October 13, 2016

What's the worst that can happen, BCCI?

We are being told that implementing the Lodha recommendations will mark the downfall of Indian cricket. How true is that?
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To expect the likes of Ajay Shirke and Anurag Thakur to push their state associations to approach the Lodha recommendations with an open mind is to expect them to sack themselves © AFP

As the latest chapter in the BCCI's entanglements with the Supreme Court continued to unfold, three doomsday scenarios were put out into the world as to what would happen if the Lodha committee's recommendations were pushed through:

The New Zealand team would go home and Indian cricket would be humiliated.

The Ranji Trophy would be cancelled and Indian cricket would collapse.

The India team would pull out of world events and naturally world cricket would implode.

As of now, Kane Williamson and his men are still around for the ODI series starting Sunday, the Ranji Trophy made its quiet seasonal progress despite impending disaster, and when last heard, the BCCI was still in active engagement with the ICC. The board's officials at the ICC's Cape Town meetings are on a mission, it is reported, to challenge comrade-turned current bête noire, ICC chairman Shashank Manohar.

What were the triple threats of impending cricketing apocalypse meant to do? Get the public out onto the streets protesting against judicial overreach, showing their support for the BCCI and burning a few effigies? While it is said that often judges enjoy "playing to the gallery" with amusing observations, and that their orders are full of references to mighty minds through history, it is safe to assume that public approval or disapproval does not register on their radar.

The BCCI's latest move was to inform the Supreme Court, that apart from their own response to the recommendation - hardly conciliatory - it had proved hard to persuade their members, i.e. the state associations to agree to the proposed changes to their individual associations.

Withholding funding, the BCCI's counsel Kapil Sibal argued, was not an option, because it would put the domestic season in jeopardy. Chief Justice TS Thakur replied, "Season or no season… we don't care about your season. Transparency and fairness must be there. Everyone needs to co-operate with the Lodha panel."

"We don't care about your season" is shiver-me-timbers stuff for Indian cricket. Chief Justice Thakur has no doubt heard many lawyers make many such apocalyptic prophecies, either as diversionary or delaying tactics, and his response carried a brutal message of its own.

The truth is that the state associations in Indian cricket do not function hand to mouth: in the post-IPL world, 25 state associations (excluding Services, Railways, All India Universities, Cricket Club of India and National Cricket Club), have each received between Rs 25 and 30 crores every year. With the accumulated corpus growing over the last seven seasons, most of them could run their cricket for three or four seasons without a sneeze.

The few associations that are cash-strapped have had their BCCI funding held back due to a failure to audit their accounts or supply the ruling body with satisfactory balance sheets. Like the Jammu & Kashmir Cricket Association or Goa Cricket Association, and the perpetually shambolic Delhi and Districts Cricket Association, which has not held elections for the last three years. The death of the Indian domestic season was therefore offered to the judge like a trial balloon, and it was duly shot down with the response indicating the direction the court was willing to take.

The bogey of recalcitrant associations is not unfounded, but it does not include the entire house. Vidarbha and Tripura have adopted the Lodha recommendations and there is a possibility that a couple of states are contemplating the same but checking the climate before doing so.

The BCCI's argument that they could adopt several Lodha recommendations if only the states acquiesced struck a bum note. The board's four most senior office-bearers - president Anurag Thakur, secretary Ajay Shirke, joint secretary Amitabh Choudhary and treasurer Anirudh Chaudhry - are key functionaries in their state associations - Thakur, Shirke and Choudhary are presidents of Himachal Pradesh, Maharashtra and Jharkhand respectively, while Chaudhry is secretary of Haryana cricket.

In a world of utopian super-governance, the best way to get state associations to start falling in line would be to have these four key office-bearers issue directives to their associations. Except, one of the key Lodha recommendations is that no official should hold roles in both the BCCI and state associations at the same time. Effectively, asking them to push their state associations to approach the Lodha recommendations with an open mind is to expect four very powerful men - a member of parliament, a successful businessman, a retired senior police officer, and a lawyer from an influential political family - to sack themselves. Not going to happen.

