~~BCCI autonomy in serious jeopardy~~

Published: Wednesday, May 30, 2001, 23:25 [IST]
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Mumbai: Autonomy of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), existing since the 30s, is in serious jeopardy with the recent Central government directives on playing cricket with Pakistan posing a danger of the BCCI becoming a tool in the hands of the government, feels a former sports official of the Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA). The cricket Board, one of the richest in the world, has been able to prosper because of the autonomy it has enjoyed in its functioning, mainly due to its financial independence, he said. Speaking to UNI, the former official, on condition of anonymity, said he vehemently opposed the government dictate stating that the only sporting body in India which never went to the government with a begging bowl was BCCI. The main issue for the Central government's interference is the Indian team playing cricket matches with Pakistan, and it has now disallowed the team from playing cricket with this neighbouring country in non-cricketing venues, which resulted in the BCCI losing face in international cricketing arena, he said. Cricketing officials, while expressing their views, agreed that the government was justified in its decision, as Pakistan has been waging a proxy war in India. But they were irked at the step-motherly treatment meted out only towards the cricketing Board in this connection, when the two countries play against each other in other sports categories. "India plays hockey with Pakistan, also lawn tennis and the volleyball team even visited the country recently, so why only no cricket," questioned one official. "Banning us playing matches in non-cricketing venues like Sharjah, Toronto and Singapore was like a bolt from the blue," was the common reaction of Cricket officials, both past and present, who felt that the government interference was unwarranted and unwanted. They argued that Cricket in Sharjah was being played for the two decades and many former and current players have benefited financially due to these 'Cricketers Benevolent Fund Series' (CBFS). The government decision means that Indian cricketers will no longer be the beneficiaries in Sharjah. The latest in the list is the reaction of Union Sports Minister Uma Bharthi after the announcement of an India-Pakistan Test to be played either in Lahore or Karachi from September 13-17 in the Asian Test Championships by the BCCI president A C Muthiah in Pakistan after the Asian Cricket Council (ACC) meeting. The BCCI made this announcement after the government had stated that India would be able to take part in multi-nation tournaments but was averse to playing with Pakistan in bi-lateral tournaments, they pointed out. Ms Bharthi said BCCI had no right to take a unilateral decision on playing with Pakistan and they would be required to first give a written proposal to the Sports Ministry. "The final decision will then rest with the Foreign Ministry", she had added. Her blame that BCCI jumped the gun and her direction to the BCCI to not take such liberties of making such announcements, left the cricket Board in a fix. "We are back to square one," said one official. Former president of the BCCI Raj Singh Dungarpur had vehemently opposed the government dictating to the cricket Board on where to play and with whom. He felt sports should be kept separate from politics and the BCCI should be allowed to function without any interference. The BCCI allowed the government to dictate to it for the first time and now it seems that the government wants to take all the decisions for the Board itself, reducing the Board to a secondary figure, like they have been doing to all the other sports bodies in the country, he said. The successful running of the cricket Board up till now has been due to the non- interference of the government. However, now it seems that the government is hell bent on not allowing India to play with Pakistan in any sort of tournament. This will only further lower India's prestige in the international cricket, with the government targeting only cricket while allowing the participation of Indian teams in other disciplines in multi-nation tournaments, the officials feel.

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