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World’s richest cricket board has opened itself to ridicule because of a schoolboy error

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In scheduling this season’s unprecedented number of domestic matches, BCCI forgot how few umpires it had. Now, players will have to bear the brunt.

Bengaluru: When the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) announced that the 2018-19 domestic season would be its busiest ever with more than 2,000 matches played across the length and breadth of the country, cheers rang out. After all, what better way to promote the game than allowing boys, girls, men and women to play as much as they possibly can?

But, at the same time, some veterans in the BCCI organisational structure, especially those who had spent years running tournaments of this kind, raised a note of caution. The simple question was: Did the BCCI have the logistics and infrastructure in place to deal with such a vastly increased workload?

The answer has come quite early into the season, and it is unequivocally damaging: Matches in different parts, to be played in December, have been pushed back because of a lack of umpires.

Sounds like a joke? Well, it’s not funny to the people who will be affected.

Saba Karim, the former India and Bengal cricketer and the BCCI’s general manager, cricket operations, sent a note Wednesday to all state associations, announcing the postponement of three sets of fixtures.

The Cooch Behar Trophy third-round matches, scheduled to be played between 17 and 20 December, have been pushed back to 21-24 January. The start of the Cooch Behar knockouts was moved from 29 January to 18 February; the senior women’s one-day knockout matches will now be played from 26 to 31 December instead of the 24th to 29th.

Also read: Sourav Ganguly slams CoA over handling of BCCI CEO Rahul Johri’s sexual harassment cases

The problem with shifting Cooch Behar matches

The third will cause the least disturbance, but the shifting of the Cooch Behar matches will cause major disruptions in multiple ways.

Firstly, such games are the ones state associations have least interest in hosting, as they are loss leaders. There is no television coverage of these matches, so no TV revenues come in, and there are certainly no crowds, so no gate revenues or a chance to monetise at the stadium through advertising, catering or any other means.

What’s more, the Cooch Behar Trophy is the national Under-19 tournament, which means that participants are also enrolled in school or college. To shift dates in this manner without any regard for when examinations might be taking place leaves these players, and their parents, with a choice they should not have to make: Having to forego either the chance to stake a claim in cricket or a year in the education process.

It was predicted

What makes the latest instance of bungling especially galling is that it was predicted and avoidable.

“When the fixtures were announced, it was pointed out to the Committee of Administrators and those running logistics that there were days when 50 simultaneous matches were scheduled, while the BCCI had only 91 qualified umpires to adjudicate these games,” said a BCCI insider.

“Then the number was hastily raised to 100, and some 10 reserves were also kept in play, but you cannot work on the assumption that everyone will be available at any given point of time.”

And this is exactly the scenario that has forced the schedule to be revised. In his letter, Karim says: “In view of the unavailability of umpires during the month of December 2018, the following matches have been rescheduled as below.”

After detailing the matches that are to be shifted, Karim adds: “You are requested to make logistic arrangements accordingly.”

Also read: CoA split on Rahul Johri sexual harassment charges shows Vinod Rai has dropped the ball

A laughing stock

Now, this is not a case of rescheduling a meeting between five officials of the board or its employees, which can normally be done without much disruption to any of the parties involved. In the case of hosting matches, things to consider include the availability of grounds, the organisation of accommodation for teams and officials, inter-city and local transport — and these are just the obvious things.

For an experienced person such as Karim not to realise the impact these changes will have — especially when the dangers had been highlighted well in advance — is bordering on negligence.

The year is 2018, and Indian cricket is in danger of becoming a laughing stock, and why? Because the richest cricket board in the world did not take into account the number of umpires it would need to host the matches it had scheduled.

As with so many other issues, however, it will be the state associations who feel the pinch, while those calling the shots from their un-elected positions, from the CoA to the GM cricket operations will bumble merrily on from one crisis to another — unscathed, unfazed and untouched by reality.

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  1. The vulgarity of money, the hateful kingly behavior of very average men associated with Indian cricket have come to public attention in the past. Each of these deserve to be cut to size. There was that man V. Srinivasan, then that fraud Lalit Modi, and there may be many more. There are tens of thousands of crores sloshing in their kitty while young men and women of exceptional merit in other sports are begging for even humble employment to be able to feed themselves and their starving families.

    All this must end abruptly and with the drop of a hammer. The ENTIRE funds of BCCI should be consigned to a to-be newly created NATIONAL SPORTS FUND. The resources of the fund should be judiciously distributed among sports personnel and maintenance and development of sports facilities by a team of PROFESSIONAL ADMINISTRATORS comprising IAS officers and past players. The IAS officers should be transferred every three years as in their other postings. CCI, the Cricket Club of India where elites of the society gather to swill drinks SHOULD HAVE NO CONTROL on the destinies of young Indians who dedicate their lives to Sports.

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