It was always on the cards that the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) would try every stratagem to attempt to sabotage meaningful reforms that may seek to dilute its power to run the sport in India with virtually no accountability. For far too long by far the most cash-rich sporting body in the country has ruled the sport as though nobody has the right to question it regardless of allegations of corruption and misuse of authority. There had grown a feeling that the BCCI, with powerful forces behind it, was a law unto itself. Some accountability should have been injected into the BCCI functioning decades ago but it is better late than never. The defiance shown by cricketing bosses in the wake of the Supreme Court’s in-principle acceptance of the Lodha Committee’s recommendations should not go unpunished even if the BCCI substantially caves in. Chief Justice Thakur is not off the mark when he says that at every stage there has been defiance (by the BCCI). The Supreme Court’s amicus curiae Gopal Subramanium’s description of the constant to-and-fro shuffling of responsibility to implement the Lodha reforms between BCCI and its member State cricket associations as a ‘farce’, a ‘charade’ in which ‘Mr. Jekyll is indeed Mr. Hyde’ is apt indeed. The majesty of law and of the apex court that sits in judgement over myriad matters cannot be compromised.
However, it would be unfair for every suggestion of the BCCI bosses to be dismissed without going into its merit. This should be no ego battle. For instance, it is unwise for a committee to decide how many members should be on a selection panel for cricket teams. That is a matter of detail that should be left to the BCCI. There is little point in the Lodha panel or the Supreme Court being dogmatic on an administrative decision like this. As for the ‘One State One Vote’ principle, there is merit in the argument of BCCI advanced by its counsel Kapil Sibal that this deserved to be looked at afresh. The bigger and more cricket-active states ought to get greater weightage than small units like Nagaland or Arunachal which have hardly any cricketing culture worth the name. But the apex court bench’s ordering of a freeze on the disbursal of Rs. 16.73 crore each to the member associations is perfectly legitimate because there is a nagging fear that this is a source of much corruption in the BCCI and is a reward for the states voting in a certain way in the Board’s elections. There is indeed no convincing rationale for the BCCI dithering in implementing the Lodha committee recommendation with regard to the age ceiling of 70 years for BCCI apex council members. That this is being sought to be scuttled by some vested interests is a justifiable suspicion. The apex court would do well to insist that this be implemented. The BCCI must indeed shed its arrogance that it is high and mighty. If it is true that it had written to the ICC to complain of government interference it is a reflection of the cricketing body’s perception that it is in some ways above the law.