A couple of weeks back, Anurag Thakur took over as the BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India) chief. Speaking to Nishant kr Azad, he talked about the challenges and his plans for the future. Excerpts:
Hearty congratulations for having been unanimously elected as the President of World’s most powerful cricket board, BCCI. You are comparatively a young leader with fresh ideas. What is the secret of this spectacular rise?
I think, I have been working with the BCCI for the last 16 years. I was the youngest president at the age of 25 in the year-2000. Even today after 16 years, I am the youngest president of any state unit. So age is on one side but the experience of 16 years also counts. I worked at various levels and with various committees in the selection, in finance and many more. I was elected as joint secretary, then secretary of the board. I know the internal system and the functioning of the board that must have gone in my favour. And that’s why all the members unanimously decided to make me President of the board.
What are your priorities as the BCCI chief?
We are trying to work in the areas that may look like smaller and minor but these are the new initiatives of the BCCI where things are different, for example giving new experience to spectators and numbering of seats. It may look like small initiative, but if there is numbering on seats, the ticket holder will have the idea where he/she is to sit. Nobody else can occupy that seat. Good quality drinking water in the stadium, clean toilets and earmarked areas for old and specially-abled people are our priorities. Other than this, we are in the process of giving 10% (minimum) free tickets during the test matches to the girl students as well as to the specially-abled. This can also be the medium to promote test matches and get new audience to the ground. Apart from this we have taken green initiative where we are going to do the energy audit of all old stadiums and then will install solar panel on the top. We are also trying to maximise the use of LED bulbs in stadium; rain water harvesting and use of sewer water wherever possible. We are going to help the blind, deaf & dumb and the specially-abled, for that we have five crore of fund for the next five years.
The Board is facing the heat from the Supreme Court to implement the Lodha Committee’s recommendations for extensive reforms. How will you deal with this?
I think many people look at these recommendations as challenges but I personally feel BCCI itself has brought-in so many reforms during the last fifteen months. Many of the initiatives we have taken on our own. Wherever we feel it is proper to bring changes, we make changes. The ICC also changed the constitution two years back. Institutions like bureaucracy, judiciary or even media also need reforms but are they bringing in? No. I think it should be upto the body to rethink from time to time and bring reforms and BCCI has been doing it for such a long period.
It’s not easy to make reform and many of the recommendations do not seem to be practical. Shashank Manohar has also mentioned these things in a press conference when he was BCCI chairman. ICC is also worried about that. So honourable court has to take a look on feasibility and implementation of recommendations
According to Lodha committee, betting should be made legal in India. What is your opinion?
Whether legalising betting or bringing BCCI under the purview of RTI is the call government has to take. How can BCCI decide about that? We are here to follow the law of the land. We have lot of faith in the judicial system and I am sure judiciary will not force things on us. Today, even parents do not force their ideas on their children.
It is alleged that BCCI doesn’t take serious steps against those who are involved in match fixing and spot fixing. How will you tackle these issues?
I have introduced private member bill in Parliament in which discussed about imposing ban of 10 years on match fixing. In past also we had taken strong steps against players who were involved in match fixing, from Mohd Azharuddin to Sreesanth and for this whole world appreciated us. Even we banned Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals for two years. We are also educating players not to indulge in illegal activities and that worked well. In the case of Hiken Shah, the other player with him informed the BCCI authority that he was also approached for match fixing which clearly shows our policy of educating players is working. Still it is going to be a challenge in coming years because whoever is involved in such illegal activities will keep on trying to approach players. It is the responsibility of players to report about such things to anti-corruption wing of BCCI.
BCCI is known for its own politics and groups. How are you planning to take everyone along?
In a family people with different ideas live together but when they have to take a decision they think collectively and unanimously take a decision. Similarly, in BCCI we have stake holders who give their opinions and views. And by end of the day, we make a final decision in the interest of game. So I think that’s not the problem. I have known each and everyone for the last so many years and today I may be young at age but senior in the BCCI.
Do you think, Test matches have been ignored over the years because of Twenty20 matches?
Viewers decide what they want to see T20 or test matches. It’s not you, me or BCCI decides. We are in the process to attract youth towards test matches. I have already said that we will make 10% free tickets to promote test matches. When youth will come to stadium and give more time to test matches, automatically they will start taking interest in the longer version of the game. Infact, we want to give more money to test match players. Within few months we will take the decision on that. The board is in process to take steps to promote test cricket, domestic cricket and women cricket.
Cricketing infrastructure needs a revamp. Your take on this.
See, most of the state associations are talking about building stadiums all over the country. After the IPL final, I went to Andhra Pradesh Cricket Association, Vijayawada. Mulapadu and Mangalagiri are the two places where they have built three new grounds. Gokaraju Ganga Raju, BJP MP and also Secretary of Andhra Cricket association has done a great job. Andhra Cricket association has built indoor practice areas which I inaugurated recently. Even in the North-East, there are beautiful stadiums available. Now the next step BCCI will be taking to make indoor practice areas at Shillong and Dimapur, to develop the gymnasium there and to provide better infrastructure facilities.
Do you think there is need to relook at subsidies and grants that state units get?
Not really, I think we need to look at the areas where they can do better. You have to create examples like Himachal where state association created many grounds, not only in Dharamsala but also at Bilaspur, Hamirpur, Shimla, Una and Mandi. We are going to start a newsletter to inform state association about their performance. We will collect data and circulate to them. So far as transparency and accountability are concerned we will place all their data on the website. Then people will get lot of information.
In recent years, the image of BCCI gone tarnished. What are the steps you will take to rectify this perception?
If you look the things in totality, whole world looks at BCCI as the most organised association. Even in India, BCCI is like a role model because it has brought reforms from time to time. The major decisions taken in the meeting have been conveyed through website and on social media platforms.
We have already brought in lot of transparency, accountability and professionalism into the system. In future also, we will do everything which is required to bring more transparency. We have nothing to hide. BCCI is a transparent system.