It is nearly a decade since the Supreme Court was forced to enter cricket administration in the country following spot-fixing allegations in the IPL and the recommendations of the Justice Mudgal Commission. In 2016, the Justice Lodha Commission, with its larger remit, set about reforming the Board of Control for Cricket in India.
As skeletons began tumbling out of the BCCI’s cupboard, its President and Secretary were sacked, and reform measures were laid out which were endorsed by the Supreme Court. A Committee of Administrators was appointed by the Court to run the BCCI, and handle the transition.
When the Justice Lodha Commission recommended a series of changes to streamline the functioning of the BCCI, there was much acclaim. The BCCI — despite everything, still the best-run sports organisation in the country — had got itself into a mess. People were hanging on to power, and cricket appeared to be of less importance than political and personal glory. Egos ruled, and it took the power of the Supreme Court to bring things under control.
The clean-up operation initiated by the Supreme Court was aimed at (among other things) ridding the board of office-bearers across the country who believed they had lifelong postings that were hereditary, with the son or daughter or a relative anointed to take over from them. Conflict of interest was rampant, and systems had to be put in place.
The BCCI’s new constitution incorporated the Lodha reforms, although the officials made no secret of their unhappiness at the changes. Now the spirit of the reforms barely survives.
Justice Lodha’s two key rulings were the ‘cooling off period’ which ensured there was a break after six years in office, and the cut-off age of 70 beyond which no one could be in office. There were others, some of which the BCCI accepted and others they asked to be reviewed.
Had the original Lodha recommendations been followed, the current President and Secretary of the BCCI would have been disqualified. The recent rollback — number of years as official at the State-level cannot now be added to the number of years at the BCCI — means they can stay in office till 2025 if re-elected. In effect an elected official can stay in office for 12 years in a row before the three-year cooling off period kicks in.
There was no particular worry about the age limit (which has been retained) since President Sourav Ganguly is 50 and Secretary Jay Shah is only 33. And neither is likely to be keen on opening the door to former office-bearers past that age.
For a while, with the appointment of a high-profile CEO, the BCCI had the feel of a professionally-run organisation. Neither the domestic season nor the international calendar was adversely affected, and there was a hint then that professionalism in administration was a way out of the BCCI’s fear-and-favour policy which had been in existence for years.
It was felt that elections, especially in the way they were handled, might not be the ideal solution across the various cricket associations and indeed the board itself. The CEO was an important early step towards appointing professionals to run an organisation with a turnover in the billions of dollars.
The BCCI is more corporate entity — with all that it implies — than a restricted sporting body dependent on government handouts for their very existence. This change has come about in recent years, with the influx of new money and new ways of making more money. To have a bunch of amateurs beholden to another set of amateurs for electing them to office handling the big issues is anachronistic in this day and age.
As the roles developed, one hoped that the professional office-bearers would be responsible to the share-holders from the players and fans to the sponsors and television. The Supreme Court probably envisaged this when they introduced the CEO, a salaried point-man responsible for the working of the set-up. But the BCCI didn’t give it enough time.
The BCCI has traditionally been about power and political gain. It has been an opaque body with little accountability. This was the original problem the Supreme Court had set out to eliminate, and with time might have too.
The election of Ganguly, a former India captain as its President was a nod to the sport, but with the Home Minister’s son, businessman Jay Shah, as Secretary, the politician wasn’t far behind. If Ganguly decides to move to the International Cricket Council as its next chairman at the end of the year, it will alter the balance.
In just under a decade, cricket administration in India has gone from a feudal system to something more modern and transparent and now it seems to be steadily moving back. So what was all that fuss about?