BCCI should shun its inhibition and resistance to change and Justice R M Lodha Committee should focus on the fundamentals, leaving rest for the domain experts
“We” verses “We the People”- who owns Indian Cricket? As team India under the ‘Viraat leadership’ of young Kohli becomes number one test playing nation, an internecine war is on for the ownership of Indian cricket. The role of ‘we’ is arrogated here by ‘Board of Control for Cricket in India’ and that of the ‘We the people’ by ‘The Supreme Court of India’ appointed Justice Lodha Committee. The war has entered into a decisive phase. The genuine stakeholders in the entire show, i.e. the fan followers of the game stand worried. “Which of the two sides wins or loses is immaterial. The way things are panning out— Indian cricket will be the ultimate looser”, says advocate Shyam Sharma, one of the millions of ardent followers of the Indian cricket over the years. And this is the most painful part.
Let us start with “We” the current owners of Indian Cricket. Irrespective of all its follies, it’s ‘we’ who has brought Indian cricket to this level. Off the field Indian cricket is
undisputed super power of world cricket. By far it’s the richest and the most powerful amongst all the cricket associations of the world. Indian cricketers are amongst the highest paid in the world cricket today. The
senior cricketers have upmost security amongst the Indian sportspersons. In IPL, the aspiring cricketers have a platform to choose serious cricket as professional option. As the author of the article in his book ‘The IPL Story— Cricket Glamour and Big Money’ after getting the opinions of the best of the brains in the world of sports wrote, “Indian Premier League is potentially an engine of aspiring India. It is already amongst the best sports league in the world. Like any institution crafted in a hurry, it has its share of systemic lacunae. Like any organisation which has overgrown its expectations, it has its limitations. But if these fault lines are smoothened, it could be one of the models of what rising India could achieve in one of the many spheres.” Unfortunately, these fault lines were blatantly ignored and modern issues were addressed with a medieval mindset.
On the field, India is number one in test rankings, number two in T20 rankings and number four in one day rankings. In Virat Kohli and Ravichandran Ashwin, India has potentially all time greatest legends of the game in making. So, whereas in other sports we are trying to find our feet in terms of success, cricket is one sport where- we are in the leadership position in terms of success, on and off the field. But as great cricket writer Peter Roebuck used to often say, “BCCI, has brought India to the pole position. But to stay in this
position, they need to reform
themselves. Unfortunately, they seem to be hesitant to this change.” When we see the present crisis, Late Peter Roebuck’s words seem to be so prophetic.
On the other extreme of the
spectrum is the Justice Lodha Committee—which has positioned itself as ‘We the People of India’. Firstly, the committee has a solid
premise that there has to be
transparency and accountability on the part of those that run and manage the game in the country. Since, this happens to be BCCI; its officials must be bound by the principles of transparency and accountability, even though BCCI is a private body registered under Tamil Nadu Societies registration act. And if these principles will have the highest court of the land mandate, it will have judicial sanctity behind them. In the light of this, it’s understandable that
the committee has debarred the
ministers from occupying positions
in management of cricket, that it
talks of the involvement of CAG
representatives in the auditing of the accounts and that it debars officials from having a third consecutive term.
Secondly, if the BCCI house had been in order, there would have been no need for the court to intervene. As
prolific sports journalist Shri P Sharma says, ‘In the light of this, it’s a golden opportunity for the owners of the game to cleanse the system and reform
themselves as per the contemporary demands. This will give longevity to the brand that they have assiduously built and nurtured over the years.” Thirdly, though it could be contended that one state one vote is an impractical idea at present and associations like Mumbai could not be compared with Tripura- but there is no doubting the fact that power equations vis-à-vis state associations within BCCI require drastic overhaul. How can a state like Maharashtra and Gujarat have three associations each and huge state like Uttar Pradesh have only one and Bihar none? “It was unfortunate that certain BCCI
officials are saying that traditional
structure within Indian cricket needs to be respected. It’s just like the existent
permanent members of the Security Council saying that it needs no further expansion and the present balance should be maintained. The reality is that the BCCI structure like the current UN structure should reform itself in terms of power equation to keep itself relevant”, says Gagan Kumar, sports management expert. However, there are areas where in the name of transparency and accountability, Lodha Committee
recommendations have unnecessarily, gone into the micro management. These areas would have been better taken care of by the domain experts.
Why does the committee want to limit the revenue of the BCCI by
creating obstacles in the process of advertisement and sponsors and their terms of engagement? This should entirely be the prerogative of the apex cricketing body of the world i.e. ICC and subsequently, the corporate world and the market forces which have to function within the rules framed by the apex body. For instance, when the English Premier League approached FIFA for putting in more breaks between the football matches—so that more commercials could be inserted, FIFA red flagged the entire concept. Its contention was that non-stop action is the soul of the game and its basic essence should not be compromised. Why did the committee feel the need of recommending for three instead of five selectors along with their detailed qualifications for the country as large and diverse as India? Unfortunately, this specific recommendation came when we had one of the best selection committees headed by Sandeep Patil at the helm of affairs and it was followed by perhaps one of the most
inexperienced selection committees in the recent times under MSK Prasad. Thirdly, under the plea of controlling the role of the government of the day, the Lodha committee recommended relegating railways—one of the teams which has performed admirably in domestic competitions to be an
India is the world leader in cricket. And through cricket, we have an
opportunity to re define what this young country could achieve and
contribute under its leadership. This advantage should not be frittered away with. And for this, “We” and “We the People” should walk an extra mile to accommodate each other. BCCI should shun its inhibition and resistance to change. And Justice Lodha Committee should focus on the fundamentals
leaving the rest of the areas for the domain experts to deal with. 2016 is nearing its dawn and this dawn will go with a statement pertaining to our
maturity in addressing systemic conflict resolution in an area where “WE” collectively are the masters of the world.
(The writer is senior Sports Journalist)