Accountability is the watch word

NEW DELHI APRIL 9. Accountability is the new `mantra' in the corridors of Indian cricket.

Ask the Board President Jagmohan Dalmiya and his prompt response would stump you. He has trained his guns on various areas within the Board and outside too in what appears to be his last year in the coveted post.

He runs the cricket affairs single-handedly and what comes as a surprise at this juncture is his move to cleanse the National Cricket Academy and if need be even separate it from the main structure of the cricket administration in the country.

The root cause of this move is money, even though the administrators would like us to believe that the accountability factor is the reason for such a drastic step.

The Board is clearly displeased with the manner in which the NCA has been functioning.

The appointment of coaches for the posts has caused much heartburn among the cricketing fraternity and the zonal academies set up to spot and groom talent have turned out to be a burden on the Board.

In wanting to bring in accountability at every step, the Board is keen to put aside a certain fund for the smooth functioning of the NCA with emphasis on result-oriented training and not just conducting mere camps for the youngsters.

For some time now the Board had contemplated the idea of introducing a professional at the helm. The Board President believes that paid job extracts the best out of an individual and one can expect sweeping changes in the NCA this season.

To begin with, the appointment of coaches will not be left to zonal lords who use the opportunity as a tool to bolster their vote bank.

Some of the coaches appointed to run the zonal academies of the NCA have proved to be embarrassments, leaving a poor impression on the trainees.

Mr. Dalmiya had convinced former great Sunil Gavaskar to head the NCA before the latter quit on grounds that he was not able to devote adequate time.

The Board President is understood to have persuaded Gavaskar to take up the job in the interest of Indian cricket and guide the youngsters.

Gavaskar has had strong reasons for not wanting to associate himself with the Board.

The attitude of the officials to denigrate cricketers at the first opportunity has often evoked a lashing from the great batsman but then the Board had hardly ever deemed it fit to mend its ways.

The very composition of the NCA had left Gavaskar livid, especially some members sitting in judgement without having a clue about the game.

It would be interesting to know the ground on which Gavaskar decided to change his mind since he was most unhappy with the manner in which some of the Talent Search Development Officers had been drafted in by the zonal lords of the Board.

The Board is keen to introduce young element into the functioning of the NCA. The idea is to bring in more professionalism and also some fresh thinking.

As one Board official confessed "we have to get rid of this Travelling Allowance-Dearness Allowance mentality.''

The reimbursements for travelling allowance in NCA zonal academies is learnt to be mind-blowing.

And then some of the Board officials are not happy with the results of these academies too. The consensus among the Board officials is that the NCA has not been able to serve its purpose thus far.

There is too much attention attached to the coaches than to the trainees. And the Board is also intrigued by the staggering amount of money being spent on producing paper tigers.

With Gavaskar at the helm, the Board expects the NCA to progress on the lines desired by their architects.

The NCA has been riled by interference from some top officials, who in turn have been pleasing their political friends when drafting youngsters. In fact, most players privately confide their apprehensions regarding the functioning of the NCA.

Most players find the NCA training methods out of tune with modern times and the emphasis on `nets' leaves them drained.

It is this complete lack of motivation that confronts a youngster bound for NCA, which is being dictated by factors other than cricket when it comes to selection.

The DDCA Sports Secretary Sunil Dev had a valid point when he protested at just two players from Delhi have been selected for the NCA. "Delhi is the national under-17 champion and just two of my boys have been found fit for selection,'' he said.

Just as the National team bound for Dhaka it does not include one player from the south despite the talent in Tamil Nadu, Hyderabad, Karnataka, Kerala, Andhra and Goa. There have been growing complaints against the composition of the junior selectors because they in turn influence the quality of the NCA.

The representatives from Andhra and Himachal Pradesh have been reportedly playing havoc and it is a pity that a senior member like Hyder Ali of Railways has been reduced to a mere spectator in the junior selection committee.

What does one make of a Board which picks Dilip Vengsarkar as a last-minute replacement to represent the players for a meeting initiated by the International Cricket Council. Vengsarkar has hardly been in touch with the senior Indian cricketers for some time now and is said to be happy with his involvement at the junior level.

Vengsarkar, like Gavaskar, had always advocated accountability within the Board. Not just among the cricketers but the officials too since they thrive on the efforts of the players.

No one comes to the cricket field to watch the officials, some of who have their second generation in the business, having occupied some position in the Board or the other for close to 25 years.

That is why the accountability factor assumes more significance in Indian cricket.