New Delhi: BCCI members and the CoA are once again at loggerheads, this time over the latter’s decision to pick Kevin Pietersen as the speaker for the Pataudi Memorial Lecture, to be held in Bengaluru next month.
After acting BCCI secretary Amitabh Chaudhary questioned the SC-appointed Committee of Administrators’ decision to pick Kumar Sangakkara as the choice to speak in this year’s Pataudi Memorial Lecture, CoA chief Vinod Rai had said that the Board should look at Chaudhary’s suggestions of getting a former India player (who played alongside Pataudi) if Sangakkara wasn’t available for the lecture. But now the CoA has gone ahead and picked Kevin Pietersen for the occasion after Sangakkara made his unavailability known and Chaudhary is not happy at the turn of events.
In another mail to Rai, in possession with CricketNext, the secretary has written: “The expression of happiness on it (General Manager Saba Karim’s mail that Kevin Pietersen has agreed to address the lecture) had left me wondering whether the Memorial Lecture was indeed MAK Pataudi Memorial Lecture or Sir Len Hutton Lecture or for that matter Sir Frank Woolley lecture. The reasons for the same will become clear from the following paragraphs. The national selection committee meetings were scheduled on the 8th May at Bangalore. Shortly before the meetings at 5 PM, GM (Cricket Operations) spoke to me on a few subjects including the Pataudi Memorial Lecture. During our discussion, I mentioned the names of some living Indian stalwarts who could also be considered. He too offered some names but I requested him to first check on the names I had suggested.
“I had also advised there was enough time and there was little need to hurry. This was not followed up with any other communication on this subject until the arrival of GM’s email on May 10 (on the names of the proposed speakers and the topics). There was obviously no explanation about the suitabilility of the so called panelists in a Lecture meant to commemorate Tiger Pataudi except that they were distinguished cricketers/commentators/coaches, which they undoubtedly were. It did not get commented upon that the panel of four had as many as three foreigners. Neither did it explain whether any discussions were indeed held before putting up the panel.
“Significantly, the prose inexplicably left out the discussions held at Bangalore on the very subject two days earlier. It is obvious from the context that the CoA learnt of it first only with the proposal email on the 10th. Unable to stomach the ease with which the significance of the Lecture was being derailed, as also the fact that GM (Cricket Operations) had solicited our views in his email, I wrote an earnest email to attempt a rectification, if possible.”
The CoA had earlier felt that Sangakkara was the best candidate to speak at the awards, but the move didn’t go down too well with the BCCI officials. Board members feel that former Indian cricketers who played alongside the man famously called Tiger Pataudi would bring more value to the occasion and feel someone among Nari Contractor, Chandu Borde, Erapalli Prasanna and Abbas Ali Baig should be invited as the speaker.
Acting secretary Amitabh Chaudhary had made the same clear to CoA chief Vinod Rai, in a mail in possession with CricketNext. The secretary asked the CoA to reconsider the decision and said that he was unable to agree to the proposal of the committee unless the ones named by him were disqualified for other reasons.
“As I understand Tiger Memorial Lecture is not an elocution contest and reasonable communication skills are all that we should look for. It is meant to bring to the fore the evolution of the game, what it meant to play for the country in the old days, the hardships of the time, challenges of the future and the like. If that be the case, certainly once every few years an iconic cricketer of yore should find a place as the keynote speaker in the memorial lecture. Besides, the present heroes could always come in later as renowned cricketers of the past are a disappearing species,” Amitabh wrote to Rai.
GM cricket operation Saba Karim had sent the mail to the CoA and the BCCI members asking them for the suggestion as the lecture is set to be held on June 12 in Bengaluru before the Afghanistan Test. The names of the speakers suggested by Saba were Sourav Ganguly, Kumar Sangakara, Kevin Peterson and Nasser Hussain.
The topics were: A) Peace and sustainability through Cricket – Relevent since Afghanistan is a wonderful story. B) Behaviour and conduct of international players in the modern age – Players perspective. C) Cricket as an Olympic Sport – Way forward.
Diana Edulji was the one who suggested Sangakkara’s name and Rai seconded it and asked Saba to speak to the former Sri Lanka cricketer. The Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi Memorial Lecture was started by the BCCI on February 6, 2013. The inaugural lecture was delivered by Sunil Gavaskar on 20 February 2013. But what remains etched in everyone’s memory is the beautiful fun-filled lecture from Farokh Engineer on March 9, 2017.