Senior Indian cricket board officials and legal luminaries have started reading the fine print in the report of the Supreme Court-appointed Justice (retd) Rajendra Mal Lodha Committee which recommended far-reaching guidelines to went tone up the administration of the apex body of the sport. Preferring not to jump the gun by going public on issues they don’t agree with or detrimental to their existence, the board officials have planned out different strategies, anticipating the likely impact of the report on the board, going by the questionnaire the Committee circulated. The board officials clearly see a positive in that their president, Shashank Manohar has come in for praise from Lodha for implementing certain recommendations of the committee in anticipation even before the report was made public. Most of the issues dealt by the committee have been vexing the board for years, but owing to the lack of courage or not wanting to get into a major controversy, it refused to take them head on.
Manohar has already begun an exercise as to how many of the recommendations the board can implement straightaway and what are the issues it needs clarity. He has got in touch with some senior colleagues, including a former board president who deposed before the Committee. He used the board’s annual awards function in Mumbai to discuss and prepare an argument on issues the board differs with the Lodha committee. As for political strategy, the powerful politicians in the board can take care of themselves and if the worse comes to worse, they can come up with a legislative solution. One recommendation of the committee will, perhaps, need legislative nod as it involves legalising betting in the country. By doing so, corruption in the sport can be checked besides the states getting sizable revenue. There is considerable opposition from the states in the past. The states feel gambling and liquor can ruin households. Is there anything that is original in the recommendations of the Lodha Committee? Yes, administratively, it has tightened the board’s committees and simplified and codified the rules without throwing in unnecessary legalese or verbosity. The one recommendation the politicians are worried is that no minister or serving bureaucrat can be an office-bearer of the board.
The apex court will have to clarify on this. The simple interpretation tells us that Jyotiraditya Scindia, Rajiv Shukla or Anurag Thakur can continue with the board since they are not ministers. Of course, all three of them will fall under one-man-one-post category and will have to choose whether they would prefer to be in the board or their state associations, like some other colleagues of theirs. In any case, under the Lodha Committee recommended structure, there is little scope for conflict of interest. There are ministers in the state associations, some of which have made it mandatory to have a chief minister or his nominee as a patron. The case of Sharad Pawar is different, he will be out as he has crossed the stipulated age 70 to be in the board. The same age rule has also slammed the door on Srinivasan. If there is anything, the committee has given three terms to the principal office bearers of the board as a compromise.
Till Narayanaswami Srinivasan changed the constitution by removing the cap on the tenure, the board presidents always had a three-year term, two years plus one more year if the incumbent’s record is good. The three-year term worked well, giving a chance from each zone to aspire to become board president till the convention was broken by ambitious politicians short-circuited the system. Under the new dispensation, they can have three terms, but not more than one at a time, making it a compulsory wait or cooling off time before seeking another one. Under the new formula the working committee, renamed as Apex Council, has been trimmed beyond recognition. It ceases to be a mini general body.
The new arrangement, if approved, will have a Chief Executive Officer (CEO), assisted by six professional managers, reporting to a nine-member council comprising two nominated by full members, a representative of Players Association and a nominee of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG). Surprisingly, the committee even named the steering committee to help in the formation of the Players Association “to give players a voice, use their expertise and skill for the development and betterment of the game” and with the board’s financial backing! Not surprisingly, the defunct Players Association secretary is willing to revive it. Likewise, the franchisees will have a say in the IPL Governing Council with two of them finding a place in it on a rotational basis. On the one-state-one-vote concept, the committee simply followed the constitutions of other National Sports Federations (NSF). But it is not clear whether the three units in Maharashtra and Gujarat will have to merge into one. Is it that they will have only one vote but can continue to field three teams? The board is likely to fight it out. The grouse of other major associations is how come three units in one state get an unfair advantage by way of each association getting subsidy whereas some of the bigger states have to make do with one. The apex court will have to take a serious look at the anomalies. Don’t forget that one judge on the division bench which went hammer and tongs in the Supreme Court when the issue of conflict of interest and the maladministration of the board came up is today the Chief Justice of India.
(Veturi Srivatsa is a senior journalist. The views expressed are personal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)