At its Special General Meeting (SGM) on Friday, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) will have to find a via media to implement the recommendations of the Justice Rajendra Mal Lodha Committee to streamline its administration when most affiliates have serious reservations about them.
In the light of the Supreme Court’s clear warning that the board should fall in line as there is no second innings for it, there is little scope for any large-scale changes in what the Lodha panel has recommended.
There could be some minor tinkering here and there when the board goes in an appeal to the Supreme Court with its objections. Don’t forget, the panel has finalised the recommendations after talking to all stakeholders.
The affiliated units are finding it difficult because quite a few of them are family concerns, sons and sons-in-law in the line of succession.
If the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB), headed by former India captain Sourav Ganguly, rejected half the steps suggest by the committee, the Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA) predictably is seeing them through the prism of its own dysfunctionality.
Then, the state associations in the West Zone have their fears about losing their voting rights and with their cumulative strength and their individual identity.
The idea of recommending a uniform constitution is to avoid the anomalies, but the DDCA wants to protect its turf by continuing under the Company law Board while most others, including the board, come under the Registrar of Societies Act.
The officials are also displeased with limiting the tenure of the board’s office-bearers, fixing a 70-year age limit, one state-one vote and bar on ministers and government officials from becoming key officials.
The board might use the plea that it is difficult to govern a vast country like India with a truncated working committee and also with a three-man selection committee.
The board should not have any objection to the office-bearers each serving a maximum of three terms of nine years though they may have reservations about the cooling off period between the stints.
President Shashank Manohar may not have qualms about shedding an additional vote and also a say in the team selection since it is not going to seriously affect his functioning though there have been instances when the president’s casting vote tilted the balance and also saved captains.
There will now be only five elected office-bearers: president, vice-president, secretary, joint secretary and treasurer but this will be contested by the associations.
The board should have no objection to the inclusion of players’ representatives, including a woman, and a nominee of the Comptroller and Auditor General in the refurbished working committee, henceforth to be called the Apex Council.
For all practical purposes, the panel has thrown the zonal system, with one vice-president from each zone, out of the window.
The board has already appointed Justice Ajit Prakash Shah as ombudsman and likewise should have no objection to appointing an ethics officer and an election officer.
The ombudsman is already flooded with a bagful of complaints about conflict of interest and in one case involving former India captain Sourav Ganguly, the board pleaded ignorance of his dealings.
The conflict of interest clause should be very clear and it should eliminate or minimize the conflict between duty and self-interest just as in the case of parliamentarians. Officials and players should be protected from extraneous influences or executive patronage so that they can function without fear or favour.
Two former Test stars, Dilip Vengsarkar and Chetan Chauhan, have already objected to the clause as they are running private cricket academies are in conflict with their positions on the board and the state associations.
The board seems to be backing its secretary, Anurag Thakur, against whom the complaint is that his own relation and a business partner in a family concern is not seen as a conflict of interest. The ombudsman has asked the complainant to state which law can be applied in Thakur’s case.
The ombudsman has spelt out the areas that constitute a conflict of interest – players and officials running academies, sports management companies and apparel manufacturing units.
As a test case, he has asked India player Harbhajan Singh to either terminate his association with a company, which the off-spinner says is headed by his mother or his position in Indian cricket.
The one-state-one-vote will hit two states – Maharashtra and Gujarat – which have three associations and field three teams each in the Ranji Trophy. Some of them will have to be stripped of their voting rights.
Maharashtra, Mumbai, Vidarbha, Gujarat, Baroda and Saurashtra will make a case on the strength of their long-standing in Indian cricket and so will the Cricket Club of India, (CCI) which will be without a vote going on the panel’s recommendation.
The panel has gone a lot further by recommending that Bihar and the northeastern states of Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Sikkim be made members of the board with voting rights. (Assam and Tripura are already BCCI members.)
The new arrangement will reduce the bargaining strength of the West Zone, which will be reduced drastically while the voting strength of the East will go up to a dozen – the most from any region. In the recommended states, barring Bihar, there is little cricket activity and board has a system of affiliation.
The SGM will have a long day, with state associations coming armed with the legal opinion on contentious issues. Eventually, they will have to accept most of the recommendations, though the Supreme Court will take the final call if they insist on knocking on its door again.
(Column: Just Sport)