It would cause some disruption at the top, two or three weeks of uncertainty, a period of adjustment, and then a new set of officials would step in. All the while, a well functioning machine will keep moving, and Tests, ODIs and first-class games will continue to be played

The four have played significant roles in their state associations. There are new top-quality venues in each of their four states, and they must be given credit for their part in the creation and development of them. They have used their imagination, wealth and influence in cricket to visible effect. Naturally any challenge to their position will only be resisted.

It is also now being circulated that it would be impossible to replace the top office-bearers of the BCCI with equally capable stand-ins. To turn the many admirable qualities of the top officials in Indian cricket through history into proof of their cast-iron indispensability is both unsuccessful use of spin and a limited understanding of the dynamics of power.

At the level of policy, tours, IPL contracts, relations with the ICC and so on, the BCCI currently is run by a very small group - the top four-office bearers, in this case, with the help of a few political heavyweights in nebulous "vice-presidential" roles. The BCCI's daily cricketing operations are carried out by a number of largely anonymous salaried individuals who keep the machine moving, without the direct involvement or supervision of the office-bearers.

If Jagmohan Dalmiya pulled in the money and kept the BCCI running through his office in Kolkata, with a capable secretary, a typewriter and a fax machine, the post-2005 era of N Srinivasan and Lalit Modi was marked by a retention of centralised power but a decentralisation of operations. The post-Srinivasan era, under Shashank Manohar at first, and now Thakur, has witnessed a greater flow of information, and the arrival of a CEO and an ombudsman - the latter being the result of the court's involvement and interest in the BCCI's functioning.

Were the Lodha panel recommendations to be pushed through, what possible disaster could wreck the BCCI, and Indian and world cricket? No one in Indian cricket can possibly be quoted on this subject, so let's go with this neutral assessment: it would cause some disruption at the top, two or three weeks of uncertainty, a period of adjustment, and then a new set of officials would step in. All the while, a well-functioning machine will keep moving, and Tests, ODIs and first-class games will continue to be played.

In November 2014, when the Supreme Court was told of the enormous role played in the development of Indian cricket by the former BCCI president Srinivasan, its response was, "Recognition comes when one lakh [100,000] people turn up at Eden Gardens to watch a match. That recognition is not because of Srinivasan. The benefit of doubt must go to the game rather than the individual."

That position has not changed. The establishment of a more compact governance structure in Indian cricket is of greater priority to the court than its impact on those currently wielding authority. Between then and now, the individuals in charge at the BCCI have changed but their responses to ceding power have been identical. And so it's back to another round of the courts, and no doubt to another round of filibustering by the BCCI's counsel.

No matter what is offered in public however, the sky in Indian cricket, it must be said, is not about to fall.

Sharda Ugra is senior editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Vasudevan on October 19, 2016, 9:55 GMT

    Lodha recommendations if implemented will ensure death of Indian Cricket.

  • rob on October 15, 2016, 2:23 GMT

    Some of the stuff the BCCI gets vilified for (eg the double dipping executives) is actually fairly common practice in sporting associations to be fair. I know that because I've done it myself in country NSW. Just a couple of years ago I was secretary for my local club and treasurer of the district association that ran the competition we played in. I guess the main difference is that both my roles were strictly voluntary but I can see how easily the situation in India might have come about. .. One things for sure. If you took away the salaries and the perks from the top couple of layers of the BCCI you would soon see who was genuinely there for the cricket.

  • rob on October 15, 2016, 1:11 GMT

    The sky won't fall on Indian cricket unless the people stop playing the game, and do it in their droves. I suspect that big wigs the world over make the mistake of thinking the game depends on them. I think it really depends on enough people actually playing it. So, unless these guys end up doing something to decimate the grass roots of the game it will carry on with or without them. If NZ can field a decent cricket team with their total population of 4 million I believe it would take something absolutely devastating to kill off the game in India with your billion+ souls. .. It's just not going to happen.

