Make it more fantastic, BCCI
As BCCI begins a new chapter, the need to make life more comfortable for the paying spectator cannot be ignored anymore
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has turned a new leaf. At least, that's what we are made to believe after the Supreme Court-appointed Committee of Administrators (CoA) happily retired to the pavilion post their 33-month stint at the crease, which you and me now know was extremely rewarding from a financial point of view.
It is churlish to grudge anyone's wage, but the Rs 3.7 crore which Vinod Rai and Diana Edulji will soon receive for their services, has become a talking point among the cricketing fraternity. Some from that group feel that if the Board can part with so much money (as cleared by the Supreme Court, it must be stressed) then surely they could do more for retired players and umpires.
A retired Test player can avail no more than Rs five lakh as hospitalisation fees. And while the BCCI should be credited for being mindful of their players' welfare, many aged cricketers feel they need to be helped when their treatment does not involve hospitalisation as well. A few retired umpires feel that their Rs 22,500 monthly pension ought to have been raised while the CoA was calling the shots. And former Test stumper Farokh Engineer has a bone to pick with the CoA for not honouring him with the CK Nayudu Lifetime Achievement Award. "I'm very hurt over the fact that I continue to be ignored for this award which I certainly deserve for my contribution to Indian cricket. I also served world cricket and took great pride as an Indian to represent two Rest of the World teams (in 1970 and 1971-72). I live abroad, but I am absolutely desi by heart," Engineer reiterated yesterday.
The new BCCI team under Sourav Ganguly ought to at least discuss these sore points. Ganguly has already promised to do more for first-class cricketers and the CoA has been honest enough to admit that they couldn't complete the work undertaken to improve the lot of the domestic toilers, so progress is imminent.
If there is one aspect that the BCCI should work on a war footing it is spectator convenience. The parent body cannot just throw the ball in the court of the state associations who host the matches and sanctions must be imposed by the BCCI on their affiliates who are found wanting on facilities for spectators and media. The recently concluded India v South Africa Test at Ranchi provided a few examples of sloppy administration.
Dr Saurabh Phadnis, a London-based gynaecologist and gynaecological oncological surgeon was in India for the series along with a friend. Tickets for the Visakhapatnam and Pune Tests were released online only a week before the games commenced and at Ranchi, they had to queue up for tickets on each of the four days.
In a message to me, Dr Phadnis said: "I would be grateful if you could urge the higher authorities in the BCCI to encourage travellers from overseas to come and support India in Test cricket and visit our beautiful country. Not enough has been done in this respect. There are many in UK who want to visit India and watch cricket. Indeed, cricket tourism particularly for Test cricket will increase spectators in stadiums."
There is no reason to disbelieve Dr Phadnis when he talks about cricket fans wanting to visit India for Test matches and it bodes well with Virat Kohli's call for just five Test centres which entails the major cities. India is not big on cricket tour packages and that must change what with the team consisting of the biggest names in world cricket.
It is very rare that spectators come home raving about the facilities dished out at Indian grounds. Cricket enthusiast Nikhil Jha recently wrote a piece for ESPN Cricinfo where he stated that obtaining tickets for the game proved to be a, "scavenger hunt." Jha and his cricket companion discovered through a banner at Ranchi airport that spectators could book tickets online, but to their dismay, the partner site had no tickets listed. When they went to the counter at the stadium, they were told that tickets for their preferred stand would be available only at 7 am on the opening day of the Test. When they landed at 7 am, they were told that the counter would open an hour later. Their woes did not end there, because like Dr Phadnis, they could not buy tickets for the entire duration of the game; only daily tickets.
I remember the late Keith Anderson, a London-based West Indian cricket fan, telling me that he was shocked to enter a washroom in one of the venues during the 2006 Champions Trophy lacking basic needs leave alone toilet paper.
Pune, which was notorious for its poor media facilities at the Nehru Stadium (my lunch coupon while covering a match in the mid-1990s was a piece of paper torn from a player registration form), provides very little shelter for spectators at the Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium.
And Eden Gardens, whose match atmosphere is often compared to the Melbourne Cricket Ground in Australia, has no lift for journalists who are forced to climb almost five floors since the press enclosure is above the upper tier of the clubhouse.
The BCCI has a mountain to climb. The steps are steep and while cricket still remains a 22-yard strip game, there are hard yards to be done. Ganguly will soon discover whether that is as easy as piercing the off-side which he did with elegance and élan.
mid-day's group sports editor Clayton Murzello is a purist with an open stance. He tweets @ClaytonMurzello Send your feedback to email@example.com
The views expressed in this column are the individual's and don't represent those of the paper
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