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Kanga League became a farce: MCA chief

Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA) president Ravi Savant now copes with the extra responsibility of being Honorary Treasurer of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) after Ajay Shirke resigned in the wake of IPL spot fixing scandal.

Ravi Savant
MCA president Ravi Savant. Pic/Atul Kamble

But it is Mumbai cricket that occupies a large portion of his mind space. Savant, a chartered accountant by profession, has completed a year as MCA president, a post he was voted into after the death of Vilasrao Deshmukh last year.

Savant opened up to SUNDAY MiD DAY about his ambitious tournament-restructuring project, the controversy surrounding the delay in holding the biennial elections and legal issues caused by the banning of former vice-president Prof Ratnakar Shetty.

Excerpts:

How would you sum up your year as MCA chief?
I have mixed feelings. I never expected to get this post so suddenly and in this manner. I had the experience of handling day-to-day activities of the MCA, as Mr (Sharad) Pawar always left it to us. The only difference is that I do not have to wait for approvals. Firstly, the rules of the Association were originally drafted in 1930 on the basis of the spirit of the game played then and the charity of member clubs. But with money coming into game and with the changed attitude of players and club secretaries towards the Association, there were many amendments needed. My plan was to have an exhaustive constitution where we have answers to all possible situations. After working hard, the constitution is ready. When approved and adopted, the working of the Association will be much easier. The other big challenge was to change the mindset of members and to get them work voluntarily for the Association like in past. It is not the same now where members would devote all their time for the Association.  We are struggling to find real good bowlers as well as the cricket season invariably ended in June with inconsequential matches and tournaments. The entire structure needed a new look. So, all this work took most of my time. It was also important to bring a healthy atmosphere back in the MCA which is a premier Association in India.

Why was there a need to restructure tournaments?
Mumbai does not have quality bowling strength after Ajit Agarkar and Dhawal Kulkarni. There was also a mismatch in a number of tournaments, the time and number of grounds available. There was also a need for an advance planning. I have already given an exhaustive presentation to press and members. Senior cricketers like Madhav Mantri, Madhav Apte and Nari Contractor were present and all of them appreciated the change for the benefit of Mumbai cricket. The new structure will give every player equal opportunity and surely unearth talent. It took a lot time, as initially, there was resistance from respective tournament secretaries and ground holders. It requires a change of mindset.

Dr HD Kanga Cricket League
A fielder holds on to a chance in a Young Friends vs Shivaji Park Gymkhana clash during last year’s edition of the Dr HD Kanga Cricket League

The Kanga League is virtually scrapped after pulling out the monsoon flavour…
I do not think so. Not a single present player has made any complaint. We must understand that the monsoon league was started to get used to playing on wet wickets as those days wickets were not covered all over the world, particularly in England. Cricket is not played on wet wickets now. There was time when all international and first-class players were available to play in the Kanga League. Now, those players are not available. The youngsters used to get a chance to rub shoulders with some greats of Indian cricket. All this is absent now. Plus, due to poor drainage conditions, matches are invariably washed out and quite often there are no results. In short, there is no initiative to play matches in the rains. There are other factors like attitude of players and umpires etc.

But isn’t that an administrative issue?
No, I do not think so, because your season ends in June and there is no time for maintenance of grounds. Considering all factors, the Kanga league became a farce. There were no results as the mandatory number of matches was never possible due to ground conditions. Last year, we somehow managed to get a result by completing the mandatory number of five matches. It was becoming a mere formality. Now, we can start our season from September — get a good start before we compete for the national competition.

There is still no clarity about the tournament schedule which is due to start in September…
We have a managing committee meeting on Monday, which will approve the calendar formally. The schedule will be published immediately. The tournaments will start on schedule. No doubt, there will be teething problems initially, but if we are clear in our vision, there should not be any problems.

There are various theories doing the rounds for the delay in holding elections. For example, you are trying to keep Sharad Pawar away from the BCCI by having the elections after the BCCI polls in September…
This is absolutely false and motivated. In February, I had proposed to hold elections in April 2013 as per rules. But the managing committee members felt that we should not hold elections during that time as it coincided with the Indian Premier League (April and May). We had to hold the prize distribution function which was not held for the last five years. The spot fixing scandal broke out which rocked the entire cricket community — one of our players was allegedly involved. Then I was appointed as BCCI treasurer. I was appointed with a special responsibility to take charge and complete the accounts of BCCI on time. There is a deadline of September 30 in my office for my professional work like audits and filing of tax returns. As regards to Mr Pawar, when I met him after I was elected as MCA president after the sudden demise of Shri Vilasrao Deshmukh, he made it clear that he would like to come back to MCA as he wants to develop few more grounds in suburbs. Even in the wildest of imagination, there is no question of denying him a place in MCA, as his contribution has been immense. But he never said that he wants come back in MCA to be able to go to BCCI. You can also see that he has changed his address just recently. In fact, I had also proposed to him to hold the elections on September 6. He clearly said, ‘you people decide and tell me.’ He has no issues.

Theory No 2: You are delaying the elections because of your proposed new tournament structure:
To some extent, this is correct. We have worked very hard on this idea. It is important that we make it possible. If this committee is not around, the new tournament structure may never see the light of day. An eminent former Test cricketer recently criticised the idea of restructuring Kanga League (in an interview to MiD DAY), with out even trying to understand by reading the details on the MCA website or discussing the same personally. Then, other former cricketers toed his line blindly. Such things have made me more determined. And interestingly, he is a likely candidate for the president’s post of MCA.

Ratnakar Shetty
Prof Ratnakar Shetty

Theory No 3: The elections delay is because of Prof Ratnkar Shetty’s court case…
In fact, he has accused us of banning him for five years because the committee don’t want him to contest the forthcoming elections. He approached the fast track court. Therefore, we are advised not to declare elections till the case is finalised.

The five-year ban and recent amendment in election by-laws are being viewed as an attempt to get back at Prof Shetty...
This is not correct. You all know that I have won the presidency elections. I have been appointed as the Treasurer of BCCI on my credibility. Why would I have any grudge against him or anybody? I have always been a content man. Otherwise, I would have been in the BCCI in 1993 itself when I was first made an offer. As regards to the amendment in election by-laws, this is not a new thing and specifically designed against any individual. You can check that a similar amendment was made in June 2011 where we had disqualified all employees of MCA (to contest Association’s elections), to which Prof Shetty was part of as an office-bearer of the MCA. This time, we believed that even a BCCI employee should not be eligible due to conflict of interest as they are occupying office of profit as an employee. This amendment was even proposed by the constitution committee in April 2013 and is to be incorporated as a rule in the MCA constitution. Since the Special General Meeting has not been held, this amendment is not yet approved.

Will you stand for MCA and BCCI elections?
If Mr Sharad Pawar stands for the (MCA) president’s post, then I may have to come in for some other post. Yes, I will stand for BCCI election for the same post (treasurer). 

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