  • Anil on October 14, 2016, 22:48 GMT

    Part 4: Trivial issues: Many member divisions (Vidarbha, Railways) are not geopolitical entities, and such representations are dubious at best. Therefore, there is nothing wrong in doing away with this system, and instituting a one-state-one-vote system. Age restriction as recommended is trivial, but necessary to avoid age-related inaction (e.g., Dalmiya's last few months when he hardly attended an administrative meeting). Even as India is a huge population, there is no need for five unqualified selectors. Everytime, more than 80% of existing team is retained; any kid with an eye on current domestic scorecard can fortell which player should come in. Vision is needed to groom future prospects, but never has an Indian selectorial panel groomed a future prospect. That vision can come from one visionary selector. Trimming unnecessary stuff will acertain credibility and efficiency.

  • Anil on October 14, 2016, 22:26 GMT

    Part 2: It is wrong to assume that if the SC has its way cricket will be in shambles. Other sports are in shambles; but that is not because of the SC! That is because of many reasons including (1) people's lack of strong interest in supporting other sport (we only criticise how the Olympic participants fail to compete), (2) lack of adequate government support, (3) lack of long-term vision from the government or the sport's administrators, (4) poor administration of the sports bodies etc. None of this would happen if BCCI accepts the SC ruling. SC is not saying that BCCI be run by a judge or a minister. All that the SC is saying is to adopt a system of transparency, logic and principle such that seeping in of corruption can "hopefully" be avoided ("hopefully", because we humans are, at large, corrupt, and the best that we can hope for is "less corruption"). What is wrong in that?

  • Anil on October 14, 2016, 22:18 GMT

    Part 1: Too many people are questioning why the SC does not do anything to other sports that are in shambles. They are also fearing the if the SC has its way, cricket will soon be in shambles. Both these arguments are injudicious. First, cricket is "massively" followed in India, and is almost a nation-wide religion; no other sport can claim 5% of such interest. It is a national obligation for the apex court to safeguard anything and everything that the people of the nation vie for. Thus, when corruption crept in and the police-bureaucrat-judicial tussle became too much, and the BCCI did nothing to stem the rot, it was necessary for the SC to intervene to weed out the bad and to give back to the people a clean sport administration they so truly deserve. What is wrong in that? If other sports get into such turmoil and their administrators do nothing to save it, sure will the SC step in. [Next argument in Part 2]

  • hemant5961337 on October 14, 2016, 20:18 GMT

    I like the point where SC said not to make business when representing country ...if you are going to represent the country then you need to follow the guidelines made by lodha .... its clearly understood for me that BCCI is making money for themselves but not to the country ..they are acting like business people but they are not putting efforts in spreading the cricket to each and every state equally ...

  • Ali on October 14, 2016, 15:47 GMT

    I don't know how they have come to the conclusion that implementing the report will negatively impact Indian Cricket...

    I can say the same for WICB ...

    Oh how I wish the CCJ would do the same think to WICB that the Indian Supreme Court has done to BCCI ...

    one can dream ...

  • Thomas on October 14, 2016, 15:29 GMT

    There is no point in asking questions about the Supreme Court now. They asked BCCI to give a credible reform plan. They did not, and the SC appointed Lodha to do it. The BCCI has only themselves to blame. I don't think that revisiting Lodha proposals will be entertained now because it will go on for another six months or until they can get a favourable CJI. BCCI wants no reform ... period!

  • jayaesh on October 14, 2016, 7:08 GMT

    BCCI has accepted most of the Lodha panel recommendations that actually matter so i reverse the question and ask Ms Ugra and others supporting SC intervention : What's the worse that can happen if two or three recommendations of Lodha panel are not realised ?? look we all agree that BCCI has been opaque all these years , needs to be made accountable thus reforms were needed but there is even more pressing need for judicial reforms while Ms Urgra and the rest are very demanding of BCCI but questions of gross judicial overreach , highhandedness are either being glossed over or being treated with kid-gloves . In all this eagerness and zeal to see the BCCI wings clipped people are forgetting that some of the Lodha panel recommendations are unreasonable and impractical .BTW all the four key BCCI officials in question have done yeoman services in there states and it will be a pity if they are the victims of this purge.

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