Anurag Thakur’s tenure was different from any of the recent Board of Control for Cricket in India presidents. Not in what he did or achieved, for his reign didn’t run its full course, but more in how he liked to be in the spotlight at all times.
It was quite unlike how Shashank Manohar and N Srinivasan ran things, away from the attention, even if their workings resulted in dissimilar outcomes. Or even how a seasoned politician such as Sharad Pawar and an astute businessman like Jagmohan Dalmiya operated during their multiple terms at the head of the board.
For much of the past two decades, BCCI presidents have been the most powerful men in world cricket and they have been known to get their way. Yet, they went about it in a discreet manner. Thakur liked to tell the world what he was thinking on all topics, whether it was the high-voltage political hotbed that is the BCCI’s relationship with Pakistan cricket or the slightest matter of wishing Indian cricketers well. He liked to be seen, and be heard, all of the time.
And so, Thakur was ever-present in front of the camera and just too verbose. Unfortunately for him, after their July 18 order last year, the Supreme Court was always listening in.
Monday’s order then, setting aside Thakur and other top BCCI functionaries, had an air of inevitability about it. Perhaps the only surprising bit was that it took six months for the court to pronounce this particular verdict.
In the meantime, Thakur talked and then talked some more – running circles about the on-going proceedings, pondering over threats to India’s international commitments, thereafter attempting to intimidate actions over cancellation of the New Zealand and England series, and in the meantime, trying to arm-twist the International Cricket Council into interfering in this whole mess.
In a way, Thakur’s actions were true to how BCCI functions. Politicking, bait here, a couple rewards there, maybe add some threats and voila, you get your way. Add this to the moolah they rake in, and it’s a perfect formula to absorb insurmountable power in global terms, as is prevalent today.
However, for good or bad, it doesn’t cut ice with the law of the land, and that’s where the BCCI is powerless. It suffices to say that this January 2 order of the Supreme Court will go down in history as a watershed moment in Indian cricket administration.
How will Indian cricket run now?
This is the most obvious question in the aftermath of this hearing. CEO Rahul Johri will oversee the BCCI’s daily operations, while a committee will be appointed by senior counsel Fali S Nariman and amicus curiae Gopal Subramnium on January 19 to oversee the business operations of the board. This committee will be in place until the Lodha recommendations have been implemented in full, which should take some time.
However, this committee being in place – in addition to the presence of the CEO – means that the operations will carry on and indeed progress. There are many matters pending before the BCCI, and the most important among them is making the necessary arrangements for the 2017 Indian Premier League season.
As concerns international cricket, the England One-Day International and Twenty20 International series should go ahead as planned for funds have already been released for the same. The Bangladesh and Australia tours should go ahead as planned as well, much like the England tour, even without a signed memorandum in place. The court will not want to hamper the game in any way.
The remainder of the domestic season is also planned, with only venues of limited-overs tournaments to be announced. The BCCI has a fixtures committee in place and as long as they follow guidelines set by the court, it should all proceed smoothly enough.
And this is the underlying point. The Supreme Court has finally called this humongous bluff by Thakur, and inherently the BCCI. After this order, there is no option for the various state associations but to adhere to the Lodha recommendations in full.
Any non-cooperation will be sternly dealt with and more heads would roll. As such, it can be expected that the various parties concerned will work together and maintain the smooth functioning of cricket in India.
What happens in the long term?
There can be no doubt that the BCCI top brass were in the wrong. Through the past six months, they were only trying to trip the court into delaying the order and protecting their own self-interest. The basic – and loudest – argument from every quarter was against the cooling-off stipulation, wherein administrators have to go away from their posts for three years after serving three-year terms.
The big problem herein is regarding who takes over after Thakur and Secretary Ajay Shirke, both of whom have been removed by the court. The five vice-presidents and the joint secretary, Amitabh Chaudhary, who have been directed to take over after submitting affidavits to the court, have all served prolonged terms at their respective state associations. This bars them from office as per the Lodha recommendations. So, how do you find the next eligible candidate, and who finds him/her? And this is only the tip of the administrative mess ahead.
From a historical standpoint too, Indian cricket stands to lose. The one-state-one-vote will put in question the legacy of different clubs and domestic teams that still enjoy primacy in the BCCI corridors. What happens to the Cricket Club of India and other such clubs affiliated to the board?
What happens to teams such as Baroda or Saurashtra or even Mumbai as their associations are assimilated into their respective states? Without their political vote, will they still maintain enough interest in maintaining their infrastructure, most of which is world-class, acquired after investing much time and money?
Last but not the least, the fans’ point of view comes in. Their major concern is about the health of the national team. Herein too, the Lodha panel has recommended three selectors – of variable experiences and fulfilling certain criteria – to do the job instead of the five wise men now in place.
Are three selectors sufficient to perform this colossal task? Keeping tabs on thousands of cricketers across the country, all playing three different formats, and whilst maintaining equilibrium with travel across India as well as with the international team on tough tours overseas – it is bothersome to even wonder aloud about this onerous job.
So, what happens if this ends up affecting the performance of the Indian team in the long run, undoing the work done over the past five years or so? Who is to say that three selectors will be able to maintain proper bench strength needed to support India’s No. 1 Test ranking? Who is to say they will be able to do suitable rebuilding of the ODI team ahead of the 2019 World Cup? And if not, what is the procedure for bringing back additional selectors to do the job adequately then?
This blueprint for the Indian team’s future is something the Supreme Court failed to outline. And worryingly enough, despite their learned experience in different fields, this pertinent cricketing aspect doesn’t come under the purview of retired judges.