Journalists are reflected on a logo of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) during the 87th BCCI annual general meeting in Mumbai on September 21, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / INDRANIL MUKHERJEE / ----IMAGE RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - STRICTLY NO COMMERCIAL USE----- / GETTYOUT
Journalists are reflected on a logo of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) during the 87th BCCI annual general meeting in Mumbai on September 21, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / INDRANIL MUKHERJEE / ----IMAGE RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - STRICTLY NO COMMERCIAL USE----- / GETTYOUT

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has to pay a price for the dismissive manner in which its top brass behaved in dealings with the Supreme Court in the initial stages after the Lodha committee appointed by the apex court gave its recommendations for reforms in cricket administration. It was accepted on all hands that there was dire need to rid the country’s richest sports body of rampant corruption. While the initial steps to inject a modicum of accountability in the BCCI were a welcome measure, the manner in which the committee has gone about asserting its authority raises questions of overreach.

The committee’s act in approaching the Supreme Court for a go-ahead to appoint former Union Home Secretary G.K. Pillai as ‘observer’ for BCCI and the state associations is evidently intended to render the present office-bearers powerless and redundant.  In fact, the Lodha committee has said in its approach to the apex court that the entire administration of the BCCI should be removed. It also sought the immediate and automatic removal of the office bearers of all state cricket associations that have not complied with the criteria set by the top court in July for continuance in office. The Lodha committee sought the Supreme Court’s approval to appoint Mr Pillai as an observer to monitor the administration of the board. It also sought permission to appoint secretarial staff and fix their remunerations. The apex court is yet to deliberate on these recommendations but on the face of it the very thought of a retired senior bureaucrat with no connection to cricket lording it over a duly-elected body managing the much-loved sport seems somewhat out of sorts.

The BCCI and its affiliate state associations have been resisting some of the reforms recommended by the Lodha committee, and had received sharp rebukes from the Supreme Court for this. The Court had also criticised the constitution of the BCCI, saying it was unsuited to bring any level of transparency. On October 21, the top court had placed restrictions on BCCI’s financial freedoms. It had ordered the board not to disburse money to the state associations. It had then allowed the release of limited funds for the conduct of the ongoing Test series between India and England. The appointment of the Lodha committee had come against the backdrop of the match fixing scandal in the Indian Premier League that saw two teams banned from the competition for two years.

All eyes are on the Supreme Court which is due to decide on the recommendations of the Lodha committee the most significant of which is whether all the current office-bearers of BCCI ought to be removed. There is no doubt that by not following these recommendations which had the stamp of the apex court, the BCCI and many of its state affiliates have erred gravely. There was an element of arrogance reflected in how BCCI president Anurag Thakur pooh-poohed some of the recommendations, virtually refusing to carry them out, and dragging his feet over some others. When some state associations ignored the seven criteria for existing members to continue—they should be Indian citizens, under 70 years, should not be insolvent or of unsound mind, should not be a minister or a government servant, should not hold a post in any other sports association or federation other than cricket, should not have been an office-bearer in BCCI for nine years cumulatively and should not be charged by a court of law for a criminal offence – the Lodha panel warned them. Yet, the defiance continued and the BCCI now pleads helplessness on the plea that they are elected bodies not amenable to BCCI dictates.

Under the Lodha panel’s scheme of things, if the Supreme Court agrees, then BCCI CEO Rahul Johri would manage the BCCI under Mr Pillai’s supervision without having to take orders from the office-bearers, including Anurag Thakur. The panel has suggested that future money matters relating to domestic, international and IPL matches should also be handled by the CEO under the supervision of the ‘observer.’ In effect, this would completely eliminate the need for the Anurag Thakur-Shirke team that is currently managing the BCCI. Whether this would be good for cricket is debatable indeed.

Whatever be the ultimate decisions, there can be little doubt that the status of cricket administration in India must be defined clearly and expeditiously. As it stands, uncertainty is looming large on the horizon. And let’s face it—the Indian cricket teams have a busy calendar. With the current office-bearers of BCCI and the International Cricket Conference (which is led by India’s Shashank Manohar) not seeing eye to eye, India is being denied its rightful place in some key international meets. It is indeed time for the air of uncertainty on the composition of the BCCI to be cleared at the earliest.

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