Friday, July 15, 2011

Good Vilasrao Deshmukh is Mumbai Cricket Association President

As if his reputation in politics wasn’t enough. As if his involvement in the Adarsh scam wasn’t enough. Vilasrao Deshmukh is now chancing his hand at cricket. What he will bring to the table apart from plain old politics is something I cannot imagine. Perhaps the same thing that his son brought to films.....absolutely nothing except a lot of inane cacophony. But then why should we be surprised by his election. Cricket in this country has been ruled by politicians for long.

Let’s look at two off the biggest cricket associations in the country.....

The Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA) is arguably the biggest of all the cricket associations in the country. The President of MCA from 1992 to 2001 was Manohar Joshi of the Shiv Sena. Both before and after Manohar Joshi, the MCA has had political leaders at the helm of affairs. The legendary SK Wankhede himself was a politician of some repute in Maharashtra including being the Speaker of the Maharashtra Assembly for many years. Wankhede was concurrently the President of MCA for 25 years from 1962 to 1987. After Manohar Joshi of course was the famous (or ill....) Sharad Pawar who’s been President of MCA since 2005. And now of course, there’s Vilasrao Deshmukh.

The Delhi District Cricket Association is no different. Its President is Arun Jaitley, a lawyer and politician.

The BCCI of course is the parent body for all of cricket in India. Both the MCA and the DDCA are affiliated to BCCI and are its members. The BCCI is the most powerful and the richest of all cricket bodies in the world. The story of BCCI’s leadership is well known but it is worth recounting. Some of the biggest and richest politicians of India have been its Presidents. The list of luminaries (err....) includes Sharad Pawar, Ranbir Singh Mahendra (Haryana), Madhavrao Scindia, NKP Salve and as mentioned earlier SK Wankhede.

Clearly, cricket is one sport which has been ruled continuously by politicians Throw in a few corporate honchos and lawyers, and that pretty much completes the business side of this sports. And once in a while (and only once in a while), a cricketer has made it to the higher echelons of the cricket administration in the country. So when Vengsarkar lost the MCA elections yesterday, it should have come as no surprise to him himself. After all, the MCA elections are held in the way and manner in which any political elections are held. There are 368 clubs that are affiliated to the MCA and these clubs are the ones that vote for the President. It is not surprising that much of these clubs are controlled by politicians themselves. And when the likes of Sharad Pawar and Vilasrao Deshmukh get together, what can poor cricketers do.

The question is not about why cricketers don’t run the cricket administration in this country. After all, cricket is a big enterprise and it needs professional managers to run it. Most cricketers would be very good at the game but can be expected to poor at management (of course there are exceptions). So, I am quite happy if cricketers don’t run their administration themselves. The question to ask really is why politicians should run the cricket business.

Clearly, and there is no rocket science here, cricket is loaded with money and it acts as a pot of honey for politicians of all hues and color. The revenues of BCCI run into thousands of crores. That aside, the kind of clout that cricket leadership provides to a politician is qualitatively huge. It’s this combination of money and power that draws the politicians in. But do politicians really have the skills required to run the administration? To organize cricket tournaments, set up management teams, spot talent, build stadiums and in general foster the growth of cricket? Most of them have their hands full in several honey pots at the same time; so how can they possibly find time to do justice to the game?

I am very comfortable with the corporate types running cricket. After all, they have experience in attracting good and large management teams and running several companies at the same time. Usually, corporate head honchos tend to be cleaner (less corrupt) since they are financially well endowed in any case. And they don’t need to fight elections – so they don’t need to be corrupt themselves. And by and large, corporates are not criminally inclined.....and we do know a hell of a lot of politicians are. So if anyone has to run the cricket administration in the country, it should be the corporates and not the politicians.

Coming back to Vilasrao Deshmukh, I have very fact none at all.....good things to say about him. Yes, he is an extremely important politician for the Congress. He is one of the moneybags from Maharashtra. But as CM of Maharashtra for nearly 8 years, he did absolutely nothing for the state. Much of the urban decay that one sees in Mumbai can be attributated to inaction during his time as CM in Maharashtra. As Central minister of Rural Development, he had to be shifted out in the recent cabinet re-shuffle. I have been arguing for long that he should have been removed from the cabinet, rather than just shifted to a new ministry. What credentials does Vilasrao Deshmukh have to be the President of MCA? And it’s worth asking: What attracts him to this job anyways? Isn’t it the same things that attract all politicians? Money and Power? At a time, when his ship is sinking at both the state and central levels, what better leverage could he ask for than being the President of the MCA?

The real truth is that while cricket in India has prospered (monetarily and in global stature); it has a lot to hide in terms of the way the game is administered. Every few years, there are controversies that emerge from within its ranks. The recent Lalit Modi related ones, the ones related to Jagmohan Dalmiya....are all fresh in our minds. It doesn’t seem to matter now....but at some time in the future, the poor quality of administrators will start to hurt the game. At present, it is the money power provided by the TV channels and the sponsors that is helping conceal the infirmities. But if and when there is a slowdown, the cracks will start to show. I think there is an urgent need to protect cricket in this country. But to do that, we need to protect the clubs from the political administrators.....

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