April 22, 2021
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Political Playingfields?

Is cricket now being played in courts and political battlefields? No, say the former Indian captain Ajit Wadekar and the BCCI vice-president Kamal Morarka. Telecasting rights furore? Oh, that just shows how transparent the system is...

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Political Playingfields?
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Political Playingfields?

The full transcript of the BBC Hindi special programme Aapki Baat BBC Ke Saath with former Indian captain Ajit Wadekar and vice-president of the BCCI Kamal Morarka. The subject under discussion: Is Cricket Now Being Played In Courts and Political Battlefields?

Nagendar Sharma

Nagendar Sharma : Is the game of Cricket now being played in courts and the political battlefield than in the real playgrounds?

Ajit Wadekar : We are players, so we played it in the play field. Now so far as the administration of the game -- and the BCCI committees -- is concerned, there has to be an election, and when there is an election, what can be said about it? When voting takes place and if one side feels aggrieved, then they take recourse to legal action.

Nagendar Sharma : Mr Morarka, you were in the thick of things, what do you have to say?

Kamal Morarka : I do not agree with the statement that Cricket is being played in courts and political battlefield. So far as the game of Cricket is concerned, there has been an improvement -- for the last three-four years, we have been playing well at the top level. There is always a scope for improvement, I agree, but the talk of legal battles is only for the telecasting rights, and if there are several companies and that too commercial, then those who do not get it would try for it maybe through courts……

BBC listener from Jaipur : The amount of politics that was dominant in the recent BCCI elections shows it is time for the central government to take over the Board, because the team plays for the country and not the Board. Since governments change at the centre, it would lend credibility to the Board and such petty fights would not be there.

Kamal Morarka : I have been a socialist throughout my life, and I oppose the government interference, whether it be the centre or the state governments. There should be no interference in sports and academic bodies. Look at the Indian performance in the Olympics -- why is it so dismal despite the governmental control? India has a name in the World of Cricket and we should not talk of destroying its character.

Nagendar Sharma : But Mr Morarka, is it really fair to say that the BCCI is working well despite the level of factional fights and politicking seen at the elections held in Kolkota recently? You were very much a part of all that was happening there..

Kamal Morarka : What is wrong in that? If the set-up is democratic, there would be elections and when there are elections, candidates would also be there. One of them would win and the other would lose, there is nothing to worry in this.

Nagendar Sharma : Mr Wadekar how do you react to what all you saw during the BCCI elections in Kolkota?            

Ajit Wadekar : There has been an improvement in the game, there is no doubt about it, and the BCCI has money today -- during out days the players’ allowances were really low. Today Board has money and players are well off. So far as the elections are concerned, they are purely like any other elections, you have two contesting groups, and the fight is real.

Nagendar Sharma : But, Sir, people like you who have given the country a name in the game throughout the world, your lives have been dedicated to this game. How do you feel being a mere spectator in the decision making process of the Board?

Ajit Wadekar : I feel this is not the right way. I feel that the players should be given more importance, for example in the Working Committee there should be players’ representation. In other countries, like Australia and England, former players have a say in the boards’ matters. It is okay that former players in India are in the team selection process, but what about administration and managing committees? There should be players say in that. Players do not have the money and power to contest the Board elections, so they should be given a representation -- it would only help the game.

The thing is today it looks as if everyone in the country wants to be in the BCCI, and it is because the game is so popular that everyone wants to serve it.  But my point is those who have played this game know more about the intricacies, about the present day players’ problems and facilities, and the amount of money they should get. Good players definitely have a better idea of how Cricket could be improved in the country. Politicians who are interested in Cricket can serve the game in many ways, it is not necessary that they need to be in the Board to serve this most popular game...

Nagendar Sharma : Mr Morarka, what do you say on household names of Indian Cricket being mere spectators in the Board affairs?

Kamal Morarka : It is not correct. Brajesh Patel is with us, so is Raj Singh Dungarpur, both have been players. And only players are there in the selection committee. For being a selector, it is compulsory to have played Ranji at least. Therefore team selection is totally with those who have played the game at the top level. Look at the BCCI technical committee -- it is headed by Sunil Gavaskar. So players are there, but the logic that if someone is a professional whether a businessman or a politician, should not be in the Board, I do not agree with this.

BBC listener from Allahabad : Why does the BCCI love controversies? Look at the telecasting rights issue, why was the tenders system made controversial in the first place, that it has reached the Supreme Court now? Why can’t the BCCI think beyond money ?

Kamal Morarka : This is an issue which is not easy to understand. If the Board does not invite tenders then people have problems, if it does then some others have problems. If tenders are invited, the highest bidder would get it, then you would say that BCCI is running after money. Therefore in a transparent process, there would be some people who would not be happy. The prime concern for the BCCI is that the Cricket lovers should get to watch the game in a good way. Money is not the major concern for us.

Nagendar Sharma : But Mr Morarka, why is there is controversy only with BCCI when it comes to telecasting rights?

Kamal Morarka : During the last five years, the Cricket telecasting rights were with the Doordarshan, now their contract has come to an end. The latest controversy began with fresh bidding. ESPN-STAR, whose Cricket telecast is of good quality, we could have given them the contract straightaway, but then the Board would have been accused of doing this, without following a procedure, when other telecasters were also interested, therefore it was decided to go for tenders, and now you see...

BBC listener from Kanpur : But what has attracted the politicians and businessmen to the Cricket Board, is it just money?

Kamal Morarka : I do not think so. It is correct that the BCCI is a strong body and has lots of money. But the critics should understand, that irrespective of any politician or businessman, howsoever big the name be, the money belongs to the Board and not to any individual. It is the glamour of Cricket, the way TV and other electronic media show Cricket which could be attracting people, which is natural for big personalities to enter this field, who want to serve the game.

