Monday January 20, 2020
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Good week for Indian sports, bad news for cricket board officials

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BCCI

By Veturi Srivatsa

Good news for Indian sports in the last one week. The men’s and women’s teams have won the Twenty20 cricket series in Australia even as tennis star Sania Mirza claimed her first women’s doubles title at the Australian Open, and Pusarla Venkata Sindu clinched the Malaysian Badminton Masters. A rare coincidence!

The focus is back on the sports, coming out of courtrooms and board rooms, or so it appeared. But the Justice Rajendra Mal Lodha Committee recommendations to cleanse Indian cricket and its administration continue to be a subject matter of intense discussion among the state associations and officials, each one trying to read and interpret the fine print to suit his personal interests.

Even before the detailed Lodha Committee report is fully studied by state associations, as instructed by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), the appointment of Justice Ajit Prakash Shah as the board’s ombudsman, as suspected, is getting flooded with complaints, the initial ones on the alleged conflict of interest involving some top guns.

Smartly, Justice Shah lobbed the ball back into the court of the complainant, asking for the specific rules under which the allegations can be taken up for examination!

The complaint is against three high-profile administrators, two of these former India cricketers, Sourav Ganguly and Vikram Rathour. The third person dragged into the conflict is board secretary Anurag Thakur. A free-lance journalist from Mumbai found a serious conflict of interest with the functioning of all three.

It was pointed out that Ganguly has business contacts with owners of the new franchise of the Indian Premier League (IPL), and Thakur and Rathour are said to be cousins and have business connections. The issue has apparently been raised because Thakur is the board secretary, and during his tenure as one of the principal office-bearers Rathour was appointed as a national selector.

Justice Shah has taken up the issue with Ganguly and the board for clarification, and even said that he had not heard from Ganguly, though the former India captain insists he had sent in his reply.

Thakur was quick to refute the allegations, stating his business relations with Rathour has nothing to do with cricket and that their families have known each other for four decades.

For good measure, Thakur points to a sinister motive behind the complaints as he sees names of only a particular section of the board officials are being dragged. He also defended the board’s media manager, saying he has no stake in the media company he has been linked to. What Thakur doesn’t say is that the media manager was involved with a couple of former Test stars as their agent.

Whatever Ganguly and Thakur might say, prima facie they cannot deny their personal relations with the people they are involved with and they have to come clean. The complainant has done extensive research before filing his complaints and it is up to the ombudsman to take the call.

Ganguly, who is a member of the IPL Governing Council, is a co-owner of Indian Super League football club Atletico de Kolkata along with well-known businessmen. Nothing wrong with the arrangement till one of the tycoons bought IPL’s new Pune-based franchise. It would be interesting to see how Ganguly explains it away logically with legalese thrown in.

In Thakur’s case it is more personal. He was joint secretary when Rathour was appointed as a national selector and he was secretary when the former India opening batsman got the extension, though Rathour qualifies by virtue of being a former Test player.

The crux of the matter is not whether Rathour deserves to be a selector, the complainant brought into focus Rathour citizenship, pointing out that he is a British and carries that country’s passport.

In the case of the BCCI’s media manager, the allegation is that a family member of his is taking care of his business interests. Here it must be mentioned that he also fits in with the media job as he had worked with electronic media for a few years before getting into event management. His proximity to some top players is all too well known. In the past, there were disparaging whispers about a board’s media adviser being a columnist.

Thakur has also obliquely stated that the appointment of the ombudsman has given rise to some people to make false allegations. Eventually, he has to explain his position and it is for the ombudsman to decide whether there is any conflict of interest in Ganguly and Thakur-Rathour business dealings.

The Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB), of which Ganguly is president, is the first state unit to officially come out with objections to 10 of the 21 recommendations of the Lodha Committee!

