In his 159-page report, Justice R.M. Lodha broke his mandate down to two fundamental questions: “Whether this will benefit the game of cricket?” And, “What does the Indian cricket fan want?” The Lodha Committee has suggested sweeping changes that promise to cleanse Indian cricket. More player power, lessening of the influence of politicians, tightening of the voting system within the board, addressing the grievances of cricket fans, possible inclusion under the ambit of the RTI and legalising betting are some of these radical steps.
It’s not the end of politicians’ control over cricket, of course, as only those who are ministers have been barred from holding a post in the BCCI and state associations. Nevertheless, this is an important step, especially when combined with the recommendation that an official can only hold a post cumulatively for nine years as that would weed out many veteran politicians who have been involved in cricket administration. The balance of power has tilted towards the players and it’s apt here to record the observations of Justice Mukul Mudgal, who had tabled a report of his own on spot-fixing and corruption in cricket: “Just because he is a player, he isn’t an angel.” Nevertheless, as drivers of the sport where they are treated as subordinates to administrators, the rise of players can only be welcomed. The suggestion that even the players can’t hold two consecutive terms, and will be monitored and assisted by an ombudsman, who will address the disputes in administration, an ethics officer, who will take care of conflict of interest issues, and an electoral officer, who will oversee elections, should address the concern about power corrupting the players. The inclusion of women in the inner circle can help women’s cricket. But hopefully, their role won’t be restricted to women’s cricket — it’s the old boy’s club that has led to the present crisis.
Often, in the election of the BCCI president, a candidate would use the zonal rotation policy to influence small associations in his zone with favours and come to power even if the majority of the BCCI was opposed to him. That skulduggery will end now. Likewise, the requirement that selectors be former Indian cricketers and untethered to any zonal restriction will allow them to be unbiased in theory. The power of the president to veto any selection has also been taken away. Also, the formation of a players’ association — India being the only large country that doesn’t have a players’ body — can only benefit the game at large. The Lodha Committee has also looked beyond the BCCI in an effort to clean up — it has requested Parliament to legalise betting and re-initiated debate on the RTI. Under its current head, Shashank Manohar, it has shown keenness to clean cricket. This commitment will be tested by its reaction to the comprehensive clean-up proposed by the Lodha Committee.