Two few in Mumbai cricket polls

Updated: Oct 03, 2019, 08:00 IST | Clayton Murzello | Mumbai

MCA has produced the most number of first-class players, but only a couple of them are contesting Friday's elections, which is nothing short of stunning

Amit Dani is the only former Mumbai Ranji Trophy player contesting the MCA polls apart from Ravi Thakkar (inset). File pic
Amit Dani is the only former Mumbai Ranji Trophy player contesting the MCA polls apart from Ravi Thakkar (inset). File pic

Clayton MurzelloThese are the best of times for former cricketers to have a say in the administration of the game in their respective state associations. But when it comes to Mumbai cricket, which no association can match when it comes to the sheer number of international players produced (73 including deceased cricketers), the feeble number of first-class players contesting the elections is stunning.

Only two — esrtwhile left-arm spinner Ravi Thakkar and all-rounder Amit Dani — have thrown their hat in for a place on the managing committee. Dilip Vengsarkar who performed several roles in Mumbai cricket save the fact that he was never voted to be president of his association, was spot on when he expressed displeasure at the stature of some of the candidates.

All elections don't need to be high profile but if people are going to guide the fortunes of the premier cricket association in the country, they must be armed with interest in cricket administration over a good period of time.

An ex-Mumbai captain told to me how he had made a suggestion to a powerful former MCA president that the constitution should be amended to rule out people — politicians included — who suddenly want to get into cricket administration. "Anyone desiring to became an administrator must attend at least two MCA Annual General Meetings," the cricketer told the president. A positive result of that suggestion has not seen the light of day and it shouldn't be surprising that the current list of candidates is punctuated with 'debutants'.

Entry of politicians shouldn't be viewed with total cynicism, though. To some extent, an association requires people with clout. But waking up one day, realising the amount of mileage and fame cricket administration can provide and then entering the fray does not exactly paint a picture of genuine interest for the all right reasons.

The 2019 MCA elections could well be called the polls of the unknowns. The Lodha Committee recommendations ensured a lot of veterans stood disqualified and that could be the reason for so many new faces. Yet, there should have been more than just two former first-class cricketers contesting the polls. That not one international player from Mumbai is keen on putting his neck on the line and challenge the non-players means there is something wrong in Mumbai cricket. Are players made to feel unwelcome? Have they given up on the association? Do they just don't care anymore? Or was the time too short to make a decision to contest? Take your pick.

Recalling some MCA elections, what stood out then were the big names who were part of the polls. Those were pre-Conflict of Interest days, so Sandeep Patil could stand for a place on the managing committee in the 1996 elections even though he was coaching the senior Indian team. Patil won despite not being around to campaign. Vengsarkar was making his elections debut, hoping to be elected as one of the two vice-presidents at a time when he was chief selector of the Mumbai Ranji Trophy team as well as part of the association's ad-hoc committee.

Ajit Wadekar, who had quit as coach of Mohammed Azharuddin's team after the 1996 World Cup, was in the fray as a vice-president candidate, backed by the Manohar Joshi group. Wadekar was wily in most matters; winning over the voters, too. But as a manager of a maidan club then, I tried hard to ward off my cynicism when he uttered these words in the build-up to the elections: "I don't think we have good rapport with the maidan clubs which have produced some great players for Mumbai. We think of them only at the time of elections. The maidans are in shambles and something has to be done to improve conditions."

Other Test cricketers in the fray that year were Ramakant Desai, Sudhir Naik, Suru Nayak, the late international umpire Dara Dotiwalla and first-class players like Sanjay Jaywant and the late Subhash Bandiwadekar.

The AGM was held while the votes were being counted. Vengsarkar, seated in the F & G block of the Wankhede Stadium among the cricketing fraternity and voters couldn't wait for the results even as club secretaries voiced their year-long grievances to the big wigs of the association on the dais. I saw him leave and he was anywhere except the F & G block when the results were announced. He lost and the following morning, he resigned as chief selector. "I have decided to resign from these committees on principle. If the voters have not voted for me, I don't think it is right for me to continue," Vengsarkar told me.

Meanwhile, Wadekar triumphed and so did Desai. Interestingly, Wadekar had to announce his own name as a winner since Chief Minister Manohar Joshi (elected unopposed as president) had to leave mid-way for a function.

Another oddity of those elections concerned Patil. He claimed 174 votes, the same figure as his highest score in Test cricket, achieved against Australia at the Adelaide Oval in 1981.

AR Kudroli, that great torchbearer for the cause of maidan cricket was elected Joint Secretary just like Prof Ratnakar Shetty, who would go on serve Mumbai and Indian cricket for a long period of time. Of course, Shetty had made his MCA 'debut' way back in 1990.

Without being judgmental on the work ethic of present-day administrators, one must reproduce what Kudroli told me after his victory - "I am very happy [with the result] but the work starts now."

If all the victorious candidates at tomorrow's MCA elections echo this view, Mumbai cricket will be strong again. Far too many former first-class players want to see city cricket in good shape again even though they are only two in number in the list of candidates.

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

The views expressed in this column are the individual's and don't represent those of the paper

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