Putting cricket back on track

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New Zealand
Indian Cricket Team

On the surface, all may appear hunky dory in the affairs of Indian cricket. Virat Kohli’s team is seemingly doing everything right in all the three formats of the most popular game in the country. True, India has seldom put a foot wrong while playing at home, especially in recent times.

But a deeper look within the organisation that manages the game — Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) — may leave an impression that things could be a tad better. The first sign of something gone awry was when the selection committee meeting was held, early January. The pressure on the premier cricket body to execute Justice RM Lodha Committee’s recommendations delayed the meeting by over three hours.

Rahul Johri, appointed CEO of BCCI by the Supreme Court after former president Anurag Thakur and secretary Ajay Shirke were fired, was taking up the responsibility of conducting the national selection committee meeting for the first time. Although the BCCI spokesman emphasised the meeting did not start on schedule owing to logistical reasons, the presence of Devang Gandhi there raised several eyebrows.

BCCI Vs Lodha
Despite the Lodha panel’s suggestion that only three selectors with proper credentials were required to announce the selection of various teams, the BCCI wanted to go ahead with its move to have five selectors, which included Jatin Paranjpe and Gagan Khoda, who have not played a single Test match. In fact, even chief selector MSK Prasad and two other selection panel members, Sarandeep Singh and Gandhi, had a cumulative experience of less than 25 Tests. Mercifully, better sense prevailed after a few hours and Prasad announced the list of players for the different teams to the media.

SC Intervention
The Supreme Court, in a damage-control exercise, appointed a four-member committee of administrators (CoA) at the end of last month. Headed by the no-nonsense Vinod Dua, former Comptroller and Auditor General, the other three distinguished members were former Indian women’s cricket team captain Padma Shri Diana Edulji, renowned historian Ramachandra Guha and MD & CEO of Infrastructure Development Finance (IDFC) Vikram Limaye.

CoA’s Task
The mandate of the CoA is to submit a report in a month’s time after studying the erstwhile functioning of the BCCI. The report — preparation of which is an onerous task as the affairs of so many affiliated associations are complex, to say the least — is expected to offer pragmatic solutions on how to bring the management of BCCI and cricket back on track.

As the IPL auction (February 20) and the tournament (April) will happen almost back to back, the CoA has decided to bestow on Johri the rights for administration of BCCI with the CEO directly reporting to the CoA.

“The CoA hereby empowers the CEO to administer the functioning of BCCI, including IPL, and to report to the CoA in the interim period till such clarity from Supreme Court is obtained,” it was concluded in the meeting.

Meanwhile, when two senior Indian team members claimed that media manager Nishant Jeet Arora was sneaking dressing room information to Thakur and trying to create a rift between players, the CoA decided to relieve all board officials appointed during the tenure of Thakur and Shirke from their respective positions.

The Supreme Court has asked the counsel, who appeared for the Lodha Committee, to provide to the CoA the list of recommendations to be implemented.

ICC’s Move
The International Cricket Conference (ICC), on its part, has clipped the wings of the BCCI by announcing to implement a new revenue distribution model at its board meeting in Dubai last week.

The Big Three model, proposed by former BCCI president N Srinivasan in 2014, was that three countries – India, England and Australia – should get the lion’s share of ICC’s revenue as they fetch the organisation the major chunk of all the earnings. He suggested India would get 20.3%, England 4.4% and Australia 2.7% – thus taking 27.4% cumulatively of the total revenue from 2015-2023 cycle.

Shashank Manohar, who took over as ICC chairman in 2015, was not quite amused as he thought the smaller cricketing nations deserved a better deal. Manohar was convinced that the ‘contribution cost’ set aside in the Big Three model was unfair to the other cricketing nations as India would receive Rs 3,400 crore, while England and Australia would get Rs 739 crore and Rs 450 crore respectively.

Manohar, himself a former BCCI president, was shocked that Bangladesh would end up getting approximately a mere Rs 34 crore and Zimbabwe only Rs 20 crore. Though the Indian board argued in the Supreme Court that it would lead to the loss of thousands of crores if the new financial structure was passed, other countries saw reason in the ICC chief’s stand and backed him.

The three-day ICC board meeting, attended among others, by BCCI joint secretary Amitabh Choudhary, treasurer Aniruddh Chaudhry and CoA member Limaye, has come out with a series of new measures.

“I have of course been following developments in regard to the BCCI and the decision of the Supreme Court and will continue to do so over the following weeks. India is a vitally important member of the ICC and contrary to some reports, I believe a strong BCCI based on solid governance foundations is good for cricket. My vision is to ensure the sport has strong governance, finance, corporate and cricketing structures that support all of our members and decisions are taken for the long term benefit of the sport from the largest nation to the smallest,” Manohar wrote on the ICC website.

Manohar also made it clear that the ICC has no rights over bilateral series and that no structure can be imposed on the members. This effectively means that the ICC can never instruct India or Pakistan to engage in a bilateral series.

There is hope in the much-awaited report by the CoA as it is expected to be comprehensive covering all aspects associated with the game and its administration. Dua, the CoA head, minced no words when he made it clear that he was interested in playing just a night-watchman’s role before handing over the BCCI in safe hands.

 

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