Bangalore: To many, the best job in cricket is the television commentator's. Former cricketers, and the occasional non-cricketer, swan about the world, sitting in the best seats at the grounds, and are paid to talk about the game they love. To others, the toughest job in cricket is coaching Pakistan. After all, job security is far from guaranteed, and occasionally there's a risk of losing your life. To some, the easiest job in cricket is being Sachin Tendulkar's agent – how hard can it be to sell that man in the world's largest market?
In cricket, there are all kinds of jobs: selector (thankless), physio (exhausting), scorer (unrewarding), journalist (undeserved), player (fortunate) - the list is as endless as it is subjective.
But, what's the most important job in cricket? This column reckons it's the International Cricket Council's General Manager – Cricket, a position that currently needs filling after Dave Richardson got kicked upstairs and assumed the role of chief executive.
There are obvious reasons why this role is critical; it puts the cricket in focus in International Cricket Council; it ensures that the ICC's Global Academy is doing what it's meant to; it makes sure that development programs around the world are on track.
But there is an even more important reason why this job is crucial. The way the cricket world is set up, almost anything important goes to a vote, and here the most powerful nation, India, is seen as setting the agenda. So, when a constituent nation is unhappy it lines up two soft targets, the ICC (which is absurd because the ICC is merely a collection of members) and India (which is duplicitous as other nations refuse to challenge the existing order).
"It's not the strength of India that should be of concern, it should be the weakness of the others, because good governance is about everybody being able to stand on their own feet," said Haroon Lorgat, as he finished up as ICC chief executive. "If I am dominant, I will get what I want because others don't want to challenge me. So don't blame me, blame yourselves."
In this environment, the GM Cricket position becomes that much more critical. After all, as a wise man said, governance is too important to be left to politicians. Do those that run national associations have a genuine interest in ensuring that the proliferation of domestic Twenty20 leagues happens in an organic and non-threatening manner? Do the same people have the right perspective to see how Test cricket and the 50-over game receive the attention they deserve in an increasingly trying environment?
If one person in world cricket can actually think about the greater good of the game, not tied down by national agendas or vote-bank politics, it is the GM Cricket. Which is perhaps why a debate raged on the sidelines of the last ICC meeting in Kuala Lumpur on what to do with the position. For obvious reasons politicians want to, in principle, abolish the job while keeping the title. They'd be happy to see the GM Cricket as a paper pusher in Dubai who collects reports from match referees and sends out notifications of fines. This would only lead cricket further down the path of being ruled by vote rather than principle, and precisely why the role of GM Cricket is worth fighting for.
While the ICC won't say who is in the running for the position, it's understood that John Buchanan, who now earns a living in New Zealand, Tim May, who fights the good fight at the Federation of International Cricketers' Associations, and Hugh Morris, who is reaping the rewards of the processes he helped set up at the England and Wales Cricket Board, are in the running. While these high-profile men are eminently qualified, each in their own right, they bring to the table baggage, and carry crosses that make independence difficult to practice.
Among the numerous people who should be considered for the job is a man who has a decade of experience in sports marketing and management, in small companies and large, and is yet young enough to be in touch with current players and the modern game. That gent has lived in the system literally all his life – first as the son of a successful cricketer, then as a multiple-Ranji Trophy winner himself, moving on to a brief international career, and most recently as a junior selector in a high-pressure state set-up. The person in question knew that his career in cricket was under serious threat from injury and swiftly made the decision to re-train himself for a life after playing, and has earned his stripes as a professional.
Jatin Paranjape is a left-field choice for the position of GM Cricket, but then so was Richardson when he got the job. An admission here: your columnist has known Paranjape since 1999, when he turned out for Chemplast in league cricket in Chennai, and has since shared more than the occasional beer with the man, to the point that he's now a friend. But that alone can't be reason to look away from the fact that he might be the right man for a vitally important job.
The fact that Paranjape knows the Indian system inside out, and yet is not dependent on it, should in itself make him uniquely qualified for the post. That Paranjape has cricket in his blood, and management on his mind, should be enough reason for his candidature to be considered seriously. That he knows how each of the individual parts works, and yet constantly works towards learning how the big picture comes together, could be exactly the attitude needed to do the job.
Ironically, the most obvious reason for the powers that be to disqualify Paranjape, or a similar candidate, is that he may be perfectly qualified for the job. After all, if the GM Cricket did his job as it was intended, there would be a lot less room for back-room intrigue and the value of each vote would be diminished.