In January 2017, the Supreme Court appointed four eminent personalities from varying backgrounds to a panel of administrators to oversee the running of the BCCI until the board can hold fresh elections for office bearers as per the recommendations of the Lodha Committee.
The panel, chaired by Vinod Rai, the former Comptroller and Auditor General of India, then consisted of Ramachandra Guha, the historian and cricket writer, Diana Edulji, the former India women’s captain, and Vikram Limaye, managing director and CEO of IDFC (Infrastructure Development Finance Corporation). Guha and Limaye are not part of the committee anymore.
The Committee of Administrators took charge with immediate effect and had to liaise with BCCI’s chief executive officer Rahul Johri, who was to oversee the daily administration of the board. The CoA gave itself six months to implement the reforms when it came on board.
All well and good. Most cricket lovers in the country heaved a sigh of relief. The cricket board would finally adopt a more professional stance and with the Supreme Court having issued the orders, few would dare resist.
But how wrong we all have proven to be.
Failing in its purpose
In August 2018, the new BCCI constitution was finally registered and the COA issued a directive that effectively withdrew all functioning powers of the current set of BCCI office bearers while dissolving all the committees.
And this is where things started to get really ugly. If the talk of mutiny was carried out in hushed tones earlier, the office-bearers now decided to launch an open offensive. They started speaking against the CoA — about how it was incompetent; about how they have overstepped the bounds; about how they are siding with specific individuals in the administration.
It was infuriating to watch but one didn’t expect less from the old guard of the BCCI. They had spent years building up their fiefdoms and they wouldn’t just give it up that easily. But perhaps more shocking was the manner in which the remaining two members of the COA started openly fighting.
It has gotten so bad that retired SC judge R Lodha said that if the differences between Rai and Edulji were irreconcilable, they should have asked for urgent intervention from the court.
Justice Lodha told The Indian Express: “If they can’t convince each other and can’t have a unanimous view, how can they ask the BCCI’s state associations to implement the SC order? You can have multiple views but once you sit, you have to find a middle path. There is nothing like a veto power in this committee. This is just a two-member committee, this is not a Parliament where a Speaker is given a casting vote.”
“If they can’t function together, they should stop functioning and report to the court that this is the problem. They should tell the court that we can’t get along. Can you ride a bicycle that has one truck tyre and other cycle wheel? The SC would have immediately made this a three or five-member committee, which would work on majority decisions,” he further said.
Controversies in women’s cricket and the CoA’s role
On Friday, Edulji accused CoA chairman Rai of using women’s cricket as ‘diversionary tactic’ to save CEO Rahul Johri. It wasn’t the first time the two COA members had crossed swords in recent times. Much of it seems to have been triggered by Mithali Raj - Ramesh Powar controversy that flared up during the Women’s World T20 but it has been, reportedly, simmering for a while.
Read: Full details of the meetings held by BCCI Committee of Administrators (COA)
Rai, some say, functions the way most bureaucrats do. He asks for recommendations from the experts and if the explanations make sense, he signs off on them. Edulji, on account of her previous involvement with the game, is the cricket expert among the two and feels she has her own views on matters.
Sometimes, Edulji’s views on the matter differ from that of the expert and that is where the problems arise. A decision needs to be taken and as no one has the casting vote (which Edulji has been right to point out), things are getting stuck… stuck in the muck that power often manifests itself as.
The fights have been openly fought and emails/details have been freely leaked to the media. The in-fighting has a vicious edge to it and it makes the old guard of the BCCI look pale in comparison.
But in doing this, the CoA seems to have forgotten that its primary goal is not to establish their own rule. Rather, it is to empower the BCCI to do the right thing on its own — without any outside intervention. With the new constitution in place, the CoA should be trying to hold fresh elections for office bearers as per the recommendations of the Lodha Committee as quickly as possible.
If there are associations still not willing to play ball, they need to report that to the SC and push the reforms forward. Instead, they seem rather unwilling to relinquish their hold on the Board. To what effect one might ask?
Do any of the CoA members hope to gain something more permanent with the BCCI? Now, Rai is already 70, so he wouldn’t be eligible any way. But Edulji is 62, a cricket tragic and she would be eligible. But should she be allowed? If nothing else, at least the cooling off period needs to be put in place to ensure that the promise of a role going forward cannot muddy matters in the future.
As the Raj-Powar fight broke out, there was a fear that it was being subtly manoeuvred from the shadows by a different, higher power. The players and even Powar just seemed to be pawns. And with every step, we have now seen those fears materialising. The COA’s job was to follow due process and not offer support to specific people.
In fact, it should’t surprise anyone if the SC decides to dissolve the COA in the next couple of hearings. In a sense, their job is done and the manner in which they are making headlines might not please the court too much either. Only the elections remain to be organised under their supervision and the sooner that is done, the sooner Indian cricket can start moving forward again.