, the answer was to stop the malpractice altogether by taking control of wickets and punishing offenders.
This wasn't done - and neutral venues were approved which killed all local interest.
Just imagine: In a match in Bangalore, there is no Karun Nair, KL Rahul or Manish Pandey in sight! And why would anyone in Mumbai waste time watching Assam vs Kerala?
2. Improve Umpiring
This IPL was a poor advert for Indian umpiring- there were repeated howlers that too from umpires drawn from the 'elite' panel.
The situation in Ranji, supervised by the next best 100 umpires, is even more frightening. Domestic captains/coaches have unanimously criticised the pathetic umpiring standard on the domestic circuit.
There is an urgent need to address this particular situation.
3. Player Welfare Measures
Indian cricket's financial diwali and commercial success has somehow managed to simply bypass the average domestic cricketer.
Playing cricket for most of the year, the cricketers have no full-time job and are there left with no financial security. In fact, he is no better than a vulnerable daily wage worker existing on the fringes of the poverty line. (Read: Amrit Mathur’s Suggested Changes in Treatment of Domestic Players)
Under the present arrangement, domestic first-class cricketers receive Rs 10,000 per day for a Ranji outing. This is just part payment of match fees with a promise that the remaining sum will be handed down by the BCCI at the end of the financial year, depending on their total revenue!
Worse, there is a huge gap that separates his earnings and that of international players.
Ram Guha has flagged this shocking disparity and recommended immediate course correction. (Full text here)
4) Key Appointments Needed
Regular Indian team Manager: Presently the position of a Manager of the Indian team is handed out on a series by series basis as part of patronage, often to persons who are unequal to the role they are expected to perform. The Indian team deserves a regular, professional, competent manager appointed for an extended period. Which, by the way, is the case in all major cricket teams.
High Performance Manager: Like Andrew Strauss in England, a cricket boss to take technical calls and provide vision and direction is needed. Coaches of national teams would then report to the High Performance Manager whose job profile would include taking major cricket decisions (player rest/recovery). The BCCI currently functions through a loose, dysfunctional Technical Committee.
5. Establish a Clear Talent Pathway
A transition process is much needed, to create synergy between the cricketer’s journey from the Under 19 team to the India A dressing room and then finally to Team India. This link is crucial to ensure smooth promotion and avoid talent wastage.
If Unmukt Chand, an outstanding young talent, has fallen off the radar and lost his way, this is Indian cricket's loss. The talent pathway would pay attention to young cricketers and hold their hands so they transition seamlessly to senior International cricket .
6. Polish Image of Indian Cricket - Present a Better Face
Indian Cricket is often mired in controversies, it's narrative dominated by peripherals and cash related distractions.
It is now time, therefore, to focus on cricket- its core. The IPL, the cash rich league, should support charities and the BCCI work towards harnessing the power of cricket celebrities to promote socially relevant causes.
7. Community Connect - Fan Engagement
The 'fan first ' policy is like a political slogan, recited regularly but rarely implemented. While England and Australia have walked this talk, fans in India are subjected to extreme hardship at venues. Surely, as outdated cinema halls move towards comfortable multiplexes, cricket stadiums can become spectator friendly as well.
Also, Indian cricket should engage with children and invest in future players and fans. Other cricket nations have full time professionals to woo women/young fans. (Read: Be Brave, Smile: ECB’s New Diktat to Captains Root & Morgan)
The Big Bash in Australia is a good example of this but in India we are still at zero on this score --yet to open our account.
8. Revamp Cricket Development
There is an urgent need to upgrade the National Cricket Academy (NCA).
Regrettably, as things currently stand, the NCA is little more than a glorified practice facility and an injury rehab ward for unfit cricketers. It is far from the state-of-the-art finishing school it was meant to be.
The NCA requires drastic reform to be upgraded and energised, linked to zonal academies to nurture the best talent in the country.
9. Launch a Robust Programme of Education
Partly, this is about running courses for skilling persons who are part of cricket's ecosystem - umpires, curators, referees, video analysts, scorers, physios and trainers.
The other focus area is players themselves who need training to prepare for life as professional cricketers. The education programme would include guidance on media, marketing, personality development etc. More important: players need help to handle cricket's scary ' after life'.
Don’t forget most come from small towns and modest backgrounds. They lack decent education and don't have a protective family safety net.
10. Cricket Development in North-East States
Strangely, these states have the vote (in BCCI) but wait for cricket to arrive.
The BCCI has to step in quickly to provide resources, facilities and opportunities to grow the game in the area.
(Amrit Mathur is a senior journalist, former GM of the BCCI and Manager of the Indian Cricket Team. He can be reached at @AmritMathur1)
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