Only a few days after Jagmohan Dalmiya’s death in September last year, Sourav Ganguly, along with Dalmiya’s son Avishek, had called on Mamata Banerjee at the state secretariat. Close on the heels came the announcement of Ganguly’s elevation as the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) president. Avishek became a joint-secretary with the former India captain vacating the post.
As per protocol, nominating the late Dalmiya’s successor was the prerogative of the 121 affiliates of the state association. The decision was taken at Nabanna (state secretariat) instead with the chief minister of West Bengal reportedly calling the shots.
This was just one example of a political heavyweight directly or indirectly influencing the composition and functioning of a cricket association. There are instances aplenty across the length and breadth of the country; from Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association where Anurag Thakur is in charge to Mumbai Cricket Association under Sharad Pawar and G Gangaraju running the show in Andhra… The BCCI itself has a host of politicians in its fold. To be precise, the Indian cricket board has thrived in accommodating the who’s who of politics within the setup since its inception. At the BCCI, politicians have worked for Indian cricket without donning their political hats.
The Lodha committee report didn’t propose to eliminate the politicians from the system but it defined the eligibility of the office-bearers, saying they must not be ministers or government servants and also must not be above 70 years of age. The recommendations have been made ostensibly to ensure that cricket administration remains free of political influence and government intervention as far as possible. The challenge for the BCCI would be to uphold it in letter and spirit.
“How can you stop the politicians from contesting the (BCCI) elections? That would be against the law of the land. Politicians have contributed immensely to the BCCI’s growth. People like NKP Salve had started from the scratch and laid the basis for its rise as a global powerhouse. Sharad Pawar started the pension schemes for former cricketers and promoted women’s cricket when he was the board president,” senior BCCI official and IPL governing council member Ajay Shirke had said, speaking to The Indian Express a couple of days ago. The Lodha committee didn’t try to change the law. Just that it has attached some provisos with an eye on better governance.
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The committee has called for a radical overhaul of the BCCI functioning that includes bringing the cricket board under RTI Act, appointing a CEO and a team of six professional managers, not more than three terms for an office-bearer, cooling off period and one-person-one-post for all functionaries. It has also suggested limited autonomy for the IPL, legalisation of betting with an inbuilt mechanism, new eligibility criteria for national selectors and appointment of an ethics officer to decide on the conflict of interest. But according to some insiders, the BCCI hierarchy would be more concerned about the (partial) restrictions imposed on the politicians and the recommendation to have only one association from each state as full member. Those without territory like Railways, Services, CCI and NCC would be relegated as Associates without voting rights. The powers-that-be is also unlikely to take the suggestions of the formation of a players’ association very kindly.
Unlike most of its high-profile counterparts, the BCCI has never allowed its players to have a voice. It had come down hard on the India stars when they tried to form such an organisation in the late 1980s. Then, in 2002, when the Indian Professional Cricketers’ Association (IPCA) was set up, the parent body didn’t recognise it. Till this day, the Indian cricket board hasn’t allowed its players to be affiliated with the Federation of International Cricketers (FICA).