One person, one post formula for cricket managers?

There’s little doubt that football fever is gripping the country – a quick look at the newspapers or television channels will tell you that – but early numbers on the support the beautiful game’s greatest spectacle has received is revealing.

According to TAM ratings released, 19.7 million Indians watched the opening ceremony and the first two days of the action in South Africa. That’s a staggering number, but, advertisers and broadcasters aren’t quite jumping to declare football the favourite pastime of the country’s youth, because they know that 37.1 million people (or approximately double) watched the first three days of the IPL.

So, if you’re one of those people who enjoy tuning in to the odd football game, but don’t see it as a substitute to your cricket fix, don’t despair, this blog has one eye firmly on the Asia Cup.

When Mahendra Singh Dhoni fronted the media on arrival in Dambulla, he made the very valid point that the Asia Cup was, in many ways, the starting point to India’s eight-month marathon that will culminate in the World Cup.

While the players have their methods of setting, short, medium and long-term goals, and pacing their preparation and planning to peak at the right time, they also need a strong support system in place. In coach Gary Kirsten and all-purpose trainer Paddy Upton, assisted by trainer Ramji Srivasan, doctor Nitin Patel, video analyst CKM Dhananjay and masseur Ramesh Mane, the team have a unit they have come to trust and work well with.

The one thing they have asked for, repeatedly, and denied, however, is a permanent manager who travels with the team both at home and abroad. In teams like Australia (Steve Barnard) or South Africa (Goolam Rajah) the manager is not someone who merely sorts out hotel rooms and ensures the right clothes are worn to a do, they’re an institution.

What a manager does is set things up off the field, so that the captain has to think about nothing beyond the actual cricket. Freeing up cricketers to think about sport should be an obvious thing, but something the BCCI have never thought necessary or possible.

After all, the manager’s post is handed out on a fairly random basis from tour to tour, more to reward one state association for a valuable vote already counted or to seal one from another that is wavering.

To this end, it’s unrealistic to expect the BCCI to make a dramatic departure from its ways, and constitution, and appoint someone full-time for the job. What is refreshing, though, is that the cricket-minded in the Board are keen to do what they can within the existing framework, and there’s every indication that Ranjib Biswal, the current manager, will continue through to the end of next year’s World Cup.

While no official announcement is forthcoming, a source close to recent developments confirmed that Biswal, a former cricketer and national selector enjoys the confidence of the powers that be in the Board. The manner in which he handled himself during the failed campaign in the World T20 in the West Indies, and specifically the debriefing he provided in the aftermath, have made him a frontrunner to stay in the job long term.

If the Board do the sensible thing and keep Biswal in the job, they will irritate several others in state associations who are eyeing plum holidays around the cricket world. But that’s a small price to pay in giving your team the best chance to succeed.

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