The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Too much travel for the players

Though there were some who questioned how there could be three consecutive one-day Internationals in Gujarat and the West Zone, the Board of Control for Cricket in India needs to be complimented for ensuring that the travel between these places was minimal. That there were three matches in the same state could be explained away by the rotation policy of BCCI.

However, the question that needs to be asked of the BCCI is why both teams were made to travel close to 12 hours between the venues of the first one-day International at Jamshedpur and the second in Nagpur. As we all know, Jamshedpur does not have an airport for domestic flights, though of course, small private aircrafts are in operation there.

That means the teams have to travel either by rail or by road to reach there and these journeys take anywhere between four to ten hours. While the players hardly get stopped, the trucks carrying their equipment invariably are stopped at various points, especially the border between Bengal and Jharkand.

That brings one to another question: if Jharkand Cricket Association is not yet recognised by the BCCI and there is status quo at the moment, how will the funds generated from the match be divided between JCA and Bihar Cricket Association '

The ground at Jamshedpur is one of the best in the country and the outfield lush green and the pitch a beauty to bat on, but getting to Jamshedpur is not easy and then getting out to leave for another game is even more difficult.

Consequently, the teams had to travel around five hours to get to Ranchi to catch a flight to Delhi. From the capital they availed of a connecting flight to Mumbai and from there, another connecting flight to Nagpur. Thus, it took the players around 12 hours to get to Nagpur from Jamshedpur and that is simply not on. Why couldnít a super-rich Board like BCCI arrange a special charter flight for both teams and the media to get directly from Ranchi to Nagpur, which would have been a flight of just about two hours ' Why were both teams made to undergo such travails' Just because the West Indians are uncomplaining guys, the BCCI has made them undergo these hardships.

Would the English or Australian teams have accepted such travel arrangements and more importantly would the BCCI have arranged such an itinerary for them in the first place' The West Indies Board is not a wealthy one compared to the English and Australian ones and so do not have the luxury of sending an advance party to check out the venues and the hotels and travel arrangements.

It may be recalled the Indian Board had sent a two-man team to England to check out the hotels, etc. at the various venues that the Indian team was to play in England earlier this year as well as security aspects. But no such team has been sent to New Zealand. I guess the security threat must be nothing. After all, itís too much a distance for terrorists to go to, isnít it '

More than that, the hotels there have some of the smallest rooms ever and therefore deserve a look-in. Luckily, now every player gets a room for himself and does not share. Still, if past experience is to go by, even for a single person the rooms are matchbox size and with the kind of kitbags the players carry nowadays, they will be struggling. Hopefully, it will be better than my first trip to New Zealand in 1976 when we had to walk sideways to get in and out of the room.

Indian teams have rarely had the luxury of staying in five-star hotels overseas while teams that come to India invariably stay in super-luxurious hotels.

In the old days, the visitors used to pay for their own travel and boarding and lodging. The explanation for making them take the longer routes criss-crossing the country to reach the venues was that it got the country valuable foreign exchange.

That is no longer an issue and now the host country has to look after the hotels and internal travel. In this perspective, itís sad to say that the BCCI has not done the right thing by making the West Indians travel the way they have had to. Indian hospitality is famous and apart from the smiles and delicacies in hotels, care should have been taken to ensure that the visitors were comfortable in every way excepting on the field, of course, which was upto the Indian cricketers.

The Indian cricketers were certainly not very hospitable in the first two Tests but they have been pretty generous in the one-dayers, especially the bowlers. The pitches for the first two Test matches were pretty ordinary where the ball jumped awkwardly one moment and then squatted along the ground the next time.

However, the pitches for the one-dayers have been so flat that it might be a good idea for the state governments to give the contract for building roads to those groundsmen. At least that will ensure that there will be no potholes to be found suddenly. Seriously though, the pitches have been what batsmen dream about and bowlers dread. No wonder, apart from Harbhajan Singh and to a certain extent Murali Kartik, nobody has been able to end up with youthful figures.

That the Indian team has become an exclusive club can be seen by the composition of the squad for the last two one-dayers. The newcomers L. Balaji and J.P. Yadav have been dropped when others with equally bad if not worse figures have been retained in the squad.

Obviously Balaji and Yadav do not know how to work the system. Reetinder Singh Sodhi made a high-profile visit to Calcutta, bowled in the nets to the Indian players and without any outstanding performances since his injury, got himself back in the squad.

That air ticket to Calcutta was indeed a great investment. He has recovered it many times over just being in the squad. Make no mistake, he is a promising cricketer and he may well do a star turn in the two one-dayers. But there are others who have been performing and still not getting a look in, while he gets recalled with no real performance to his credit after his injury. This brings us to the exclusive club factor where favourites keep getting chances over and over and over again while temporary members like Balaji and Yadav are shown the door after one or two failures. That is Indian cricket for you.

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