Sourav Ganguly walked in to his first press conference as the new leader of Indian cricket – off the field – wearing the blazer that he got when he led the senior national team for the first time almost two decades ago.
In the next 25 odd minutes in which he listed out his priorities in the nine-month tenure as the Board of Control of Cricket India’s 39th President, Ganguly harked back to his playing days at least half a dozen times and made it clear that he will do things as he has done in the past.
“Coincidentally – fortunately or unfortunately – when I became captain it was a similar sort of a situation and I captained India for six years. And this is a similar sort of situation that now things need to be brought back in place, reforms need to be done, huge amounts of money needs to be paid to state associations,” the 47-year-old told reporters at the BCCI headquarters in Mumbai on Wednesday.
“So it’s a completely new start. From that point of view, I find myself in a position where I can make a change, and it’s a challenge. I’ll do it the way I know, in the way I feel is best for BCCI, with no compromise on credibility and corruption free.”
The primary task for Ganguly is to restore the credibility of the board which has taken a severe hit since the Indian Premier League’s spot-fixing scandal and the subsequent legal tussles with the Supreme Court-appointed Committee of Administrators to bring about the administrative reforms suggested by Justice RS Lodha’s committee.
Focus on first-class cricket
Ganguly, however, once again insisted that his foremost priority would be to streamline domestic cricket before the start of the Ranji Trophy season and ensuring that the country’s primary tournament remains competitive.
“The structures are there, the tournaments are there. In the last three years the matches have doubled actually. When I played for Bengal and some of my colleagues played for the other states there were about 1000 games to be played. Now there are 2000 games between states and the affiliates. So we have to account for it. We have to make sure the best tournament in the country is competitive, and it remains important to everyone,” he said.
The other area of interest for everyone who has followed Indian cricket is how Ganguly’s relationship with the current Indian management and captain Virat Kohli pan out. The former India skipper had played a major role in appointing Anil Kumble as the coach in 2016 when he was the Cricket Advisory Committee member, and even had a public fall out with incumbent Ravi Shastri on the way he handled things then. Had the team management become all too powerful during the CoA’s tenure?
Ganguly sidestepped that issue expertly as well.
“A new body and new office bearers have taken over. It will be a proper discussion and everything will be mutually discussed and taken forward. Be rest assured that we are here to make their life easier and not make their life difficult and everything will be on the basis of performance,” said Ganguly, insisting that he wasn’t fond of the word ‘control’ and the office bearers’ job was to ensure proper functioning of the Board.
Responding to a query about whether lack of proper facilities for spectators was the reason behind low turnout at Test matches, Ganguly admitted that stadiums need to be upgraded but pointed out that Indian Premier League matches attracted crowds irrespective of the lack of facilities.
“The same fans turn out for the IPL, where the stadiums are choc-a-bloc. So, it’s a bit more than stadiums. Test cricket needs a revisit and how it can be popularised. Eden Gardens is going to host Bangladesh on November 22 and we don’t know what’s going to happen in that Test match. But you see an IPL game, people go (in numbers). It’s the same stadium, same facilities. People come in huge numbers. The problem is somewhere else.
“If you look at some of the stadiums, they are remarkable. If you look at Hyderabad, Nagpur, the new stadium in Bombay, Ranchi – they have fantastic facilities. That part needs to be looked at, but the game under consideration needs to be looked at too,” added Ganguly, who has been served as the Cricket Association of Bengal president since 2015.
Those are long term goals that may or may not fall in the purview of Ganguly’s nine-month tenure. For now, the 47-year-old’s priority is to make things better for the cricketers.
“We are here to accommodate and make sure the cricketers are at ease to play the game, whether it is first-class cricket, Test cricket, women’s cricket or the IPL. The biggest goal we have is to make their life lot more easier.”
Ganguly had a busy day on Wednesday as he formally took over as the BCCI president, ending the almost three-year reign of the CoA. He, along with the other apex committee members, then met the top brass of board’s staff to understand the way things were being done in the last three years, the financial position, and the many teething troubles he inherits.
During the interim, he spent some time with BCCI’s old guard including the likes of former president N Srinivasan, former secretary Niranjan Shah and others; thanking them for holding fort during the crisis but, knowing his personality, perhaps also made it clear that he was his own man and would do things his way.
And he gave a glimpse of that when asked about the whole controversy over ICC shortchanging BCCI over the payments to be made to the Indian board. Ganguly insisted that people should not go on hearsay before pointing out that it wasn’t that big an issue.
“India is to get $372 million from the ICC in the five-year cycle. It is a lot heavy at the back end because there are two World Cups – one T20 World Cup in Australia and the Champions Trophy in India. Till now we have got whatever it is and we make sure we get our due. We will work with the ICC and take this forward,” he added.
There have been many reports in the media about how BCCI wasn’t happy with the way ICC has been handling the issue and was keen on sending Srinivasan to the ICC meeting to plead its case better.
No decision on the BCCI representative to the ICC has been taken so far and the new president made it clear that an Annual General Body meeting will be called within three weeks to take all the major decisions like forming various committees including the Cricket Advisory Committee and pass the accounts for the last three years.
Given he is no stranger to the pressure of being under the limelight, the Prince of Kolkata has definitely made all the right noises after becoming the first cricketer to become the BCCI president. It remains to be seen how much the fearless leader Ganguly can deliver from the board room as the man who runs the show from behind the scenes.