Sourav Ganguly can turn the face of Indian cricket
The coming week will see the AGM of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). With office bearers already ‘elected’ the impact will soon be seen on the functioning of the august body and on Indian cricket. Last week saw deals being done between groups and caucuses that sprung up new names which will lead the future of the game in our country.
The best news was the decision to get Sourav Ganguly to wear the hat of the President. When Dada, as he fondly known, dons the mantle of the head of the richest, private sporting body in India and probably the world, it will be the best Diwali gift his legion of fans, including yours truly, will get. Knowing Ganguly, for the next 10 months we will see the future direction that BCCI will be heading in.
Ganguly becomes the second Indian Test captain who will occupy the highest administrative position in Indian cricket. Story has it that Dada was nicknamed ‘Maharaj’ by his parents who must have seen the royal demeanour in him while rocking his cradle. The first Test skipper who became the BCCI President was also a Maharaj: Pusapati Vijaya Rama Gajapathi Raju, the Maharajkumar of Vizianagaram, known as Vizzy.
Vizzy would rather be known as the one who got cricketing greats like Sir John Berry (Jack) Hobbs, Herbert Sutcliffe and Learie Constantine to India rather than the cricket he played. Vizzy skippered India in three Test matches on the 1936 tour of England, which is best remembered for the exploits of Vijay Merchant, Syed Mushtaq Ali and Mohammed Nissar.
If the first, Vizzy, was a Maharaja by birthright, the second, Dada, was crowned by the masses for his attitude, demeanour and leadership qualities.
I first saw Ganguly then he was part of the CCI Presidents XI that played against my office team, Tata Sports Club (TSC). His teammates included Mohammed Azharuddin (India captain then), Sachin Tendulkar among others. While the rest of his team capitulated against us, the southpaw played a gem of an innings which was good enough for TSC make him an offer which he accepted.
Those pre-professional days saw him play in the dusty maidans of Bombay (Mumbai) with Dilip Vengsarkar, Ravi Shastri, Kiran More, Lalchand Rajput and Raju Kulkarni as colleagues. The discipline, approach and disposition of Bombay cricket of the early 90s must certainly have steeled the Kolkata lad who went on to take Indian cricket to a higher level. Watching him rise from strength to strength, after he made a dream debut against England at Lord’s in 1996, showed that he had worked very hard to shut the doubting Thomases.
The situation in which Ganguly is today, is similar to the time he took over the Indian captaincy from Tendulkar in February 2000. The match fixing scandal had rocked Indian cricket and the morale of the team and their followers was at an all time low. Beating South Africa in his debut One Day International (ODI) series as captain was a huge salve for minds that were badly bruised. We saw a captain who moved away from the tried and tested and infused a new spirit in a team that was mentally wounded.
Today, after all the twists and turns that Indian cricket has taken from an administrative viewpoint, ever since the Supreme Court entered the boardroom of the BCCI, the faith in the organisation needs to be restored. That would be Ganguly’s first task on hand and his track record shows that he would tame this challenge just the way he did when he took guard as captain. There are three main issues that would need his immediate attention apart from restoring BCCI’s credibility.
Age fudging is the first issue that needs his consideration. This silent menace has plagued Indian cricket for decades. Having come up through the ranks, Ganguly will know how this can be a threat to the progress of talent. Relations with the International Cricket Council in terms of getting money and Future Tours Programme is the second and the dreaded Conflict of Interest cause is the third. One feels secure that the new president-designate has zeroed in on the last two issues during his interactions with the media over the last week.
If anyone deserves credit for India’s rise as a cricketing superpower on the field of play, the first name would be Ganguly’s. Getting in fresh talent, nurturing them to be world beaters and bringing back a sense of belief in the team, was his big contribution to Indian cricket. Now, once again, he has the opportunity to make a bigger contribution by turning the face of Indian cricket towards the Sun as President, just the way he did when he captained India and sowed the seeds for the future.