Nagendar Sharma : But Mr Morarka, why do big people want to serve the game by being in the Board, they could do so otherwise, also as Mr Wadekar has pointed out. ..

Kamal Morarka : But why should this apply to Cricket only then, it should be applied to all games. India is a huge country and look at out performance in the Olympics, this question should be asked there. India has done so well in Cricket at the international level, Wadekar sahib has also agreed that there has been improvement in the game, and I share his view that there should be more improvement. We are a force in World Cricket and those who want to help, should help in other games, at least one or two of them so that we improve there also, and then talk about Cricket.

BBC listener from Sholapur : We talk so much about BCCI, popularity of the game, but the reality is that India in Cricket is only dependant on Sachin.

Kamal Morarka : If a team has a talent of the calibre of Sachin, then it would win often, and  it is natural that it would be dependant on such a world class player. Now if Sachin is injured and not playing, then the performance of the team would be hampered to the extent on which it is dependant on him. When he is playing, it is a huge plus, and when he is absent, there would be a big minus, yes.

Nagendar Sharma : Mr Wadekar, what do you say on the Sachin factor?

Ajit Wadekar : Sachin is a legendary cricketer, he is a living legend. Of course, his being in the team has a big impact, but look at the Australian tour of late last year -- we played like a team there. Sachin was of course a big factor, but Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, Saurav all played well. I feel that the team is fine now, we are playing well, at times without Sachin also. But do not forget that Sachin’s presence is a big factor, a psychological edge for the team. His presence increases the confidence level of the team, and when he is not there, then the team feels they could lose. Such a situation should not be there, as no-one is indispensable in the playing eleven.   

Nagendar Sharma : But why is India unable to produce a consistent wining team? They win one series and lose another. Except the series win in Pakistan, this year has been disappointing so far.  Why is that?

Ajit Wadekar : India has been doing well, and the ratings also prove that. I agree that in one-days, our team has disappointed so far. But in the tests we have done well in the two away series of Pakistan, and earlier in Australia. This had made India number two in the ratings. However, the key point is that Indian team has always been like this, having its ups and downs. But I have no doubt that the team is a balanced one, and the performance should improve.

Nagendar Sharma : But the team lacks matchwinners.

Ajit Wadekar : It is not so, we have match-winners. Sachin and Rahul come in this category. Look at the innings that Rahul played for a double hundred in Pakistan, and I think that innings led India to win the series. Rahul has played some very good innings in one-dayers also. Apart from Sachin and Rahul I put Saurav also in the match-winners category. I think the real problem of India is the bowling. Harbhajan was injured, though he is fine now. Anil (Kumble) is also a very good bowler, but there has to be a difference between a wicket-taker and a match-winner, and that is India’s weakness.

When I was the captain of the team, we had Chandra(shekhar), who used to take wickets, and I would put him in the match-winner category.  I think in the present team, Anil has that capacity, but he should return to form quickly. I have high hopes from Anil and Harbhajan in the Australian series and they hold the key to India’s good performance at home with Australia.

Nagendar Sharma : Mr Morarka, what is Board doing to make Indian team a winning combination in Tests and one-dayers?

Kamal Morarka : There has been improvement, but I agree that the consistency required at the top level is not there, especially when we look at Australia, we get a feeling that there is a lot of room for improvement. But please also give some credit to the team, in the last World Cup in South Africa, we lost only to Australia.

Nagendar Sharma : But Mr Morarka, the real trouble is that our team has been losing finals of the one day tournaments consistently.

Kamal Morarka : I agree with you, but there is no easy answer to that. The Board has been trying. We got a physical trainer, we have worked on the mental training of the team, so that it could have a killer instinct for the finals -- efforts are continuing and there would be no-let up in this. We hope for an improved performance in the future.

BBC Listener from Firozabad : Mr Wadekar, when you look at Cricketers of today, do you feel that they play only for money?

Ajit Wadekar : During our times, there was not much money in the game, we used to get less money, though the rupee was strong then, and the Board also was not a rich Board. Yes, now money has increased but players like Sachin, Sehwag, Dravid and others are getting money because they are good players. It would be wrong to say that they play for money alone -- they put the country first.  Companies use them for modelling, because they know using them helps their product sell more.

Kamal Morarka : If there is money in the game, what is wrong with players getting it? Yes, the resources of the Board would go for the betterment of the game in the country. There was a time when there was no money in the game, even then our players were real patriots, they continue to be the same in their patriotic zeal today. I do not think that Cricketers play the game for money.  Do not forget that human beings the world over are attracted to money.

Nagendar Sharma : But why in all this ignore former players? Surely, the big names would only help the Board.

Kamal Morarka : They are not ignored. Dilip Vengaskar is helping the Board in the talent search programme. Sunil Gavasker heads the technical committee -- I told you earlier about the selection committee. But to say that only former players should be in Board, would lead to a situation where selection process would come into being. What would happen then is if I would nominate Mr Wadekar, someone else would come up with the name of Kapil Dev, the third one would come up with Poly Umrigar’s name, there would not be any end. It is not feasible. The board set-up is democratic and it would have to be followed.   Wadekar sahib is associated with Mumbai Cricket Association, it is that Association which has to elect him to the BCCI. Now if it prefers Sharad Pawar for that instead of him, what can we do?

Ajit Wadekar : All that is fine, players being here and there and this election process, but what I am saying is that if someone like Mr Poly Umrigar is in the Board Working Committee, he would only help the Board with his enormous experience, ranging from players’ problems to wicket curation to ground making and giving a good name to BCCI at the international level.

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