Clayton Murzello Column: No conflict, only interest in a museum

Much talk from the Board of Control for Cricket in India’s (BCCI) new dispensation centres around talk of conflict of interest and how the organisation is working towards enhancing its image.

But is the Shashank Manohar-led BCCI genuinely looking at other aspects to delight each and every cricket follower in the country?

Last week, a national newspaper reported that the BCCI’s Museum Committee, formed last March, has been scrapped. Ravi Savant, the former Mumbai Cricket Association president who headed that large, 18-member panel, told me on Tuesday that he sent key members of the then Jagmohan Dalmiya-headed BCCI for meetings to be organised, but got no reply.

A selection of cricket bats signed by the best players in the world on display at the Shyam Bhatia Cricket Museum in Dubai on June 10, 2014. Pic/Getty Images
A selection of cricket bats signed by the best players in the world on display at the Shyam Bhatia Cricket Museum in Dubai on June 10, 2014. Pic/Getty Images

Doubtless, Savant was disappointed to hear that the committee no longer exists. He spoke of some fine plans that included stretching the visual delights to interactive ways of looking at Indian cricket history just like the International Cricket Hall of Fame in Bowral, Australia. Savant liked what he saw at the Lord’s Cricket Ground and Western Australia Cricket Association museums.

Savant is not alone in his concern that today’s young cricketers are not inclined towards history, and generally ignorant about cricketing greats. That batting legend Sunil Gavaskar, to some kids, is only known as a current television commentator and not for his gigantic batting feats is sad, but true.

The late Raj Singh Dungarpur was probably the first Board chief (1996 to 1999) to show interest in developing a museum. The view back then was ‘if anyone can do it, only Raj Singh can’. That view was right and the BCCI would do well to prove their critics wrong.

Nandini Sardesai, wife of the late India batsman Dilip, recalls parting with her husband’s India blazer, cap and the lion-crested Mumbai cap for the proposed museum and now wonders where they are.

The last time I heard some work was in progress for a museum was in August 2011. I received a call from a museum committee member asking for a list of items that could be procured from past and present cricketers. The official couldn’t wait to receive my list because there was a committee meeting coming up shortly the following month. That was the last communication I had with him on the subject.

Savant emphasised that the right kind of people should be chosen to drive the museum. Firstly, the BCCI has to form a committee and set aside a budget. That will indicate determination and will to give back something to cricket lovers. I am not sure whether they would want to form a panel because president Manohar appears hell-bent on having a minimum number of committees.

If at all the committee is formed, it need not comprise only current cricket officials from state associations. The first man I would have on the panel is PR Man Singh, the manager of the 1983 and 1987 India World Cup teams because he knows what it takes to build a museum. He has one himself at his Hyderabad residence. At the risk of sounding presumptuous, Man Singh would even part with some of his treasures to enrich the BCCI museum, and so would several cricket lovers, if they get credit on the plates describing each item in the showcase.

Cricket writer and historian Gulu Ezekiel is another whose services could be used. Ezekiel is passionate, sensitive and an authority when it comes to collectibles. Chennai-based JK Mahendra is another passionate collector who has helped several state associations honour their greats with paintings and photographs placed on walls.

The BCCI may be filled with capable administrators, but not many of them actually want to reach out to the cricket fan. There is more to cricket administration than to organise tournaments and ensure smooth running of matches at every level. The paying spectator deserves to be part of the mix and until the BCCI succeeds in doing that, their finance-fuelled power in world cricket counts for very little.

A cricket buff visiting the museum would love to see the ball with which Harbhajan Singh claimed India’s first Test hat-trick, but he can’t because the late Tony Greig successfully bid (Rs 55,000) for that ball in a charity auction in 2003. Like that 2001 Kolkata Test ball, a lot of Indian collectibles are abroad and it is unlikely they will be brought back, but there’s still a great deal of treasures here. They must be got and that won’t happen if the BCCI expects former players to come and hand over their ‘wealth’. Memorabilia-collecting is never easy. There are phone calls to be made, people to be cajoled and above all — sorry, Tina Turner — love’s got everything to do with it.

mid-day’s group sports editor Clayton Murzello is a purist with an open stance. He tweets @ClaytonMurzello. Send your feedback to mailbag@mid-day.com

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