A lot has been happening in Indian cricket in the last week. On Monday, the Indian Test team became the No. 1 side in the world after beating New Zealand by 178 runs in the second Test at Eden Gardens, which gave them an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three-match series.
Unfortunately, off-the-field events concerned with the Indian cricket board have overshadowed the team's on-field heroics. The Board of Control for Cricket in India is not happy, to say the least, with a Supreme Court-appointed committee for a number of reasons, the latest one being putting a couple of its bank transactions on hold.
In fact, so peeved is the BCCI with the Justice Lodha committee's decisions that it threatened to cancel the ongoing series against New Zealand, which still has one Test and five One-Day Internationals left. It also said that the entire home season, which sees India welcome England, Australia and Bangladesh, was also at risk of being cancelled. "We can't run the game without money," said BCCI President Anurag Thakur.
What exactly has happened? Why have the BCCI's bank transactions been put on hold? What is this Justice Lodha committee and why was it formed? Why is the India-New Zealand series at stake?
Here is a quick guide to (almost) all your questions.
Okay, so please start by explaining what exactly is this Justice Lodha committee? When and why was it formed?
In January 2015, the Supreme Court appointed a panel led by former Chief Justice of India RM Lodha and comprising retired apex court judges Ashok Bhan and R Raveendran to look into the Indian Premier League spot-fixing and betting scandal of 2013. The panel was tasked with determining appropriate punishments for IPL franchises Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals, whose officials and players were caught in the scandal. CSK was owned by the then BCCI president, N Srinivasan, whose son-in-law, Gurunath Meiyappan was embroiled in the scandal.
The Justice Lodha committee was also asked to propose changes to the way the BCCI was structured and governed "with a view to preventing sporting frauds, conflict of interests, streamlining the working" of the board and "make it more responsive to the expectations of the public at large". The Supreme Court had said that "the order passed by the committee shall be final and binding upon the BCCI and the parties concerned".
So, this panel was basically set up to clean Indian cricket? What did they recommend?
Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals were banned from the IPL for two years. And in January 2016 came the more important set of recommendations targeted at the functioning of the BCCI. It was a massive shake-up and clean-up drive, right from the grassroots level to the very top of Indian cricket. These were the main recommendations of the panel:
- Do away with the rotational system of appointing the BCCI president, by which every zone (north, east, south, west and central) gets its turn to nominate its candidate.
- One-state-one-vote: This will affect some states that have multiple associations, such as Maharashtra, which has three – Mumbai, Maharashtra and Vidarbha. Associations without any territorial definitions, such as Railways and Services, will not get a vote.
- There should be only five elected office-bearers: president, secretary, vice-president, treasurer and joint secretary, as against the earlier system where there were as many as five vice-presidents itself.
- These five elected members will serve a maximum of three terms of a total of nine years across positions. They will not be allowed to serve two consecutive terms. Each term should be separated by a "cooling-off" period.
- The BCCI president cannot have an additional vote in meetings, and will not be involved in team selection. The tenure of the president cannot be longer than three years.
- Ministers and bureaucrats will not be allowed to hold positions in the BCCI or the state cricket associations. Office bearers also cannot be above 70 years of age.
- All of the BCCI's selection committees (senior, junior and women) should have only three members, as against the current five. The senior selection committee should only have former Test players, with the most capped one being the chairman.
- State cricket associations should also have only former players, and the board should implement a proper stadium rotation policy so that all venues get to host matches.
- The BCCI's highest decision-making body, the Working Committee, should be replaced with a nine-member Apex Council. This council will include representatives from the players' community, including a woman, and a nominee of the Comptroller and Auditor General.
- An independent auditor should verify how the full member state associations have used the grants given to them by the BCCI.
- The BCCI has to share details of its balance sheet, expenditures, meetings, reports, rules and regulations, and orders of authorities on its website.
- The legislature should consider bringing the BCCI under the Right to Information Act.
The Lodha panel set the BCCI two deadlines – September 30 to make constitutional changes, and December 15 for the board to form the apex council.
Wow, that's a lot of shaking and cleaning up! Did the Supreme Court agree with the committee's recommendations?
The Supreme Court accepted a majority of the recommendations and gave the BCCI four-to-six months to implement them. The three main recommendations that the apex court rejected were: bringing the BCCI under the RTI Act, imposing restrictions on television advertisements during the broadcast of matches, and legalising betting in India.
That's hardly anything. The BCCI must not have been happy.
Not even a bit. In fact, they were so miffed that they appointed another former Supreme Court judge, Justice Markandey Katju, to advise them on how to respond to the Supreme Court verdict. Katju said that what the Supreme Court has done is unconstitutional and illegal" since "it is the legislature's prerogative to make laws" and not the judiciary's. He asked the BCCI file a review petition before a larger bench of the Supreme Court and said the Lodha panel was "null and void".
