INSIDE STORY: How the BCCI lost the plot and its power

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Not so long ago, the Indian cricket board was calling the shots in world cricket. One incident particularly sticks out when one talks of the enormous power the Board of Control for Cricket in India wielded.

The Indians were supposed to tour South Africa in 2013-14 for three Tests, seven ODIs and two T20s according to the Future Tours Programme.

But relations between the Indian and South African board suddenly nose-dived, with the BCCI taking exception to the appointment of former ICC CEO Haroon Lorgat as the South African board chief.

Apparently, the Indians had reservations about Lorgat’s way of functioning when he was at the ICC and were in no mood to deal with him. CSA was forced to keep Lorgat out of the negotiations but even that didn’t help matters as India ended up agreeing to just two Tests and three ODIs.

South Africa lost around $20 million due to the curtailed fixture, which rocked their domestic structure for the rest of the season.

It’s one of the many instances where the Indian board did what it did simply because it could.

But as they say, nothing lasts forever. And for the BCCI, those days seem a long, long time ago. By February 2017, the BCCI, as we knew it, had lost almost all of its aura of invincibility. Now, there is a court-appointed committee of administrators overseeing the structural transformation of the Indian board.

So how did we reach this point?

It started with the 2013 IPL spot-fixing scandal. Three cricketers – S Sreesanth, Ankeet Chavan and Ajit Chandila – were arrested for fixing during the T20 tournament. While the players were readily banned, the India board found ‘no evidence of any wrongdoing’ against Raj Kundra, co-owner of Rajasthan Royals, and Gurunath Meiyappan, high ranking official of Chennai Super Kings, over allegations of being involved in betting.

From there started the downward spiral. The case had reached the Bombay High Court, which struck down BCCI’s clean-chit to the owners. The matter eventually moved to the Supreme Court and after a titanic tussle, not only were the two officials found guilty and the franchises suspended, the entire set-up of the BCCI was uprooted.

The BCCI underestimated the highest court’s desire to clean up the system; be it regarding conflict of interest, as was the case of former BCCI chief N Srinivasan who was also the head of India Cements that owned Chennai Super Kings and is the father-in-law of Meiyappan, or the broader issue of tenure of officials in the BCCI and presence of politicians in the board.

Some recommendations of the court-appointed RM Lodha panel were tough to digest, like having three national selectors instead of five and having one vote per state, which would result in domestic heavyweights like Mumbai losing some of their power. But the court had made up its mind.

Last month, the court appointed a four-member committee of distinguished personalities to oversee the transition process after president Anurag Thakur and secretary Ajay Shirke were ousted for failing to comply with the court’s directions.

The new committee is chaired by former Comptroller and Auditor General of India Vinod Rai and includes renowned historian and cricket writer Ramachandra Guha, former India women’s captain Diana Edulji and finance expert Vikram Limaye.

The road ahead is uncertain with attempts being made to somehow scuttle the entire overhaul process. While that is a matter for the court to oversee, what is certain is the BCCI would have avoided all this mess had they acted on time.

According to Neeru Bhatia, sports writer with The Week magazine, there was simply no way out for the BCCI and they failed to realise that.

“This was something which was bound to happen. The BCCI had resisted the reforms staunchly. The judgment which came on July 18, 2016 was one which stated all recommendations in the Lodha Committee report had to be implemented. But the BCCI kept resisting it,” Neeru told Sport360.

“They gave them (BCCI) time, first until September last year and then December to complete all the processes related to amending the BCCI constitution. But Anurag Thakur told the court the BCCI can’t force the state to change their constitution. Also, there was a smear campaign being run by vested interest in the BCCI to discredit the Lodha panel and the judiciary, which is what made the court really angry.”

Neeru, who has covered the court proceedings closely, says the court didn’t want to take matters into its own hands but in the end was left with no option.

“The court’s first stand was ‘we don’t want to force your hand’. They told the BCCI they had to implement the recommendations and there was no way out. But the BCCI tried to prolong the matter. The major part of the reforms were not implemented and that angered the Lodha panel.

“What didn’t work in the BCCI’s favour is the president Thakur didn’t go and meet them. That didn’t go down well with the court. Officials now say they should have at least met the panel.”

What the latest developments have also done is sully the image of the BCCI. Despite its apparent flaws, the Indian board is one of the most efficient sports organisations in the country and conducts game-related activities efficiently.

“It is a poor reflection of sports administration in India,” said Vijay Lokapally, deputy editor of sports for The Hindu newspaper and one of the senior most cricket journalists in India.

“During Srinivasan’s regime, he was like an autocrat. Although for players he was a very good president. He brought in a lot of money, he ensured pension for former players. But he was power hungry and that was his mistake.

“Thakur did very good work. He brought in transparency, he got players like Anil Kumble and Rahul Dravid to give their services to Indian cricket (as coach). It was a controversy free reign as far as cricket was concerned. But he was misled by those close to him and they did not pay heed to what the court was saying. Today they have lost everything. People now feel this regime did no good work.”

However, Lokapally agrees it was time for a change.

“There were many associations that were not allowing a new set of office bearers to come in. (However) the former officials have set a benchmark and I am sure a new set of young officials will do much better. We will have much better administration now as there will be an emphasis on transparency.”

The consensus is if the BCCI had taken strict action right after the 2013 spot fixing scandal, including against the officials, or if it had been more considerate and respectful while dealing with the court, the entire structure might not have been uprooted.

But that has happened. Looking ahead, there are some areas of concern, mainly the upcoming IPL auction and the tournament in April. For court-appointed administrator Edulji, the main task is ensuring orders are followed at the earliest.

“Our priority is to see that the Supreme Court order is implemented as soon as possible. Also, IPL is high on our priority. We will sort all the problems and go ahead with the auction,” the former India captain told Sport360.

Questions were raised over the expertise of the rest of the committee to oversee cricket matters but Edulji sees no such issues.

“My inputs will be from the game’s point of view. That doesn’t mean the committee doesn’t know what is going on. They are well aware of the situation.”

So, the changes will happen. However, they could have been done without the collateral damage to the board’s reputation and the entire set-up.

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