The board games

Written by Shamik Chakrabarty | Updated: Feb 3 2013, 06:30am hrs
So where is Australian cricket According to Shane Warne, it is heading nowhere and needs a radical overhaul. Typical of the man, Warnes observation on the present state of affairs in Australian cricket and his suggestions to set things right came with a touch of eccentricity. In his blog he picked his dream team for the administration of Australian cricket. He proposed Rod Marsh, Mark Waugh, Damian Martyn and Glenn McGrath as selectors, Mark Taylor as CEO of cricket and Ian Chappell as chief consultant. The team should be coached by Stephen Fleming (the former New Zealand captain is also on the Indian cricket boards radar to replace Duncan Fletcher) with Darren Lehmann as his assistant. Michael Hussey or Michael Bevan have Warnes backing for the position of the batting coach, while Merv Hughes or Bruce Reid should be in charge of the bowling department.

The list looks very impressive on paper but the question is that will Warne, or any player for that matter, ever have his way in administrative matters History suggests otherwise. Warne didnt start the fire but he lit the kindle. The fire was burning since the late 1970s, when Tony Greig & Co joined hands with Kerry Packer. The movement revolutionised cricket, though in the end, a truce was called between the rebels and administrators. Interestingly, even after such a big movement, power remained with those who control the game from board rooms. But cricketers started getting their dues which made them happy. The officials had to backtrack a great deal and player power won. Cricketers who fought hard for their place in the spotlight beamed in glory. It was a universal gesture of triumph despite the fact that India had never been a part of that power struggle.

Far too often a question is asked that why sports shouldnt be run by players. Its a very logical query. But the problem is that good players dont always make good administrators. In one of his recent blog posts, former India batsman Sanjay Bangar beautifully described the reasons. Administration needs a lot of managerial skills, besides individual traits of consensus-building and patience, he wrote.

Also, as an administrator, one needs to know the unsung virtues of compromise and the art of keeping most members of his group happy. Sports administrators need to work in tandem with the local and Central governments, municipal authorities and police forces. Its a difficult task, perhaps a little tougher than breaching the defence of a batsman with a googly or hitting a long-hop for a six. Little wonder then that in India, all the major sports bodies have political heavyweights, bureaucrats or business tycoons occupying the top administrative posts. There are exceptions though. Former players like Polly Umrigar, Raj Singh Dungarpur and Ghulam Ahmed have served with great distinction as the Board of Control for Cricket (BCCI) office bearers. Raj Singh went on to become the board president. Now, Anil Kumble is heading the Karnataka State Cricket Association (KSCA) with Javagal Srinath and Venkatesh Prasad by his side. Notably, all former players who became good administrators came through the existing system. They never tried to bring about a new order and correct all the wrongs overnight.

In India, former players have also failed to put up a united front and challenge the incumbents. When Dilip Vengsarkar decided to throw his hat into the ring for the post of the Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA) president, he didnt have the backing of all his former Mumbai and India teammates. He lost a fierce battle against a seasoned politician. The great Prakash Padukone learnt it the hard way that players unity is a big problem in this country when he fought to take control of Indian badminton. Cricket is the biggest sport in the country and efforts were made to bring all the cricketers under one umbrella. In the late 1980s, cricket players association was formed but the union disintegrated fast. An attempt to revive it at the turn of the century also failed.

And now in this IPL era, it is almost unthinkable that a former Indian cricketer would raise his voice, a la Warne, against the functioning of the BCCI. Only the foolhardy or the very brave would dare to disturb one of the worlds richest sports bodies. Warne had his run-ins with the Australian administrators during his international career. He was also fined twice for breaching the code while playing for the Melbourne Stars in the Big Bash League this season. Still, Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland didnt completely shunt aside the ideas put forward by the legendary leg spinner and invited him for a discussion.

Australian cricket has been on a downward spiral for the last few years and as Warne has pointed out, the next 12 months are going to be very important for them. Hopefully, his outburst will prompt the powers-that-be to review the situation. The last word, however, lies with the administrators. Players seldom win off the field.