There was nothing that was surprising in the Supreme Court proceedings last Friday. It was expected that the court would issue an interim order to snap the BCCI’s domestic funding — the board cannot disburse annual funds to the state associations, and the associations that have already received the funds cannot use them. The building confrontation between the BCCI and the apex court has delivered a predictably bitter outcome and more will follow.
For long, the BCCI has told the apex court that it cannot implement the proposed reforms because there is no consensus in the member bodies. Now the court has manoeuvred around that problem and asked the board to give money to only those associations that are willing to comply with the Lodha panel’s reforms. In a way, the order couldn’t have been more sharply timed — just when India had embarked on a long home season and with the Ranji season just about underway. With the two sides unwilling to budge, the near future does not look too bright for the board — and, more so, for sport in the country. The hearing on October 17, many reckon, could culminate in a far-reaching structural and administrative overhaul of the board, given that it is unlikely that it will fall in line with the Lodha panel recommendations in 10 days after resisting them for nearly 15 months.
A little moderation, from either or both sides, might have helped. It could have helped prevent the escalation of the issue to this large-scale, full-blown face-off between the board and the court. To begin with, there had been mutual scepticism. The BCCI thought the court was a bully, questioning its very autonomy. For its part, the court viewed the BCCI as a delinquent child, unwilling to mend its ways. The BCCI accused the court of judicial overreach.
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Admittedly, several of the recommendations were not only unpalatable to the board, but also impractical, like the one state, one vote policy and the cooling-off period for administrators. But instead of fruitful discussions that might have resulted in a set of workable solutions, with a compromise here and there, the scepticism only got aggravated with time. The biggest casualty of the present protracted courtroom drama is the sport itself and its audience, who are mostly indifferent to the legal complications that have shrouded the game. The situation has deteriorated to such an extent, however, that there is now a threat to the continuation of an international home series and even the domestic season. If such a day comes about, the fan’s faith in the game will be shaken. It’s never too late to sit down at the table and talk. Deadlines can be extended if it helps to break the deadlock. For the sake of the fans of the game, BCCI and SC need to shelve their differences and find a middle path.