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Friday, April 19, 2019

Fight over appointment of women's cricket coach

by Proloy Bagchi (writer), Idgah Hills, Bhopal, February 07, 2019

After the debacle of the Indian Women's Cricket Team at the World Cup appointment of a coach became an issue between the two members of the Supreme Court-appointed Committee of Administrators

The Indian women’s cricket team has lately been in the news. Only very recently a member of the Supreme Court appointed Committee of Administrators, Diana Edulji, called the selection process of the new coach for the women’s cricket team a sham, and unconstitutional. WV Raman a former member of the Indian men’s cricket team was selected as the coach by an ad hoc panel appointed by the chairman of the Committee of Administrators, Vinod Rai.

Diana Edulji has been pushing for extension of the term of the erstwhile coach Romesh Powar. Powar’s term ended last month after the Women’s Team returned from the West Indies having crashed out of the last World Cup at the stage of semi finals. Powar was an interim coach and yet Edulji has been pushing for him. She did so despite the allegations made against him of uncivil and undesirable behaviour with Mithali Raj, the senior most member of the team.

Mithali Raj, who is also the ODI captain, complained against him after she was not played in the Semi Final in spite of her back-to-back half centuries in two league matches of the World Cup. She also complained against Powar of misdemeanor with her that was indicative of the coach’s inability to get along with players. Of course, Powar did level counter allegations against Raj but nothing has been heard from the Board about its conclusions in regard to them. Obviously, it did not think much of his allegations as Mithali has been allowed to continue as the ODI captain and the Chairman of the Committee of Administrators formed an ad hoc panel to choose a coach for the team that chose WV Raman. Powar too had applied but apparently he did not find favour with the selectors.

In the meantime the captain and the vice captain of T20 team, Harmanpreet Kaur and Smriti Mandhana, both wrote to the BCCI to continue with Romesh Powar as the coach of the team. Edulji supported them and wrote to Vinod Rai that since the two senior players wanted Powar he should be retained. Rai, being an administrator responded with the comment that in that case why shouldn’t the view of Mithali Raj, the senior most player not be taken into account. Apparently, either something had gone wrong between Mithali and Edulji or Powar and Edulji had some kind of a tie up. There was a rumour after the semi final loss that some big gun from the BCCI had asked the team management to keep Mithali out. Was it Diana Efulji? No one knows.

Edulji also cited the case of the Indian Men’s Cricket Team Captain asking for the services of Ravi Shastri as the coach and not Anil Kumble. Kumble had found favour with the Cricket Advisory Committee but since the Skipper went public with his demand Kumble wanted to quit. VVS Laxman, a member of the Cricket Advisory Committee confirmed this recently. Ravi Shastri was thus appointed the coach which, doubtless, was a bad precedent. Besides, Ravi Shastri did not cover himself with glory. But Edulji mentioned it to buttress her arguments in favour of Powar saying that two senior players had asked for continuance of Powar. Rai rightly pointed out in that case why not go by the opinion of the senior most player.

It is not understood why Edulji was pushing for Powar who had nothing much to show for himself. Apart from being inexperienced, under his tutelage a team that had missed the World Cup around two years ago by the skin of its teeth had crashed out in the later edition suffering a humiliating defeat at the hands of England whom it had almost beaten in the Final in the earlier edition. In any case Powar somehow could not get along with the senior most player of the team who is a classical batter having man-management skills and has been leading the Test and ODI teams ably. Clearly, Powar lacks the same man-management skills and failed to build up the team spirit which seems to have later resulted in dropping of Mithali from the team that suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of England. And this is what created a huge controversy.

And yet Edulji has been pushing for Powar so much so that the Committee of Administrators suffered a wide split. Their e-mails, released to the press, took the shape of a serious spat between the two. Justice Lodha, the retired judge of the Supreme Court who had a lot to do with the creation of the Committee of Administrators commented on the goings on in it and said that the two members were creating a spectacle of themselves.

Edulji even went on to say that the ad hoc panel, headed by the legendary Kapil Dev, formed by the Chairman of the Committee of Administrators was illegal and unconstitutional as a coach can only be appointed by the Cricket Advisory Committee.. She also opined that the Chairman of the Committee had no casting vote as the two members were equal in status and had equal powers and, hence, one could not overrule the other.

While reports indicate that Chairman Vinod Rai consulted legal luminaries before forming the ad hoc panel which, he thinks, is on sound legal footing, the fact, however, remains that the two-member Committee of Administrators has a wide open split. The apex body of Indian Cricket has resultantly been rendered dysfunctional and the credit for making it so goes, curiously, to the Indian Women’s Cricket Team.

One wonders whether the contention of Diana Edulji that the two members of the Committee of Administrators are equal and one cannot overrule the other is correct. One of the two members is the Chairman of the Committee and hence, necessarily, is superior to the only other member. His word, therefore, has to be final. Nonetheless, if she thought she was equal to the Chairman perhaps it would have been desirable for her to talk the matter up with the Chairman instead of sending e-mails to him, leaking them to the press and bringing down the image of the all-powerful Committee of Administrators.

Although there are no fresh reports of any conflict between the two perhaps it would be better for the Chairman to go to the Supreme Court and ask it either for a replacement of the third member who resigned or a clear delineation of powers of the Chairman of the Committee vis-à-vis its only member. A clear dispensation in this regard will make matters simpler and less conflict-prone and will be helpful in running Indian Cricket without any hiccups.



About the Writer

Pushing 80 I was born in Gwalior in Central India to parents who were educated in Calcutta, now Kolkata. My father did his master's in English in 1916. He was a professor of English in the then only college in Gwalior. After qualifying in the exams for entry in to central civil services I served the government of India for 34 years reaching the very top of the professional cadres of the Indian Postal Service. I also acted as consultant ion behalf of the Universal Postal Union in Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and Swaziland.
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