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Good week for Indian sports, bad news for cricket board officials

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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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When Was The First Cricket Test Match Played By India?

Not only did the Indian team rattle a very strong English side, it also made the small world of cricket sit up and take notice of their talent

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It was this impact that led to June 25, 1932, going down in India’s cricketing history as a red letter day. Wikimedia Commons
It was this impact that led to June 25, 1932, going down in India’s cricketing history as a red letter day. Wikimedia Commons
  • All-India cricket team played its first cricket test match in England
  • On the same date i.e June 25, India won the ICC cricket world cup in 1983
  • Parsis were the first in India, to show an interest in cricket

Cricket’s journey in India began after British traders and soldiers brought the sport to Indian shores during colonial rule. The first cricket test match in India is believed to have been played by British sailors at Cambay in 1721.

The first Indians to take interest in cricket were the Parsis. They established the Oriental Cricket Club in 1846 and subsequently the Parsi Cricket Club, which sent its team to play in England in 1886 – it played in 28 matches, lost 19, drew eight and won only one.

Unfamiliar with English conditions, the Parsi cricketers were not able to make much of a mark but their adaptability made an impression upon the Englishmen. The resulting appreciation led to another tour two years later.

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The first Indians to take interest in cricket were the Parsis. Wikimedia Commons
The first Indians to take interest in cricket were the Parsis. Wikimedia Commons

After two more unofficial tours in 1888 and 1911 (financed and captained by the young Maharaja of Patiala, Bhupendra Singh), and within three years of the formation of the Board of Control for Cricket in India in 1928, the first official Indian team left for England to play its first cricket Test match.

Maharaja of Patiala was named the first caption of the Indian team. Prince Ganshyamsinhji of Limbdi was the vice-captain and the Maharaj Kumar of Vizianagram was the deputy vice-captain.

Two weeks before the team left for the tour, the Maharaja of Patiala stepped down on health grounds while the Maharaj Kumar of Vizianagram withdrew from the team citing his lack of form and fitness. The choice of captain fell upon the Maharaja of Porbandar (who, funnily enough, was undoubtedly the worst player in the team) while Jahangir Khan was drafted into the team as a replacement for Vizzy.

The All-India Cricket team played its first cricket test match in England in 1932. Wikimedia Commons
The All-India Cricket team played its first cricket test match in England in 1932. Wikimedia Commons

When the Indians arrived in England to play their first cricket test match, on April 13, 1932, London newspaper Evening Standard made the following comment on the socio-political significance of the tour:

“No politics, no caste, just cricket. This is the unofficial slogan of the cricket team that has come from India after a lapse of 21 years. There has never been such a team of contrasts meeting on the common footing of cricket. The 18 players speak eight to 10 languages among them and belong to four or five different castes.”

The Maharaja of Porbandar was relying on Limbdi before he strained his back in a minor match, afterwards he handed over the captaincy to Cottari Kanakaiya Nayudu.

The superbly fit and strong Nayudu was India’s best batsman and had just smashed the first Indian century of the tour in style. The Star’s headline on May 22, 1932, summed it all up: “The Hindu Bradman in Form at Lord’s”.

Choosing Nayudu, who would go on to be Wisden Cricketer Of The Year in 1933, as the captain of the team was thus a very wise decision by the Maharaja of Porbandar. Wikimedia Commons
Choosing Nayudu, who would go on to be Wisden Cricketer Of The Year in 1933, as the captain of the team was thus a very wise decision by the Maharaja of Porbandar. Wikimedia Commons

As India’s first cricket test match unfolded, the performance of the relatively raw Indian side left the English shocked in the first half-hour itself.

After winning the toss and opting for batting first, Sutcliffe and Holmes, Yorkshire’s record-smashing opening pair (they had put on 555-run partnership just nine days ago), walked out full of cool confidence.

But some excellent bowling by Indian fast bowlers, Mohammad Nissar and Amar Singh, reduced the English team to a dismal 19-3 in the first 20 minutes!

At the end of their first day in International Test cricket, the Indian team stood at 30 without loss, a respectable scoreline against the formidable English side. Wikimedia Commons
At the end of their first day in International Test cricket, the Indian team stood at 30 without loss, a respectable scoreline against the formidable English side. Wikimedia Commons

After the worst possible start, English captain Douglas Jardine and Wally Hammond began stitching together a partnership, but it was difficult with the Indians bowling with nagging accuracy and fielding with sharp agility. Hammond lost his wicket just after lunch and the English team was bowled out for 259 before tea on the first day.

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Describing the day’s play, The Birmingham Post wrote: “The All India cricket team has administered a few shocks to the dignity and confidence of England today. If there were among the 24,000 spectators at Lord’s some who imagined that the granting of a Test match by the MCC to the tourists from the Indian empire was merely an amiable concession, then they had a very rude awakening before the close of play.”

At the end of their first day in International Test cricket, the Indian team stood at 30 without loss, a respectable scoreline against the formidable English side. While the next day started well for the Indians, with their score being 110 for 1 at one point, the lack of experience (other than Nayudu and Nazir Ali, all the Indian batsmen had practised only on matting wickets) was soon exposed as the middle order collapsed. From 160 for 4, India folded to 189 all out.

However, while India eventually lost the match by 158 runs, the courage and grit shown by the team, evident in the first 30 minutes itself, clearly conveyed to the world that it wouldn’t take much time for the Indians to carve out a niche for themselves in the world of cricket.

It was this impact that led to June 25, 1932, going down in India’s cricketing history as a red letter day. Interestingly, 51 years later on the same day, the Indian cricket team (led by Kapil Dev) made history at Lord’s by winning the Prudential Cup, as if commemorating the momentous day in Indian cricket.