Indian cricket must tap into Anil Kumble's spirit

Although he is technically an employee of the KSCA, and by extension of the BCCI and the ICC, Anil Kumble's real boss is the game of cricket itself.

Updated: September 30, 2013 21:01 IST
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The BCCI is in a mess. The IPL is in a mess. Of the two most powerful men in the sport worldwide till recently, one has been banned for life and the other has been told by the Supreme Court that he can contest for the post of the president of the BCCI but if elected, he will not be able to take office till the pending cases against him have been resolved. The time is right - as the BCCI prepares for its AGM on Sunday (September 29) - for a knight in shining armour to emerge and restore the credibility and the dignity of the board.

But a reluctance of would-be knights to put on shining armours is depressing. The motto has been, sadly, ask not what you can do for cricket but what Srinivasan can do for you. To be fair, there may be cricket boards in the south led by men who genuinely believe that Srinivasan is the man for the job, that he is leading the sport in the right direction and everything else is media exaggeration. But whether he is personally responsible or not, the fact remains that some of the worst excesses of the game, from spot-fixing to alleged money laundering to a host of other incidents, have taken place during Srinivasan's watch. You have to look beyond the selfish and to the larger interests of the game when its credibility is threatened.

The time is ripe for a generational change. By the standards of our politicians, Srinivasan, at 68 is not old. But increasingly, administration too is evolving into a young man's sport, and the gap between those who govern and those they govern on behalf of is increasing. Many of the former are simply out of touch.

This is an exercise in futility, I know, on the eve of an election which Srinivasan is set to win 'unanimously' in the accepted BCCI manner. Here's a possible job description for newcomers: Candidates should be below 60, and have had some administrative experience. They should place love for the game and interest in its welfare above all else. A first-class career is a bonus, a Test career an even bigger one. The ideal candidate would command respect worldwide and be listened to wherever the game is played. And since we are day-dreaming, here's another qualification: fans should feel proud that such a one as this represents them in the sport.

In 2007-08, when Indian cricket was in a muddle on the tour of Australia, one such knight in shining armour emerged to make us all proud that at that point, in those circumstances, he was the captain. Anil Kumble handled the whole issue of 'Monkeygate' and the reactions to it with a dignity that was statesman-like. Since then, as the elected president of the Karnataka State Cricket Association, he has brought to the job of administrator a rare combination of awareness and toughness.

Although he is technically an employee of the KSCA, and by extension of the BCCI and the ICC, his real boss is the game of cricket itself. Over the 134 Test matches he played, he was a modern master who claimed over 600 wickets and brought to his task a nobility and pride of performance that has earned him admirers worldwide.

Of all the 'Golden Era' players who have now retired - Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid, Javagal Srinath, VVS Laxman - Kumble appears most qualified to put on a shining armour, get on to his horse and battle the evils that are dogging the BCCI and Indian cricket. He turns 43 next month, and it may disappoint some that he has chosen to throw in his lot with Srinivasan rather than attempt to attack the problems head-on himself. Yet, at a time when ex-cricketers were keeping away from administration and looking for more lucrative and less troublesome jobs in the media, Kumble went through the grime and dirt of the election process to emerge as the president of the KSCA. It is this spirit he - and Indian cricket - needs to tap into.

Kumble is a remarkably focused person who understands the politics of world cricket and commands the respect of those in the BCCI who know him as a tough, no-nonsense individual. Of the others from his batch, Ganguly is a likely candidate too if he is willing to get his hands dirty in the nuts and bolts of administration. He doesn't suffer fools gladly either.

Let us examine some fresh possibilities. The same old faces doing the same old things in the same old way will only lead to more disasters.

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