A path-breaking step

Cricket

True Leader : The panel led by Anil Kumble has full support of Brijesh Patel, the incumbent secretary, in the KSCA polls.  DH photo / P samson victorThe entry into the electoral fray of the Karnataka State Cricket Association of such stalwarts as Anil Kumble and Javagal Srinath has, understandably, triggered nationwide interest.

Instead of sitting on the outside and taking pot-shots at the men who administer the game, two of Indian cricket’s brightest jewels have decided to try and make a difference from the inside. The next few hours will decide if they succeed in their first endeavour, which is to secure election to the state association; should they do so, huge challenges lie ahead of them in their bid to improve the standing of Karnataka as a cricket-playing, staging and administering entity.

Indian, indeed international, cricket isn’t devoid of examples of cricketers-turned-administrators. Closer home, the KSCA itself elected former Indian batsman Brijesh Patel to the secretary’s post in 1998, a post he occupied for a dozen years before choosing earlier this month to step aside and throw in his lot behind the Kumble-Srinath combine.
The Hyderabad Cricket Association is top-heavy with international cricketers.

The spin triumvirate of Arshad Ayub (president), Shivlal Yadav and Venkatapathi Raju (both vice-presidents) occupy three significant posts and has been in cricket administration for a fair while now, but that hasn’t been sufficient to prevent the continual decline of Hyderabad as a cricketing force.

While the HCA might provide the perfect example that very good cricketers need not necessarily make the best administrators, it must not be used as a template. Few men who have aspired to break in to the administrative set-up in the country are as towering personalities as Kumble and Srinath, of unimpeachable integrity and with nothing but the best interests of Karnataka cricket in mind.

That the former Indian skipper and the tearaway quick who gradually matured into a more controlled but no less venomous new-ball operator have chosen to fight their way into the KSCA is in itself indicative of their intentions.

A backdoor entry wasn’t impossible if the objective was to merely occupy the seats of power; by opting for the battle of the ballot, they have reiterated to the cricket-loving populace in the State and beyond that they don’t consider their foray into cricket administration a walk in the park, or indeed that they are in it for a lark.

Karnataka cricket has made some progress in the last few years, but it has a long way to traverse yet. The success of the administrators lies not only in how the State team performs – at various levels – in domestic competitions of all formats, across all age groups.

Their legacy must extend beyond mere on-field results; it should encompass the putting in place of a system that identifies and nurtures talent, that facilitates the improvement of infrastructure, that manages to rise above vote-bank politics and that is as immune to the inevitable pulls and pressures that go hand in glove with being in high-profile positions as is humanly possible.

Unlike the build-up to the elections three years back when charges and counter-charges flew with alarming regularity and no great grace, the last couple of weeks have witnessed a respectful face-off between the Kumble-spearheaded team and incumbent president Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wadiyar’s camp.

The last three years have witnessed massive differences of opinion within the KSCA, an inevitable fall-out of the vertical split effected by the mandate in 2007. It hasn’t all been doom and gloom, because notwithstanding an atmosphere of mistrust and apprehension, some amount of progress has been made.

Team Kumble’s pronouncement that more progress is required, at a quicker pace, and that they are equipped to provide that must be taken at face value simply because of where those words are emanating from. First as leg-spinner peerless, and then as captain courageous, Kumble wasn’t averse to getting his hands dirty.

He dug in for the hard yards, didn’t shy away from what others considered menial labour, but did it all with a courage and dignity that won over even his fiercest critics. As captain, he took tough decisions when he needed to, his remarkable handling of a potentially explosive situation in Australia in the immediacy of Monkeygate an outstanding diplomatic coup that amply illustrated both his leadership and man-management skills.

Kumble and Srinath don’t automatically deserve, or expect, to be elected solely because of their deeds on the field. Since the announcements of their candidature some 20 days back, they have spoken of their vision and aspirations for Karnataka cricket on various public platforms without decrying or demeaning their electoral foes.

Whether they have convinced the men who matter, those empowered to vote in Sunday’s much anticipated polls, of their seriousness and commitment to the betterment of Karnataka cricket – and all else associated with it – will alone decide if Kumble becomes the next president of the KSCA, and Srinath the new secretary.

If they do, it could herald the dawn of a new era, and that’s not with any disrespect to the past; if they don’t, they can at least take solace in the knowledge that they gave it their best shot.

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