A chemistry professor, Ratnakar Shetty’s career as a cricket administrator began in 1975 when he was appointed staff-in-charge of cricket at Mumbai’s Wilson College. His family moved from Udupi in Karnataka to Mazgaon in the metropolis and lived in a chawl during their early years there. From joining the Bombay Cricket Association’s tournament committee, Shetty eventually became a manager of Indian cricket teams, a BCCI chief administrative officer before retiring as its General Manager. In his book On Board: Test.Trial.Triumph. My years in BCCI by Ratnakar Shetty, the veteran administrator gives a first-hand account of the growth of Indian cricket, the boardroom battles, Team India’s victories and dressing room intrigue. Excerpts:
Why no discussion on accounts Narendra Modi asked me
Narendra Modi, the honourable prime minister of India, attended the 2010 AGM, which was held at the Cricket Centre, as the representative of the Gujarat Cricket Association. He was the chief minister of the state at the time. By the time he settled into the meeting after the exchange of pleasantries, the approval of the accounts for 2009–10 came up for discussion. The annual accounts and the budget for 2010–11 were unanimously approved and the treasurer started reading out the quantum of subsidy payable to the member units.
I happened to be sitting next to Mr Modi. He turned to me and enquired as to why there was no discussion on the accounts or budget, which ran into thousands of crores. I took a deep breath and told him that the members of the Board’s finance committee had vetted the accounts and budget and forwarded the same to the working committee with their observations. The working committee had then approved the accounts and budget and only then had the same been placed before the general body. I could sense that he was not fully satisfied with my explanation.
He later observed that the members finished discussing most of the items on the agenda within 45 minutes and then deliberated for over an hour on issues related to Lalit Modi.
Congratulations ProfSaheb! Few know the @BCCI as well as you do. Pity you had to retire when you could still have given a lot more… Must have lost count of the Presidents you worked with!! @RatnakarShetty6 pic.twitter.com/dIJTD28OI8
— Lokendra Pratap Sahi (@lpsahi) February 2, 2022
Ineptitude teammates frustrated Tendulkar the captain
Having spent a lot of time with Sachin in Sri Lanka, I had sensed that he was disturbed. He wasn’t enjoying the captaincy and I was by no means the only individual who felt that all wasn’t well. There were times when information pertaining to the trajectory of games that we were yet to play, would reach us and leave us wondering. The timing of some dismissals, especially in the ODIs, was weird, to say the least.
The captain, the coach and I wanted to brief the senior office-bearers of the Board about these incidents and seek their inputs on the future course of action, after returning to India. We sought an appointment with Rajbhai (Raj Singh Dungarpur), as the Board president was known. Sachin and I went to meet Rajbhai and (Jaywant) Lele. We discussed the tour, the Rashid Latif interview and the rumours that had been doing the rounds. Imagine my shock then to receive a call later that night from none other than Azharuddin, enquiring about our meeting with the BCCI president and secretary.
The entire purpose of the meeting had been defeated. I called Mr Dalmiya and told him that henceforth, no manager would be frank with the Board.
Unfortunately, it took a while — three more years, to be precise — for people to realise that the ineptitude of some of the players was deliberate.
Why Kohli and Kumble had a falling out
The events leading up to the resignation of Anil Kumble as coach of the men’s team after the ICC Champions Trophy final in June 2017 showcased the murkiness that had steadily crept into the corridors of the Cricket Centre.
I happened to meet Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar at the Wankhede Stadium, on the eve of an IPL game between Mumbai Indians and Kings XI Punjab, in the second week of May. I was taken aback when Viru informed me that Dr Sridhar had advised him to apply for the position of the coach of the Indian team.
I flew to Hyderabad a few days later for the IPL final. The game was preceded by a meeting of the CoA. Anil and Virat Kohli, who by then had become the all-format captain, were to make a presentation on the way forward for Indian cricket, at this meeting. Both Vinod Rai and Diana Edulji (Committee of Administrators) were attending. Anil was present physically, while Virat was to participate virtually.
Rai then asked me what process had been followed by the Board to appoint a coach for the national team in 2016.
What happened next was shocking. Rai said in front of the entire gathering, Anil included, that the same process would have to be repeated soon! Anil was stunned and so was I.
I remembered my conversation with Viru in May and told Anil about it. Surely, Dr Sridhar would not have told Viru to apply of his own volition.
It was obvious that some people did not want Anil to continue as coach. The captain and coach did not appear to be on the same wavelength and it seemed that the captain had the upper hand. I learnt later about a meeting that took place in London before the final of the Champions Trophy, which we lost to Pakistan. This meeting was attended by Virat, Anil, Johri, Amitabh Choudhary and Dr Sridhar. Apparently, Virat was not happy with Anil ‘for not standing up for the players and creating a tense atmosphere in the dressing room’, among other things.
Rahul, Sachin backed Dhoni as captain
Rahul told me at the (IPL) launch that he wanted to talk to Mr Pawar in private. I informed the president, who then invited Rahul to his room. Rahul came downstairs after a few minutes and met me in the lobby. He told me that he had a flight to catch and left immediately, not staying back for the official dinner. I then received a call from Mr Pawar. I went up to his room and learnt that Rahul had submitted his resignation as the captain. The resignation was announced on the eve of India’s first game in the ICC World T20.
When asked by Mr Pawar who he thought should succeed him, Rahul recommended Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who was already leading the team in the ICC World T20 in South Africa. Mr Pawar then posed the same question to Sachin, who had been Rahul’s deputy in England, when we were having dinner later that evening. Sachin repeated what Rahul had said.
Sourav, Dravid not on the same page
A day before the selectors met, I received a call from Rahul. He told me that he had spoken to Sachin and Sourav, his predecessors, and both had concurred with his view that Twenty20 was a ‘young man’s game’. He accordingly requested me to inform the selectors that the three of them would not be available for the ICC World T20 (2007). Dilip and his colleagues proceeded to pick 30 probables, sans the trio. Later, the chairman told me that he had received a call from Sourav, who said that he was in fact available for selection and the information conveyed to him was incorrect.
‘On Board’ by Ratnakar Shetty is published by Rupa Publications India Pvt Limited; Pages 328, Rs 595