The International Cricket Council (ICC) T20 World Cup started off with a series of shocking results in Australia. The defeat of Sri Lanka at the hands of rookies Namibia was a shocker, but the Asia Cup champions regained their poise and bounced back to qualify for the Super 12 stage.
But two-time champions West Indies were not so fortunate as they could not recover from the trauma of loss at the hands of Scotland and found themselves out of the tournament by the end of the week.
The entry of Ireland and the Netherlands into the super 12 phase throws a spanner in the works and the coming weeks will tell us whether they will be able to engineer upsets against more fancied sides as well.
Change of guard in BCCI
The week that went by saw a change of guard at the helm of the Board of Control for Cricket for India (BCCI), the richest body governing this sport on this planet. The replacement of Sourav Ganguly by Roger Binny as the President of BCCI is a huge one not only in terms of the personalities involved but also promises a tectonic change so far as the administration of this organisation is concerned. After all, it is not often that a high-flying, charismatic former captain of the national side from the recent past, popular enough to be called as the “prince of Kolkata”, is replaced by a self-effacing, moderately successful cricketer from a previous generation.
It is indeed a tribute to the media management skills of the bigwigs in BCCI that this change was carried out in a smooth manner, unaccompanied by rumours, innuendoes and mud-slinging. The only protests that emanated were from his home state, where the dispensation in power blamed the ruling party at the centre and alleged political reasons for this step.
To understand the reason behind the unlamented exit of Ganguly from the pole position of BCCI, one should start from his initiation into the administration of the game. After a highly successful career that saw him lead the national side with aplomb and was hailed as one of the best left-hand batsman of his generation, Ganguly retired from international cricket in 2008. His stints in the Indian Premier League (IPL) as a player met with only moderate success and he moved to the air-conditioned comforts of the commentary box soon thereafter, while still continuing to endorse products.
He was elected as President of the Cricket Association of Bengal in 2015 following the demise of Jagmohan Dalmiya.
He also served as a member of the Cricket Advisory Committee of BCCI before emerging as the consensus candidate for the post of BCCI President when a new set of office bearers took charge in 2019, replacing the Supreme Court-appointed Committee of Administrators.
Ganguly’s elevation as President of BCCI three years ago was welcomed by followers of the game across the country. They had seen him lift the national side mired down in controversy over match-fixing allegations into one of the best sides in international cricket in a span of three years, capable of winnings test matches and series’ abroad and reaching the finals of the World Cup.
Ganguly had changed the face of the side by moulding it into a fighting unit possessing hitherto missing traits such as resilience and killer instinct. He had also stood up to the powers that be when pushed to the sidelines and fought back with fire and passion. Cricket lovers had great expectations from him and looked forward to an innings from him which would transform this body into one that conducted its affairs in a transparent manner and promoted the interest of the game and the players. Ganguly started off on the right note stating that his priority was to look after the first-class players and hinted that a system of contracts would come into force for them as well.
However, unlike on the cricket field, Ganguly’s announcements were not converted into results in the board rooms of BCCI. No steps were initiated by this body for instituting a contract system for players in the domestic circuit during Ganguly’s tenure as President. He was not able to influence or modify the pattern of working of BCCI; neither could he bring in any new reforms that would benefit the players. There were murmurs of discontent from the women’s side, which had to wait for more than a year for getting their share of the prize money due to their finishing as runners-up in the 2020 World Cup.
While this was not on account of any mistake on the part of the BCCI President, the players expected a better outcome when one of their own was at the helm of affairs. Moreover, he did not give up his place in the commentators’ box nor did he stop endorsing products, which together gave the impression that the President was keener on pushing his personal matters involving cricket rather than guiding the organisation.
But even worse was the fact that Ganguly failed to get along with skipper Virat Kohli, leading finally to the latter quitting the post. In the history of the game in this country, Ganguly was the first captain of the national side who received complete support from Board officialdom, thanks to his good relations with Dalmiya, who was at the helm of affairs of this body during the most part of the former’s stint as skipper. In fact, Ganguly’s fall from grace as captain commenced when Dalmiya lost control over running this body. Srinivasan continued this practice of the BCCI President extending unstinted support to the captain when he stood by Mahendra Singh Dhoni through thick and thin. The success of Ganguly and Dhoni as captains were, to a large extent, shaped by the backing they got from BCCI's top brass. Hence one expected Ganguly to continue this tradition, at least in the interest of the game and the fortunes of the national side. But, this was not to be, as signs of a rift between the two came into the open with Kohli announced his decision to step down from captaincy in the T20 format.
Ganguly told the media that skipper had done this despite him requesting Kohli to remain as captain, a claim that the latter contradicted openly. The net result was that the performance of the team plummeted and the side crashed out without reaching the last four stage of the ICC T20 World Cup of 2021.
Roger Binny, the new president of BCCI, is, in many ways, the very opposite of the person he replaced, in that he is a low-key but extremely hardworking and resourceful person. As Gavaskar once remarked, “Roger’s languid walk to the top of his bowling mark was disarmingly deceptive for he was a different person when he turned around and ran in to deliver the ball”.
Binny possessed an uncanny ability for bowling unplayable balls, as batsmen of the calibre of Zaheer Abbas and Allan Border discovered to their chagrin when they found their middle stumps uprooted. He was a key member of the World Cup-winning side of 1983 and took to coaching after his playing days. He also served a tenure as a national selector, besides working with Asia Cricket Council as a cricket development officer in the Middle East and South East Asia. Binny’s all-round acceptance could be gauged from the fact that he edged out two high-profile cricketers turned administrators- Brijesh Patel and Anil Kumble- hailing from the same state to come into the reckoning for the top post in BCCI. Binny observed that his priority will be to reduce the incidence of injury amongst top players, improve the facilities for spectators in stadia and have better pitches prepared in domestic cricket. One can be certain that his days as a player, coach and selector would have given him an insight into the genesis of each of these issues as well as how they need to be tackled to obtain the required results.
Ganguly has announced that he will be contesting for the post of President of the Cricket Association of Bengal, which indicates that one has not heard the last so far as his ambitions as a cricket administrator are concerned. It will be too early to write him off as he remains the cricketer who made one of the remarkable comebacks in the history of the game after being written off following a disastrous first tour. If Ganguly is to make a similar comeback as an administrator he will need to make substantive alterations in his style and approach to this job, in the same manner, he worked on his technique and temperament during the years between 1991 and 1996, when he was in the cricketing wilderness.
(The author is a former international cricket umpire and a senior bureaucrat)