The BCCI did file the review petition and, on September 21, went one step further by picking a new five-member selection panel, going against the Lodha committee's recommendation of having just three selectors. In fact, two of the new selectors had not played a single Test match – again completely in defiance of the Lodha committee.
That does not sound like a wise thing to do. How did the Lodha committee respond?
The Lodha panel went ahead and asked the Supreme Court to sack the BCCI's top functionaries, including President Anurag Thakur and Secretary Ajay Shirke, for non-compliance of its orders. The committee also suggested that a "panel of administrators" take control of the BCCI and ensure its recommendations were implemented.
What did the Supreme Court have to say about this?
Chief Justice of India, TS Thakur, warned the BCCI that if it does not implement the Lodha committee's recommendations within a week, it will take measures to enforce them. Justice Thakur said, "BCCI thinks it is law unto itself. We know how to get our orders implemented. BCCI thinks it is the lord. You better fall in line or we will make you fall in line."
Ouch. What did the BCCI do then?
The BCCI filed a fresh application in the Supreme Court, requesting it to suspend its earlier order asking for the implementation of the Lodha panel recommendations, until the apex court hears the board's review and curative petitions against them. However, the Supreme Court did not change the September 30 deadline for the board.
The BCCI went ahead and missed the deadline by a day, before unanimously adopting "important recommendations" of the Lodha panel at its Special General Meeting on October 1. However, the board did not accept the main recommendations such as the one-state-one-vote policy, the 70-year age cap and the maximum tenure of nine years with cooling-off periods in between. BCCI President Anurag Thakur said there were "legal challenges and practical difficulties" in accepting some of the recommendations.
Why is the BCCI against these three recommendations?
One-state-one-vote: The BCCI said this was against its legacy because several state associations have always been full members. "How can you compare Mumbai with other organisations?" Thakur said, in an interview with The Indian Express. "One has given 30 to 40 international players and won the Ranji Trophy 41 times and it gets compared with a state (Maharashtra) that doesn’t even have 15 quality players. Is this good for Indian cricket? Is it fair on Mumbai, or say Baroda, who have given so much to Indian cricket when BCCI didn’t have money?"
Age cap of 70: The BCCI said that many of its administrators who are aged over 70 have remained fit and able, adding that such a policy would deprive the board and its state associations of a lot of knowledge and experience.
Nine-year tenure: The BCCI said this rule will hamper continuity and deter good administrators from joining the board.
So, what happens now?
The next Supreme Court hearing is on Thursday, October 6.
But then how did this whole threat of the cancellation of the India-New Zealand series arise?
At the SGM, the board also decided that its state associations would get a Rs 10 crore increment to the existing infrastructure subsidy of Rs 60 crore. Another decision the board took was to distribute the money received from the broadcaster of the Champions League T20 as compensation for the cancellation of the tournament among its full members.
The Lodha committee then immediately asked the two banks that the BCCI has accounts with to not disburse funds concerning the aforementioned decisions, as they were not compliant with its recommendations.
Then, on October 4, The Indian Express quoted unnamed board officials saying, “We have no option other than to call off the India-New Zealand series as our banks have decided to freeze BCCI accounts. How can we function, how can we hold any games now? Who will make the payment?" A Times of India report quoted another unnamed BCCI official saying, "In fact, the entire home season may now be in doubt after what is happening."
Can this really happen? What a shame if it does!
It is highly unlikely that the ongoing series will be cancelled, considering the financial implications at stake. As Scroll.in's Angikaar Choudhury wrote in this piece, "[It] is likely that it was a veiled message from [the BCCI], before the hearing with the Supreme Court on October 6, that come what may, they are holding on to their turf."
The Lodha Committee also went ahead and clarified that it has not asked for the BCCI's accounts to be frozen, but only the two specific transactions mentioned above. Justice Lodha told ANI, "The panel has not asked BCCI to stop funds for routine matters. We’ve asked BCCI to stop giving large funds to state associations. This is a misinterpretation or miscommunication of the E-mail that was sent to the BCCI [on Monday]. We have not frozen any of the accounts. Banks have been directed to ensure compliance of that, routine expenses for matches, cricket activities and administrative matters aren’t restrained."
So, the series will go ahead for sure?
A confirmation either way is expected on Wednesday, but unless something very drastic happens in the next few hours, feel free to reserve your Saturday for day one of the third Test.
Okay, phew! But when will this saga end? Is the end near?
Not until the BCCI accepts all of the Lodha panel's recommendations. But considering what has happened so far, it is clear that the BCCI wants to play hardball and is not going to cave in. Neither is the Lodha panel. This saga is nowhere near its conclusion. Indian cricket fans can only hope this has minimal impact on the team, considering they are back at the No. 1 spot and face a challenging season ahead.