Indian cricket, undoubtedly, is going through one of its worst times since the match fixing scandal in 2000. This time, the problems are mainly around the governance of BCCI than the on field performance of the team. The performance of the team as such can be improved, by identifying the right talent and grooming them into responsible roles with the help of skilled support staff and processes. But the administration seems to be struggling in streamlining the processes, finding the support staff on time, sorting out contract issues with the players and even failing in securing mighty sponsorship deals as they used to do in the past.
Until the unexpected World cup blues, everything seemed to be going fine with the Indian cricket with the richest cricket board in the world had everything under its feet, probably including the power to influence ICC. During those good times, all partners such as sponsors, tournament organizers, potential support staff and other sports bodies were vying their best to be associated with Indian cricket. An offer to be part of Indian cricket was considered the most coveted thing in the sports world then. Endorsements used to chase even the mediocre cricketer who has probably figured in the national team as a baggage on oversees tours. Things seems to be totally different in the current scenario.
After India’s world cup debacle, several sponsors have stopped airing the commercials featuring our high profile cricketers. Some have even terminated the contracts and instead signed up sportsmen from other games. While these are the cases with individuals, BCCI has suffered their biggest setbacks of all times with no sponsors coming forward to cover the recent and immediate future cricket tours, announcement of a parallel organization by a media giant, players having stand-off with BCCI over contracts and norms, the high-profile coach job offered being rejected by a preferred candidate etc. At the moment India’s cricket administration does not look any better than that in West Indies or Pakistan. The arrogant face that BCCI and its officials used to put together in front of ICC and the cricket-playing nations has more or less transitioned into a submissive profile.
If one analyzes the problem carefully, it is very obvious that many of the issues are related to the high expectations that the Indian cricket fans have with its national team and the extreme of madness that is exhibited by them. The media and sponsors are simply exploiting it with the intention of making big bucks at the cost of the fans’ religious behaviour, anger, desperation, admiration or craze. This puts BCCI as well as the players under tremendous pressure and mostly optimal functioning is hence affected. This pressure and focus also made BCCI and players feel a bit too much about themselves and things were taken granted on many occasions.
The other set of problems are related to the obsolete way in which BCCI is functioning. There was always an unnecessary hype around it, which probably started and peaked during the ‘rule’ of Jagmohan Dalmiya. Dalmiya kind of enjoyed the celebrity status during his stint with BCCI and ICC and even the minute details regarding his moves had wider coverage in the press. What did not change though was the age old processes in selection, the way in which the domestic cricket is functioning and the ways of spotting young talent.
With respect to the above issues, India could learn quite a few good lessons from its little neighboring nation, Sri Lanka. Ever since they emerged into the world cricket (hardly two decades back), they have managed to steadily improve in terms of professionalism and commitment both on and off the field. Every single time they have managed to meet the expectations of their fans by working hard and trying their best with respect to the game as well as administration. One key to success there also is keeping low-profile and doing their homework before taking decisions. They always had a bunch of committed players, good captains, good coaches and support staff for the past 15 years or so. It is high time Indian cricket took stock of the situation and assume a down to earth approach to the game rather than remaining on front page news all the time. Also fans should understand that it is just another game and cricketers are not necessarily gods or saviors of our country. Axing one such gods for not performing should be accepted as something that will do good for the game rather than taking it to the streets.
To be fair on BCCI, the selection committee has been operating reasonably well in the past few months. The problem being limited to the unavailability of skilled cricketers in the country or rather the lack of processes and opportunities to catch them young and groom. Australia, for instance has a whopping 25 contracted players this year as against India’s 16. What needs to change here is the domestic cricket system at state, region as well as national levels. Improving the infrastructure such as good sportive pitches and grounds, investing on homegrown support personnel, implementing a step-by-step governance improvement plan etc are the other steps they need to take without much delay. At the moment most of the sponsorship money seems to be ending up with the current set of elite players rather than investing for the future. This is something that BCCI needs to work on and improve without much delay. Otherwise they might as well end up like the Indian Hockey Federation!