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Scored out

The new pension plan for cricketers ignores the scorers and statisticians in its scheme of things, says V.V. SUBRAHMANYAM


A FIRST-CLASS cricketer in India will now get about Rs 40,000. An umpire, about Rs. 8,000 plus conveyance and the pocket allowance. But, the scorer-cum-statisticians will continue to get a nominal Rs. 400 per day and no allowances whatsoever. There is all-round appreciation for the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI)'s announcement of life pension scheme of Rs. 5,000 each for all the former Test cricketers and international umpires. But there is a growing feeling that one of the crucial segments related to the sport could be treated with some degree of respect.

Thanks to the sweeping technological advances the electronic media has been encouraging, the job of the scorers and the statisticians has become demanding Not many reports can be complete without a comprehensive scoreboard. It might look as an obscure, single column in a beautifully designed page which can be gone through in a few seconds , but the scoreboard never really reflects the day-long toil of the gentlemen who wield the pen with the same felicity as some of the illustrious names in the sport like Sachin Tendulkar, Ricky Ponting, Shane Warne and Muthiah Muralitharan do on the field.

The scorers have to be mentally alert and be ready always with the score, to be able to meet the requirements of the presspersons. The TV viewers can vividly recall how the statistics were `screened' when the great debate on Sachin Tendulkar's ability to score match-winning centuries was on a few years ago. Even as the genius was battling the `Desert Storm' in Sharjah against the Australians with two classy centuries, the commentators who felt that Sachin was a match-winner were clearly delighted by the way the scorers and statisticians produced those simple but very effective figures demonstrating the worth of the `Little Master'. This is not to illustrate the importance of a scorer\statistician. But, a simple instance when these gentlemen only enhanced the value of a debate.

Well, the Hyderabadis had their own share of history. For Blessington Thomas, official scorer\statistician of Hyderabad Cricket Association for close to four decades now, has the unique distinction of not making an `error' on two big occasions. Once in the Ranji Trophy semi-final in 1991 in Mumbai when Sanjay Manrekar put to sword the Hyderabad bowling with a triple century. It is not just the Hyderabad cricketers who were at the receiving end but Blessington too for he has to be on the trot, pooling all his resources from an unwilling body - for he was not fully fit for that particular match - and in the process had the unique distinction of recording 1800-plus runs in a single first-class match. He was a source of strength to the mediapersons who were covering the match that day.

Similarly, when it was the turn of Hyderabad's troika of batsmen - M.V. Sridhar (306), Vivek Jaisimha (211) and Noel David (207 not out) - mauled the hapless Andhra attack in a Ranji match at Gymkhana Grounds in 1993 on the way to that record breaking score of 944 for six declared, it was again Blessington who was the unobtrusive `player of the match.' It is always an easy job to take down the statistics reeled out by a scorer but the amount of preparation that goes into before scoring any first class match is something very rarely acknowledged. The sight of the scorers carrying huge bound books full of facts and figures will perhaps give a perspective.

For long, B.B. Mama, the guru of cricket statisticians in India, was the role model for his accuracy and consistency. He is widely believed to be the gentleman who gave a new definition to the art of scoring. Then there is H.R. Gopalakrishna from Bangalore who came up with some innovations to give more colour to the sport. The omnipresent Mohandas Menon is now the most familiar cricket statistician now.

When the HCA was presenting the first cheques of life pension to four former Test stars and two international umpires, it also highlighted the gross discrimination against the more deserving people like Blessington Thomas, who's the seniormost in first-class cricket in a career, which spans 33 years. In fact, for the first 22 years of Blessington's career as a statistician, he was paid nothing. A serious thought should have been spared for this rare tribe, as after all there are only about 56 of them qualified as per the BCCI norms.

How many in this world do this job for the sheer love of the sport and the romance with the figures?

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