There has been a great sense of jubilation in Indian cricket circles over the last few days and it has little to do with the series win over South Africa by Virat Kohli’s team.
The outpouring was related to the fact that former India skipper Sourav Ganguly will take charge as the president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India on October 23. As it turns out, Ganguly was the only one to file the nomination to head the national governing body for the popular sport.
Former cricketers Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, VVS Laxman and Aakash Chopra were quick to congratulate Ganguly on Twitter while Vinod Rai, chief of the Supreme Court- appointed Committee of Administrators that had been running Indian cricket for the past 33 months, also expressed his approval at the development.
Rai’s committee had been appointed to manage the board in 2017 after a betting scandal four years earlier uncovered unsavoury conflicts of interests by sports administrators. The committee was given the task of creating a structure that would reform the way in which cricket is administered in India – not just by the BCCI but also the state associations that are its members. These reforms had been suggested by another court-appointed committee headed by Justice RM Lodha.
The committee of adminisrators expected to complete their task by October 2017. But the old guard of the BCCI proved resistant to change. As a result, the committee was in existence for nearly three years.
The idea that former cricketers should take a more active role in the administration of the game has long been propounded by fans and sportspeople. And who better than one of India’s most successful skippers to take over as BCCI president? It would seem to be just the thing Indian cricket needs after being steered by the court-appointed administrators.
However, beyond the optics of Ganguly’s elevation, little has really changed. This isn’t about a cricketer rising to the top of the BCCI and shaking up the established hierarchy. Rather, this is about politics.
Ganguly understands the politics of the cricket board. He has been holding various positions in the Cricket Association of Bengal for the past five years and currently serves as its president. He clearly knows what he is getting into.
For the two main blocs in the BCCI, one headed by industrialist N Srinivasan, the other by politician Anurag Thakur, Ganguly’s ascension means that they lose very little. Under the new guidelines, administrators cannot serve in any position at the state or national level for more than six consecutive years. After that, there is a cooling off period of three years.
Since Ganguly has already done a long stint in the Bengal association, he can serve as BCCI president for only ten months. That doesn’t leave him much time to leave his stamp on the job.
But ten months is better than nothing, right?
Indeed, he could start a revolution. He could put the building blocks in place. He could perhaps coax the state associations to view the needs of the cricketers differently or perhaps find a way to get the BCCI to treat men’s and women’s cricket on par. Whether he can will also depend on who he will have to work with.
After all, the old-timers in the BCCI have managed to neatly sidestep the Lodha Committee decision to fix the retirement age for cricket administrators at 70 years by keeping power in the family.
*Former BCCI president and current Minister of State for Finance Anurag Thakur’s brother, Arun Singh Dhumal has taken over as president of the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association. His cousin Rakesh Rathour has become the vice president of the Punjab Cricket Association.
*Avishek Dalmiya, son of former BCCI president Jagmohan Dalmiya, is the secretary of the Cricket Association of Bengal.
*Jay Shah will be Gujarat’s representative at the BCCI Annual General Meeting on October 23. He is the son of Home Minister Amit Shah, who was the president of the Gujarat Cricket Association until last month.
*Adwait Manohar, son of former BCCI president and International Cricket Council chief Shashank Manohar, is the vice president of the Vidarbha Cricket Association.
*Rupa Gurunath, daughter of former BCCI president N Srinivasan, is the president of the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association.
*Former BCCI secretary Niranjan Shah’s son, Jaydev Shah, has become the Saurashtra Cricket Association president and his nephew, Himanshu, has become the secretary.
*Former BCCI vice president Chirayu Amin’s son, Pranav, has become the Baroda Cricket Association president.
*Former BCCI secretary Jaywant Lele’s son, Ajit, has become the secretary of the Baroda Cricket Association.
Given that these veteran administrators remain connected to the BCCI, how much could the situation be expected to change? Or rather, how much will they allow the situation to change? Though the expectation is that Ganguly’s reign will help Indian cricket, the power brokers remain the same and the politics remain the same. Truth to be told, all this talk of change is nothing more than an illusion.
Perhaps Ganguly’s greatest challenge in his short term will be to ensure that at least some of the reforms that have been carried out over the past 33 months continue to have meaning.