There is a sense of relief that the panel led by former Comptroller and Auditor General Vinod Rai will oversee the BCCI’s return to the rails after bad navigation by the elected officials.
The Supreme Court has chosen well, and in doing so has opened a window to the future of cricket administration in the country. The Committee of Administrators has two essential qualities that were mostly missing from the elected officials of the recent past: integrity and credibility.
It does not matter that Dr Ramachandra Guha knows more cricket than the others or that Diana Edulji is the only one to have played international cricket. Together they bring to administration a mix of intelligence and concern that can only be good for the game.
There is a sense of relief that the panel led by former Comptroller and Auditor General Vinod Rai will oversee the BCCI’s return to the rails after bad navigation by the elected officials. As the bridge between the old cricket board and the new one, the panel is free to discuss with the Lodha Committee the possibilities of tweaking some of the details of the rulings if necessary. From a confrontational board, the Supreme Court will be happy to deal with one which speaks for cricket, and that is a pleasant change.
Indian cricket needs officials who don’t have a horse in the race, so to speak, and that is the strength of the Rai Panel.
If the BCCI feels hard done by at having to pay yet another panel to come in and clean its house, it is useful to remember that it was its own reluctance to do so that has led to this pass.
The team of Rai, Guha, Eduljee and Vikram Limaye will not have it easy. It will have to begin with the state associations and then build up to the BCCI. There is the matter of the states having to amend their constitutions and bye laws. The Lodha Committee has clarified, however, that elections may be conducted before these amendments are made, saying, “While there is no bar to the holding of elections (subject to orders of any court), if any election is held which is inconsistent with the committee’s report and the judgement of the Supreme Court, then the same will be treated as void and with no legal sanctity…”
The Rai Panel completes its tenure the moment elections to the BCCI are complete (which would imply that all the state associations are in place too). Thus the panel’s task is to make itself irrelevant as quickly as possible. Easier said than done, especially if the old guard in the BCCI decides to prolong cricket’s agony by delaying tactics or going on a non-co-operation drive which could become embarrassing with an important series against Australia coming up. The Rai Panel should prepare for the worst while having Plan B and Plan C ready.
When the Supreme Court made it clear that it did not expect the Committee to work for free (“all office bearers work for the love of cricket” was the BCCI’s contention), it pointed to a direction cricket administration could take in future.
“We want a professional set of administrators,” the Supreme Court said, echoing the thoughts of many who are sick of the “love of cricket” theme touted by officials who make “sacrifices” for the game. This is a platitude favoured by the chair-huggers who use cricket to further their own (and their family’s) professional and social careers.
Pay the office bearers, run the BCCI like a corporate house and accountability and transparency will follow. That may lie sometime in the future, but already some state associations have CEOs, as does the BCCI itself. There is nothing sacrosanct about elected officials who form cozy clubs and demonstrate in every generation that cricket is not their highest priority. Elections are bought and paid for, cliques of mutual back-scratchers are easily formed, and officials are grouted to their seats for decades.
The immediate task of the Rai Panel, however, is to find out which associations have done how much to follow the Supreme Court’s July 18 rulings of last year. That such a study is not readily available indicates that most associations have been in limbo for a while, waiting to see which way the wind will blow before doing anything.
In Rai the panel has a man of experience who has sniffed out financial and political scams in his time as the CAG of India. Limaye comes with a background in finance and accounting. Edulji has faced the best and the worst of the BCCI both as player and a vocal opponent of its feudalistic ways. Guha, whose understanding of the game is matched only by his powerful sense of right and wrong, will now create rather than write history.
When the Supreme Court gave its ruling on the Lodha Committee recommendations in July last, the BCCI counsel said that the governing body would “show greatest respect in implementing the judgment." Six months later, it has taken the sacking of the President and Secretary and the formation of a new panel to get to the starting point. The real work begins now.