Good week for sport, bad news of board officials. (IANS)(Photo: www.holdingwilley.com)

(Veturi Srivatsa is a senior journalist. The views expressed are personal)

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2019 is One of India’s Best Years in Cricket: Virat Kohli

Indian cricket in 2019 - A moment to remember

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Virat Kohli Cricket
Indian Cricket team captain Virat Kohli feels that 2019 was the best year for Indian cricket. Wikimedia Commons

BY YAJURVINDRA SINGH

Captain Virat Kohli’s final statement on Indian cricket at the end of the year was so true. He said, “2019 is one of India’s best years in cricket barring those 30 minutes at the World Cup.” If one reflects on the performance of Indian cricket in 2019 which started with a bang by beating Australia in a Test match series, for the first time, in Australia. This truly remarkable achievement by the Indian side not only gave it that much needed boost to their morale and confidence but also established them as the best Test side in the world.

There were a few defeats during the year but most of them were account of experimenting, resting senior players and giving opportunities to Indian players sitting on the bench.

The most significant moment that humbled the strong Indian cricket side and the year’s performances was their semi-final defeat against New Zealand in the World Cup. The Indian team had played extraordinarily well to head their group in the preliminary stage, losing only to the ultimate winners, England. Chasing a moderate total of 239 runs for victory, India’s formidable top order collapsed in just 30 minutes and were tottering at 24 for 4 even before the first 10 overs were bowled. India never recovered from that blow and their dream of winning another World Cup faded in the horizon.

India Cricket
The most significant moment that humbled the strong Indian cricket side and the year’s performances was their semi-final defeat against New Zealand in the World Cup. Wikimedia Commons

Looking back at the curtains now drawn for the year, this was perhaps the only blemish that tarnished the significant performances of the India side. The great West Indian side had a similar moment in the 1983 final when they lost to India in the World Cup. To them then, it looked like a total that they would normally chase without blinking an eyelid, but, it turned out to be their nemesis.

Cricket has these uncertain moments and the song, “one moment in time” sung by the wonderful singer Whitney Huston for the summer Olympics in 1988 held in Seoul, is so appropriate, not only for an individual but also for a team. These precious moments are all that one hopes and prays for, in the life of a sportsman. This is what finally establishes them and the team of being a winner or an also ran.

The South African cricket side is a good example of how mental pressure of failure could even affect future teams. They have on many occasions looked like a winning side in an ICC tournament and have failed to deliver due to several different reasons. The side is now branded in world cricket as “chokers” and this tag, unfortunately, has remained every time their side plays in another ICC World Cup tournament. They have in the last two decades produced some outstanding cricketers, but somehow lady-luck has never blessed them when they most need it to break out of the barriers of the past.

The year 2020 has the World T20 later in the year in Australia. India will be one of the likely tournament favourites, especially as they have two of the best T20 batsmen in Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli as well as three of the top pace bowlers in Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami and Bhuvneshwar Kumar. At present, the likely Indian T20 team will comprise of a majority of the players who were part of their World Cup 2019 side.

Indian cricket team
The skills, confidence and capability of the Indian cricket team are well known. Wikimedia Commons

This is a major factor that concerns one. For India to be successful, they will need to forget those disastrous 30 minutes of their moment in time of the year 2019. The skills, confidence and capability of the Indian side are well known to one and all, but the team will be tested more on their mental rather than on their cricketing capabilities.

This is where the BCCI will need to play a significant part in ensuring that a mental coaching and strengthening is also an important part in the preparation of the side for the World Cup T20.

International cricket is played more in the mind than on the field. For them to be at the world stage, already makes them players who have the potential and skill to be there. With less than a dozen T20I games left in the Indian calendar before their first World T20 match on October 24, 2020, they not only require to fill the million dollar question that still prevails about the middle order batters, but also, about their mental preparation for the task ahead.

The IPL (Indian Premier League) will play an important part in the final composition of the Indian T20 side, but playing for a franchise is completely different from when one wears the Indian colours.

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With more than a billion people following every step of the teams’ progress and the added responsibility of playing for the nation, the pressures are as different as chalk and cheese.

One wishes the Indian team a super 2020, with victory over New Zealand and Australia in order to qualify for the final of the ongoing World Test Championship, as well as for them to bring the World T20 trophy home — a cup that they won in the inaugural year of 2007. (IANS)