Justice RM Lodha, the former chief justice of India, who headed the three-member panel with ex-Supreme Court judges Ashok Bhan and RV Raveendran by his side, has become unpopular among BCCI members
A day after the Supreme Court passed its landmark judgment, ordering a radical overhaul of the BCCI’s (Board of Control for Cricket in India’s) structure, governance and functioning, a Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) official was trying to convince some reporters that things would remain unchanged in state associations for the next one year. “For the BCCI, the deadline to implement the Lodha Committee recommendations is six months. For state bodies, it’s one year. Our elections are held every year and we can go ahead with our Annual General Meeting (AGM) this term,” the official looked hell-bent on driving home his point. A Mumbai maidan jargon readily came to mind: GTU (gir geye phir bhi tange upar). Most of Indian cricket functionaries have always revelled in being very clever. The ‘whiplash’ has now forced them to retreat, tail between their legs. The officials are trying to keep a stiff upper lip, but the court order has made a lot of them cringe inside.
“‘Change’, it is famously said, is all that is constant in the world. And yet the world hates change, no matter it is only change that has brought progress for mankind,” the two-judge bench of chief justice of India TS Thakur and justice Ibrahim Kalifulla preferred to be a little philosophical in the opening lines of its order before tearing into the (BCCI’s) resistance to change. “The truth is that resistance to change stems partly from people getting used to status quo and partly because any change is perceived to affect their vested interest in terms of loss of ego, status, power or resources. This is true particularly when the suggested change is structural or organisational, which involves some threat, real or perceived, of personal loss to those involved.” The BCCI got used to status quo. That cricket is the only sport in the country with a global power base—at least in the Commonwealth bloc—made the powers-that-be a touch contemptuous. Little wonder then that they are struggling to accept the shake-up. Fortunately or unfortunately, they don’t have a choice.
Justice RM Lodha, the former chief justice of India, who headed the three-member panel with ex-Supreme Court judges Ashok Bhan and RV Raveendran by his side, has become unpopular among BCCI members. Saurashtra Cricket Association secretary and former cricket board office-bearer Niranjan Shah publicly expressed his ‘disappointment’, while most of his colleagues spoke off the record. Online polls, however, suggest Justice Lodha has the public backing with close to 90% of fans in favour of the reforms.
The BCCI had vehemently opposed the one-state, one-vote recommendation. “Can you believe that Mumbai, 41 times Ranji Trophy champions, will vote on rotation, while some states with no contribution to cricket will have the regular privilege?” a board official exclaimed. But Justice Lodha’s logic is simple: winning silverware is connected to performance on the field and the Supreme Court order doesn’t take away Mumbai’s on-field bragging rights. Another BCCI member, once again demanding anonymity, complained about the nine-year cap and cooling-off period for office-bearers. “Many individuals occupy various posts in the BCCI for multiple terms and on multiple occasions without any ceiling limit. There has even been an instance of a former president later becoming the treasurer,” said the Lodha report. The court found the observation logical, like it supported the 70-year age limit for office-bearers, much to the chagrin of the cricket board.
And the apex court clearly said why it backed the panel’s recommendation of debarring ministers and public servants from assuming the BCCI office. “We do not think that the game flourishes in this country because any minister or civil servant holds office in the state associations or the BCCI. We also do not find any basis for the argument that unless the ministers and civil servants are allowed to hold office in the state association or in the BCCI they will refuse to do what is legitimately due to the game for its development and promotion,” said the court order.
The BCCI had reservations against some other recommendations like recognising a player’s association and one person, one post. But now that the verdict has been delivered, it must fall in line? It’s unlikely that the cricket board will seek further legal recourse and file a review or a curative petition. So transition is the order of the day to be overseen by the Lodha Committee. The panel has sprung into action, sending directives to the BCCI and state units to stall their elections pending further notice. The Karnataka State Cricket Association and the CAB accordingly cancelled their AGMs scheduled for July 31 and August 7, respectively. The Jammu and Kashmir Cricket Association’s elections were declared null and void. BCCI president Anurag Thakur and secretary Ajay Shirke will meet the members of the Lodha Committee on August 9 to set the future roadmap.
Make no mistake, the BCCI is the best-run sports body in the country. It earns R400 crore in foreign exchange every year. It has contributed R1,600 crore in direct taxes to the national exchequer over the last five years. The BCCI has also created assets over R10,000 crore in the last 10 years in terms of building stadiums and infrastructure. It wouldn’t have happened if the organisation was poorly managed or shabbily run. Unfortunately, one of its former presidents chose to do things ‘arbitrarily’ in the wake of the 2013 IPL spot-fixing scandal. The BCCI took the matter to Supreme Court after the Bombay High Court quashed the board’s internal three-member panel, set up at N Srinivasan’s behest. The Indian cricket board paid for its arrogance.