It’s surprising that the Mumbai Cricket Association had to turn to a 78-year-old man to head their Cricket Improvement Committee.
There’s a presence of irony too. They picked the man who did not wear that lion-crested Mumbai cap in domestic cricket, but played for neighbouring Gujarat.
Yet, Nari Contractor’s appointment as chief of the critical committee is one to be welcomed and must be viewed with less cynicism.
It is extraordinary, and the MCA must be credited here, that they approached someone who has a no-nonsense approach to whatever he does. Cricket administrators don’t always choose someone who they know will not toe their line. “Yes sir, yes sir, three bags full,” is sweet music to their ears.
But it appears that the pillars of the association want to get things right and they went to the right man.
Contractor has a history. This is not in reference to his skull fracture in the West Indies courtesy a Charlie Griffith delivery in an Indians vs Barbados game in 1962. Nor am I talking about his captaincy stint for India.
Mumbai cricket will do well to remember that it was he who chose former England fast bowler Frank Tyson to spearhead the BCA-Mafatlal Bowling Scheme in the early 1990s.
His ears were filled with recommendations in England where he went to chose Mr Right for the scheme, but he didn’t get floored by big names and coaching reputations.
Sure, Tyson didn’t let any fast bowling talent go waste during his camps through his commendable work ethic, but Contractor chose well.
From 1986-87 to 1992-93 Mumbai couldn’t get their hands on the Ranji Trophy, but in 1993-94 under Ravi Shastri, they succeeded and Tyson’s wards played a part in it. Eight Ranji titles came after that jinx-breaking season.
Mumbai cricket is still reaping the benefits of that scheme which ended due to shortage of grounds. This is shocking, sad and sick.
Wonder whether Contractor believes a scheme like that would help Mumbai cricket again, but it will need someone as good and committed as him to pull it off.
In the same Cricket Improvement Committee, he has Balwinder Singh Sandhu, whose expertise is only too well known. Not to forget the beneficiaries of the scheme — Abey Kuruvilla, Paras Mhambrey, Sairaj Bahutule, Nilesh Kulkarni and Salil Ankola, who would spare no sweat in giving back to the game. Makarand Waingankar, who did a fine job as the scheme’s chief co-ordinator still has the will and spirit to make a difference. Indeed, Contractor has the forces to reconstruct an edifice.
I have been fortunate to observe from close quarters how Contractor goes about his work ever since I started meeting him in his cabin at Mafatlal Centre in the late 1980s.
Long after, he did his bit for the BCA Mafatlal Bowling Scheme, he was on the MiD DAY Race for Pace (a talent hunt scheme) advisory board. At our first meeting, I noticed that Contractor made notes of every minute detail what was discussed. He put across his views kindly yet emphatically and when a fellow cricketer suggested that they should also look for bowlers with the ability to swing the ball, Contractor was quick to remind him that the programme was all about pace and nothing else.
True to his duties as an advisory board member, Contractor was on the field too.
A systematic process will not be enough to dot the I’s and cross the T’s in Mumbai cricket. He will have to understand and embrace the problems in the system. That will be his biggest challenge.
Mumbai cricket is fractured. It needs a repair job to get back on its feet again just like Contractor did — playing first class cricket after he that blow in the West Indies.
Clayton Murzello is MiD DAY’s Group Sports Editor