Aspirants walking into the National Cricket Academy (NCA) to appear for the position of NCA's strength and conditioning coach on Monday and Tuesday could have easily mistaken themselves as ones applying for positions in some high-end gym in the country. After all, they were being interviewed by Ranadeep Moitra -- owner of the Endorphins Gym in Kolkata -- and Nisha Varma -- former Reebok Master Trainer (North India). This apart, NCA COO Tufan Ghosh also made his presence felt as did Committee of Administrators (CoA) member Diana Edulji.
With Team India trainer Shankar Basu recusing himself from the panel citing conflict issues, Moitra was drafted in. But the choice makes for interesting reading as the former India strength and conditioning coach has had nothing to do with cricket in the last decade at least. He was with the Indian team from 2003 till 2005.
On checking, IANS was informed that the idea was to have someone who wasn't directly involved with the BCCI as conflict is a cause for concern. But then, there are quite a few former and present Indian trainers who are not directly involved with the board and some of them are Ramji Srinivasan, V.P. Sudarshan, Rajnikanth S., Amok Pandit and Chinmoy Roy among others.
Not only are they far off the 'conflict' radar, but also they have been involved with India and 'A' teams much after Moitra moved on and started working with golfers and footballers.
Speaking to IANS, Ramji refused to get into the details and just warned that the interest of budding cricketers and future India stars are being decided upon and the board should be careful in their operations.
"Well, I am not in a position to talk about who forms the panel and why. All I can say is that the fate of future stars will be controlled by those who will work at the NCA as strength and conditioning coaches. So, we must be very careful with the whole process," he explained.
Echoing the sentiments, a senior BCCI official said that transparency has taken the biggest hit in recent times under the professional set-up even though claims have been made otherwise. He also questioned the decision to not inform the state bodies of the whole process of appointing trainers at the NCA.
"No matter how much someone may try to ignore this, the fact remains that cricket at the grassroots is conducted by the state associations. It is because of this that all the trainers and physiotherapists that are connected with the game of cricket are connected with one state association or another.
"Even when the BCCI holds any camp through the NCA, trainers and physios attached with state associations are utilized for those camps. It is in this background that grave suspicions are raised when state associations were not even made aware of the NCA recruitment exercise and there was no coverage to publicise the fact that some recruitments exercise was being carried out for jobs at the NCA.
"The information may have been put up in some corner of the website, but this was known only to a few people who were connected to those who were connected to this exercise in some way or the other. This points to a surreptitious creation of a cosy club.
"Picture this, the state associations were not aware, the office bearers were not aware, trainers connected with state associations were not aware so who exactly was aware?
"I am told that even the eligibility criteria was changed midway because the earlier eligibility criteria was framed in a way that only one person was eligible. Since then, that one person has been withdrawn from the exercise as per media reports.
"So the questions that beg answers are: Who sets the eligibility criteria? Who decides who will be on the panel for selection? When different people sit on the panel on different days then is there any uniformity in the marking?
"When someone is eligible as per the eligibility criteria, how can he be told that he won't be chosen because he does not meet an additional criterion? How can a commercial gym trainer be on a panel to select trainers who are to work with elite athletes?
"Most importantly, where does the buck stop? What will it take before Tufan Ghosh is held accountable for these repeated blunders? Is Rahul Dravid supposed to report to Ghosh? Why does the management not work in a transparent manner and why are they getting more opaque by the day?" the official enquired.
Another board functionary asked if it was this difficult to get the last few people who had trained India on board and form an independent panel to pick the best trainers than have gym instructors conduct the interviews.
"Why can we not have an independent panel of trainers on the interviewing panel? Why can we not have a panel consisting of the last three or four trainers that have worked with the Indian team? Calling gym instructors to interview potential NCA trainers shows the current professional approach," the functionary rued.
Another former trainer who didn't wish to be named said that the whole process has gone for a toss in recent times. "With the removal of the old warhorses, the professional set-up has found it difficult to manage things. Had they worked in unison, things would have been better and you cannot discount experience. Even those available are hardly kept in the loop while decisions are made. Indian cricket should have been the main focus, not ego trips," the trainer rued.
NCA COO Rejigs Eligibility Criteria on Floor
Interestingly, while the advertisement by the BCCI for the post of strength and conditioning coach at the NCA clearly said that the candidate, male or female, should be a CSCS/ASCA Level 2 or/UKSCA qualified and a graduate or a graduate with a fitness certification like ACE-FT/ACSM/NASM and should have a minimum of 2 years of experience with a sports team or individual sportsmen/women, Ghosh rejected candidates for having no prior knowledge of training cricketers.
"The interview was going well when I wanted to show them a presentation. To this Ghosh said that while I have an impressive resume, I wouldn't qualify as I have no past experience of training cricketers. But then, why did they call me after seeing my application if they had to change the eligibility criteria at the last minute? Also, should they have still not informed me if the criteria changed? This is surely not done," the aspirant told IANS.
While one of the aspirants was rejected because of lack of knowledge of training cricketers, Varma herself said she was involved with the educational side of Reebok and has had nothing to do with cricket or cricketers. "No, I have not trained cricketers and have been involved with the educational course of Reebok. I have had nothing to do with cricket," she told IANS.
(Baidurjo Bhose can be contacted at email@example.com)
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)