There are early signs of cricketâs supreme body changing for the better
The Indian cricket team has always been a bad traveller. Not merely because of our results overseas â and these have admittedly improved sharply in the last decade or so â but also by the manner of those results. On many tours, we start very badly, often losing the first Test or just escaping narrowly to a draw. This invariably happens in countries where the playing conditions are very different from ours.
To find examples, look no further than England. When we went there in 2002, it turned out to be in many ways our breakthrough overseas series. Virendra Sehwag established himself as an opening batsman and the team registered a fine innings victory on a dodgy Headingley pitch. But the series ended in a draw because we meekly lost the first Test at Lords by 170 runs. The highlight of the Test was â believe it or not â Ajit Agarkar scoring a century in the lost cause. In 2007, we won a Test series in England after 21 years. But, guess what, we saved the first Test at Lords primarily because captain MS Dhoni, plumb LBW, was not given out and he took us to safety in bad light.
Much of the bad-first-Test affliction has to do with lack of preparation. We do not land in time to play enough side matches as preparation and acclimatisation. So it came as a pleasant surprise that Board for Cricket Control in India (BCCI) has approved the Indian team managementâs request to send a group of Test players early to South Africa to get "acclimatised" to the conditions, though there will still be no practice games before the three-Test series starts on December 16.
Is this the sign of a new BCCI emerging? Before you think that Umpireâs Post is as usual jumping to conclusions, spare a thought for the way the Board is cleaning up the Indian Premier League. There can be endless questions about the sacking of Rajasthan and Punjab franchises and putting Kochi on notice, but there is no doubt that this exercise will exorcise the league of the "Friends Club" character it had acquired.
There had indeed been allegations of a lack of transparency in the ownership of the two sacked franchises and the third has been making news for all the wrong reasons, resulting in a central minister being booted out and the self-styled IPL commissioner becoming, primarily, a Twitter citizen.
The next logical step, if logic has indeed come to stay at BCCI, will be to address the doubts over the role of N Srinivasan. He is the president-elect of the board and will take charge in a year. Srinivasan is a high-ranking official of the Board, and therefore in a position to influence critical IPL decisions. But then he is also the owner of the Chennai franchise.
A case is open before the Supreme Court about this seeming conflict of interest. The court has already made some harsh comments, but both the Board and Srinivasan are sticking to their guns. Some day, when BCCI truly becomes above board, it will not leave such matters to court.