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Setting the BCCI house in order

2017 Jun 02 by Suresh Menon

The hierarchy of responsibility in Indian cricket administration is affecting transition, and causing delays in the enforcement of the Supreme Court’s orders

The hierarchy of responsibility in Indian cricket administration is affecting transition, and causing delays in the enforcement of the Supreme Court’s orders. State associations look for directions from the Board of Control for Cricket in India; the BCCI looks to the Committee of Administrators; the COA is cautious and awaits the Supreme Court’s word. And there are sixty thousand cases pending in the Supreme Court.

Justice Lodha whose recommendations the Supreme Court accepted while attempting to cleanse the cricket board, suggests that the COA might be micro-managing when it should focus on implementing the Supreme Court’s rulings. “Management and governance should not be mixed up,” he has said.

Perhaps he has a point. The COA, like the Lodha Committee earlier, is not expected to be involved in the day-to-day running of the sport. Yet it is forced to act as a super-board because the BCCI itself is lacking in leadership and is happy to line the path to change with all manner of roadblocks. 

Few associations have held proper elections as required by the Supreme Court, and there aren’t enough committed, young leaders emerging from the mess that is the BCCI.  A strong, clean visionary is the need of the hour, yet the BCCI’s traditional allergy to nurturing the generation to follow has left it bereft of a personality who can shake off its moribundity and bring in fresh energy.

The COA finds itself in a bind, provoked incessantly by the BCCI, and forced to re-define its role as it goes along. Yet, it has shown a positive attitude by agreeing to ask the Supreme Court to take another look at what some associations have called “unimplementable” (sic) directions. These include the one-state, one-vote rule, the removal of voting rights to the Railways and Services and the inclusion of the CAG as a BCCI member.

This is more than the BCCI’s highly paid lawyers and its own high profile office-bearers were able to do. The suggestion that there is an element of reasonableness on all sides is encouraging.

It is worth examining a slightly different approach to cricket in the North East. As mentioned in these columns earlier, it would make sense to have – initially – a composite team from that region in the Ranji Trophy since no state can field a first class team that is competitive.  For so long has the region been neglected that to expect individual teams from Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Sikkim or Nagaland to be anything but fodder for the big teams is unrealistic. Perhaps there can be a deadline by which time - through systematic efforts including investment in infrastructure – some or all of these teams will have to be ready for the national championship.

The COA was appointed in January; four months later, it is yet to oversee the changes associations are required to make to their constitutions to bring uniformity to administration at that level.  In January, its head, the former Comptroller and Auditor General Vinod Rai saw his role as that of a “nightwatchman”, putting systems in place to ensure a smooth transition.

Yet, in real terms, there hasn’t been that much progress. The general body meetings needed to change registrations haven’t been held, uniform elections haven’t even been contemplated, constitutional reforms necessary aren’t being discussed. The nightwatchman is in for a long innings. Perhaps there is a need to co-opt one or two more members who have the sole responsibility of creating the atmosphere for constitutional changes. Nothing can happen at the board level before the state level issues are sorted out.

The COA was present at the meeting of the captains and coaches that discussed domestic matters including the return to home-and-away matches in the Ranji Trophy (instead of playing at neutral venues). A good and necessary discussion that was. But why should the COA involve itself in what is a purely cricketing matter? Likewise, according to some reports, a COA member is expected to be present when the Cricket Advisory Committee of Sachin Tendulkar, V V S Laxman and Sourav Ganguly choose the next national coach. Again, why?

The COA might be spreading itself too thin, getting involved in the nuts-and-bolts when it is yet to enforce its primary objective – to oversee state association elections, carry out the SC’s orders and then make itself redundant. The committee comprises good people, professional, cricket-loving, and with much to contribute to setting the BCCI house in order. Yet by getting dragged into the by-lanes and alleyways of administration it is being distracted from the main route.

It was never going to be easy. To hand-hold the BCCI while it travelled into the 21st century is an exercise fraught with tension. Chipping away the harmful debris accumulated over some eight decades in eight weeks or even eight months would be impossible even if everybody acted as if time were of the essence.

Yet delays are dangerous. They do no favours to any of the elements involved, least of all the game of cricket itself.  Uncertainty is the enemy of stability.