St. John's: Things in Indian cricket management get ridiculouser and ridiculouser, with apologies to Lewis Carroll.
When a team manager someone of whom a certain standard of professionalism and intelligence is expected tells the media that Irfan Pathan and Harbhajan Singh were rested in a Test to preserve them for the ICC Champions Trophy and the World Cup, you know things have hit rock bottom.
That's exactly what Ravi Savant, current Indian manager, said on Friday. "The National selectors have selected 16 players, and only eleven can play. So five have to be dropped. It doesn't mean they are dropped, they are rested," he said on team selection.
If he had stopped there, Mr. Savant could have been excused for using an euphemism. But, he elaborated: "Irfan and Harbhajan have been there in the one-day squad as well, so they have been rested for a while, looking forward to the ICC Champions Trophy (to be played in October-November 2006) and the World Cup (March-April 2007)."
When pointedly asked if it made sense to rest players in Tests for ODIs in the future, Savant retorted, "That means you are not showing any confidence in the eleven we are playing."
It got worse when Mr. Savant disputed the contention that India's seam attack going into the first Test here comprising Sreesanth (2 Tests), Munaf Patel (2 Tests), V.R.V. Singh (0 Tests) was inexperienced. "I don't agree with this. V.R.V. (Singh) also has played for India `A'. So it is not an inexperienced attack."
The charade may not have played out had Mr. Savant done what he should have in the first place: bring either the captain or the coach to the media conference at the end of the day. He did neither, and accompanied Sreesanth after most of the team had boarded its bus.
While cause for much mirth, the episode has serious ramifications. It illustrates the malaise that blights India's cricket administration.
Over the last season alone, India's managers have lost passports of team members and lied about it (Amitabh Chowdhary in Zimbabwe), misarranged media conferences (G.S. Walia in Pakistan), looked to palm off responsibility, and ducked media conferences with the excuse they didn't know about it only to sheepishly return (Ranjib Biswal after the final ODI in Trinidad).
The problems are obvious. There isn't a proper channel for distributing news. The versions circulating about the team's cancelled trip to St. Maarten are a case in point. One said bookings had run into trouble, another said a complimentary arrangement with the West Indian board had fallen through. Both official. The manager, however, didn't deem it fit to inform the media in a release. He merely confirmed it when journalists called him up.
For any chance of a working news distribution system, the BCCI needs to appoint a full-time, qualified, professional media manager. Currently, the team manager doubles up as the media manager. The demands of both are different, specifically so; they demand two different people.
By the same token, permanence of tenure and accountability have to be worked into the system. Managers come and go from tour to tour like members of an English cricket team. It's blatant that a tour assignment for a manager is either a request to curry votes from an association at election time or a thank you for falling in line from the board.
Each new manager professes ignorance of protocol of having a player at the day's end for a press conference. Some go as far as blaming the local organisation for not informing them.