The very sport in which India could claim to be the global superpower is facing the huge crisis of credibility after the Supreme Court verdict. Will Indian cricket transform itself for transparency and still realise its full potential?
Irony, thy name is life. When team India under Virat Kohli is all set for the take off to an altogether new height in the world of cricket, the parent body which governs them has crash-landed with a thud. Just when the country with more than 125 crore population, majority of which comprise of youth wants to stamp its mark in the arena of Olympics sports, the most popular game of the country finds itself in the dock. Didn’t we expect our cricket board to be the role model for other sports federation to emulate? The very sport in which India could claim to be the global superpower in terms of financial muscle and immense bench strength in skill set, is globally facing the huge crisis of credibility. Where do we go from here? This is a million dollar question. More importantly, where do we stand today?
The Supreme Court of India, in a judgment, which has the potential to have long term ramification for Indian sports at large, axed Anurag Thakur and Ajay Shirke from their respective positions, for not complying with the court order. In July 18, 2016 order by the court, most of the BCCI office bearers were ineligible to carry on and the Lodha panel has asked the court to remove them. The Supreme Court is set to replace the top brass of the board with a panel of administrators. The court has sought new names for the same who could execute Lodha Panel recommendations. January 19, 2017 is the next date of hearing.
Hours after the court order, Anurag Thakur uploaded a video clip on the social media. The clip said, ‘‘If the Supreme Court judges feel that BCCI could do well under the retired judges, I wish them all the best. I am sure Indian cricket will do well under their guidance. My commitment for the best of Indian cricket and autonomy of sport will always remain”. Ajay Shirke took this contention a step further. When specifically asked whether the situation could have been avoided had the board implemented the sweeping reforms earlier, Shirke said, ‘‘There was no question of handling the issue differently. At the end of the day, the BCCI comprises of members. It’s not about me or the President. It’s about the members. I have no reasons to go into history. History can be judged by people differently”.
History is an ever evolving process. It assigns different role to different characters at different points of time. In this case, BCCI President and BCCI Secretary may be the ones who were axed after the court order. Nevertheless, the two broader issues could be relegated in the background. Firstly, both these individuals had to play as per the script written long before. In fact, they came to the
driving seat of the ship when it was almost on the verge of sinking. Secondly, the final chapters of the unfolding saga on Indian cricket are yet to be written. Will Indian cricket go strength to strength from here and optimise their full potential? Or, will the potential of the Indian cricket get caged in the emerging scenario? As journalist Yogesh Gulati says, ‘‘In the short run it may look victory or loss for certain individuals. But in the long run, some core fundamental issues, confronting Indian sporting bodies are to be resolved. If these issues are resolved amicably, it will be a guide for the other sports bodies to follow. However, if they remain unresolved, there is a possibility of Indian sporting structure taking many steps
backwards”. If Indian sports are
compared to a whole body, cricket looks to be the healthiest organ of this body. What was ailing this seemingly healthiest organ? And how and when did this ailment start?
India was eight times Olympics champion in hockey. The wizard of Indian hockey, Major Dhyanchand was the first sporting legend of independent India. On the contrary, Indian cricket’s first genuine global success story started as late as 1983, when India won the world cup in England. India’s pan global cricketing icon Sachin Tendulkar made his debut in 1989. And yet, cricket gave the
country global footprints in sports because of two reasons. Firstly,
success in hockey was in the time when India, as the newly independent nation was trying to find its feet. In fact, the wounded civilisation had just got on its feet. Cricket’s success story on the contrary started when Indians had started to make their mark in their country and overseas. India’s cricket global icon, Sachin Tendulkar, made his debut just two years before when India formally decided to get rid of license-quota-permit raj and go ahead with liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation. Secondly, rise in
hockey came in the pre-television era. On the contrary, cricket came in the television era. As Professor of modern India, N K Dwivedi adds, ‘‘Riding on the success of 1983 world cup victory and with its global icon Tendulkar coming in the television age backed by liberalisation, globalisation and
privatisation, cricket administrators like Jagmohan Dalmiya, I S Bindra, A C Muthaih made Indian cricket
commercially viable. They changed the center of cricket from London to Eden Gardens/Wankhede Stadium”. India became cricket’s financial super power and subsequently its world leader. MS Dhoni’s young team
representing pan India in terms of non traditional cricketing centers won the inaugural T20 world cup for the
country. And, then the Indian Premier League (IPL) was born. The IPL soon grew into one of the wealthiest sports leagues of the world. This brought in new set of challenges. But
unfortunately, the approach and the structure to manage these challenges failed to evolve with the changing times.
During the press conference to announce Nokia being acquired by Microsoft, Nokia CEO ended his speech saying, ‘‘We didn’t do anything wrong, but somehow we lost”. Nokia after all has been a respectable
company. They didn’t do anything wrong in their business, however the world changed too fast. They missed out on learning, they missed out on changing, and thus they lost the
opportunity at hand to make it big. Not only they missed the opportunity to earn big money, they also lost the chance to survival. Ditto BCCI. After the coming up of the IPL, sea change was required in the governance model of BCCI. The idea behind the league was good and it picked up as
commercial venture as well. In the field of cricket, it increased the bench strength of Indian team and gave
economic security to the former and emerging cricketers. Off the field, it gave confidence to the other sporting bodies to come up with the league model. However, as Yogesh Gulati says, ‘‘Since it was out and out a
commercial venture, it demanded transparency, accountability and
professionalism in terms of functioning. This required a professional set up. But unfortunately, they wanted to run the new idea with the old mindset. Lalit Modi controversy was the first clear warning and situation became totally out of control after this. The match fixing allegations and accusations with the active connivance of some of the famed team owners close to the then BCCI President proved to be the final
And, this is going to be a major challenge before the new panel to be entrusted with the task of
administering the cricket board from here. The panel needs to come up with a professional outlook and
structure as per the changing times. It has to put in a system in place which is transparent and accountable. In
nutshell, they need to come up with a set up which is geared to take up the challenges confronting Indian cricket in the short run and other sports
federations in the long run. And all this; keeping intact India’s position as a world cricketing leader- both on the cricketing field, and in the power
corridors of ICC. This indeed is going to be a huge test. But then, irony, thy name is life!
(The writer is a Senior sports Journalist)