When Sourav Ganguly assumes charge as president of BCCI later this month he will be only the second Indian captain, after the Maharajkumar of Vizianagaram, to be elevated to the post through a democratic process. (Sunil Gavaskar was temporarily put in charge by courts when BCCI was in a turmoil following allegations of match-fixing in IPL.)
Ganguly, probably the youngest president of BCCI, will have his task cut out like never before. Most of the Apex Council members are first-timers to the body and could hardly be expected to make a substantial administrative contribution during his short stint.
Worse is the havoc wrought by the conflict of interest clause which straightaway robs him of good talent in the various sub-committees. A stint in the sub-committee could prohibit members from working in their state associations or even as a professional in the area of cricket coaching, umpiring, commentator, service provider, etc. Thus it is only natural that good ex-players and others with administrative ability would choose to stay away from taking up sub-committee work.
These apart, the former India captain should also live with the fact that former first-class cricketers, who might otherwise have been useful in various roles, are now sought after and handsomely paid by regional television for cricket related work. This would keep them away from accepting BCCI responsibility.
Despite these obvious disadvantages, Ganguly’s first task would be to get a process and system going. These past three years have seen most sub-committees being ridden roughshod and their groundwork being thrown into disarray.
In his first interaction with media Ganguly pointed out that he would like to prop up first-class cricket and pay the cricketers handsomely. He has just 10 months on the job so that sort of surface work might well be the easiest thing to execute.
But to give Indian cricket a real thrust he needs to urgently pay attention to the standard of umpiring across all levels. It is no secret that the umpiring is pathetic at junior levels which really is the nursery of Indian cricket.
While the National Cricket Academy, with Rahul Dravid in charge, is trying to lift the quality of cricketers coming on to the scene, many of them are being sold short by the quality of umpiring. This shortcoming extends through first-class and other levels of cricket.
Ganguly would do well to get state junior and even first-class players who understand the nuances and intricacies of angle, spin and bounce to take up umpiring as soon as possible. A good pay package and some decent training should see some of them come through impressively.
Another massive challenge he would face is the incredible number of teams currently engaged in the game. Ganguly might have welcomed the support he got from the newly-formed North-East states. But their inclusion in the BCCI setup thanks to Lodha reforms means that there are now 266 teams (men, women, youth, boys, girls) in the fray. And this, in turn, leads to a humongous number of matches that would surely place enormous strain on umpires, match referees, grounds, groundsmen and scheduling.
The Groundsmen, who are a vital part of the system, are another lot who must be taken care of in terms of pay, housing, food, children’s education and medical insurance for their families. Each state has its own policy, but since most of these groundsmen are poorly paid and unmotivated they are also susceptible to vices including, tobacco and alcohol addiction. They need help and a better quality of life. If Indian cricket with all its riches cannot do this for its own groundsmen, nobody else will.
Most states have 10 grounds or more that conform to BCCI requirements and it is only fair that Ganguly, who played all his cricket on pitches and grounds prepared by these unsung backroom support staff of Indian cricket, does his bit to encourage the workmen of these 400-odd grounds.
This part, Ganguly would revolutionise the game if he could organise medical insurance for parents of young cricketers. Most of the young players come from humble backgrounds. He would know, having captained a few such players and also played alongside them. Their parents slog for years in the hope that their children make it big. It would be good if BCCI can work out some sort of medical insurance premium for the young cricketers' parents, at least till they become first-class players.
The former India captain also spoke of the money that BCCI needs to wrest from the ICC. He is a tough negotiator and after three years of yielding to the ICC and their bullying ways, it is time somebody in BCCI stood up to them. Ganguly, like Srinivasan before him, might just be the jolt that the ICC needs to treat BCCI with the respect it deserves.
Ganguly has a very short stint to make a difference to the BCCI. On this occasion, all parties came together and stood as one as they wanted to see the back of CoA once for all. However, if Ganguly can make his presence felt over the next 10 months it could well pave the way for greater things when he returns after the cooling off period. But for that, the former India captain will need to play the innings of his life.