On June 1, 2015, the “Big Three” of Indian cricket came together in a move which had the potential to completely change the game in the country.
“The president of the BCCI, Mr Jagmohan Dalmiya, has nominated Mr Sachin Tendulkar, Mr Sourav Ganguly and Mr VVS Laxman as esteemed members of the Cricket Advisory Committee of the BCCI, with immediate effect,” were the first lines of that press release.
“Areas of immediate focus will be to provide guidance to our national team as we set out to enhance our performance on overseas engagements, provide direction to improve our talent pathway and take steps to strengthen domestic cricket to better prepare our players to handle the rigours of international cricket.”
“Legends” is a word that is thrown around loosely in cricket nowadays but no one could dispute its usage this time around. Together, the three of them have played 1308 international matches. Sourav Ganguly is widely considered among the greatest captains of Indian cricket, Sachin Tendulkar is perhaps the best cricketer to have ever played the game and VVS Laxman is an artist extraordinaire of the sort never seen before.
An unqualified failure
So when you have the combined wisdom of legends of this stature, there was an expectation that Indian cricket was in the very best of hands possible. A real belief that from an earlier era of skull-duggery, the Board of Control for Cricket in India would witness the dawn of a new era of professionalism. An era, where Indian cricket would finally be restructured from the bottom-up, that processes would be put in place and it would ultimately benefit in an administration of high excellence.
Five days after they were appointed, they had their first meeting and gave an initial set of recommendations. They suggested that a 30-strong pool of bowlers – 15 pace bowlers and 15 spinners – be identified and monitored over a four-year cycle. They also suggested that the number of India A tours be increased and proposed restructuring the National Cricket Academy into a High Performance Centre.
And then they waded into the cesspool which has been the Indian coaching position and never came out of it.
Where do we start? Ravi Shastri as team performance director or not? Anil Kumble or not? Virat Kohli or Kumble? Virender Sehwag or Shastri? Or Tom Moody? Batting coaches, bowing coaches, batting consultant, bowling consultant...the list is long and painful and hardly ever seems to stop.
The letter sent by the committee to the COA is quite unique for its tone and tenor. The CAC lashed out at suggestions that it had “exceeded its ambit” in the appointments of Dravid and Khan, fiercely defending themselves by saying that they had put “their heart and soul into the process” and were “pained and disappointed” to see the light in which they were portrayed in the media.
They finished the letter with the following: “The three of us have played our cricket with great integrity and we have brought this trait in fulfilling this important responsibility bestowed upon us by the BCCI”.
Fine words. Lofty ideals. But what have the CAC really done and is that all three of Indian cricket’s biggest legends have to offer?
What has the CAC really done?
First up, what is the end result? In the last two years, whenever the name of the CAC has come up, it’s only and always when something about appointing a new coach has come up. After their appointment and amid much rumour and speculation, they decided to continue with Ravi Shastri as team director in 2015. One year later, they went on another coach hunt, Ganguly had a very public spat with Shastri and then chose to go with Anil Kumble. Now, in 2017, they somehow remained blissfully unaware of the Kohli-Kumble rift, even as it rapidly unfolded. When faced with the task of choosing the coach again, they went and selected Shastri and complicated it even further by exceeding their briefs and appointing consultants for the head coach.
Ultimately, it’s not wrong to say that the only thing these “esteemed” members, as CAC appointees, did was appointing India’s coach and coaching staff. They had only one job and they messed it up spectacularly.
And in that case, you also have to question why they are given such an important job in the first place, when they have failed repeatedly at doing it? Of course, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman are all certified legends but just like in a cricket team, reputation can only do this much. There must be results and in the case of the CAC, the only result visible has been this entire coaching fiasco.
An argument can be made that there is work being done and much of it is not visible. Fine. But where is the effect of it? There is no record of how many meetings the committee has held, except when it comes to appointing a coach. No other recommendations have come from them (at least the BCCI hasn’t announced them) other than the ones in June 2015. In individual capacities, they have all been involved in various other activities.
The state of affairs has become so bad that it can be construed as a joke – one that will not leave you laughing. And amidst all the wrangling between the Committee of Administrators and the BCCI, it’s perhaps time to lay the blame at the door of who is responsible: the CAC.
But, will anyone dare to question the legends?