Clearly Justice Lodha and his team of eminent legal minds have had a lot of fun working on what the BCCI should do. You can almost detect the glee with which they have gone about recommending sweeping changes in how cricket should be run. I am not, for a moment, undermining the gravity of what they have come up with, I am merely enjoying the enthusiasm with which the report has been put together.
It is seventy five thousand words long and a mere article cannot do justice to commenting on its content. And so, I will focus on what I believe is the main thrust of it and why I believe it is welcome. But there is a backdrop to it as well. The Lodha Commission wouldn’t have been necessitated if the BCCI had, itself, addressed key issues of governance. It is something observers of Indian cricket, including, dare I say, this column, have been asking for, even pleading for, for a long time. And so, as it was with the earlier report that recommended doing away with two IPL teams, there isn’t anything here that a well governed corporate body wouldn’t have done anyway.
I believe the tipping point for this Supreme Court action was the clean chit given to Gurunath Meiyappan and Raj Kundra by a committee appointed by the BCCI. I know there has been some justification of that verdict given the mandate they were assigned, but there was significant outrage post that announcement and that made it easier to demand a higher form of intervention into the working of the BCCI. Not surprisingly, there is a reference in the report to an “individual-centric constitution” which is something that, even in its defence, the BCCI will find hard to deny.
I actually believe that, and the report acknowledges it, that the BCCI did more things right than wrong. Smaller centres received funds to build stadiums, the IPL provided opportunity to many, ‘A’ tours were revived, there was a clampdown on bad actions, coverage, and storage, of domestic cricket action was better than ever before, retired cricketers were very well looked after.
But the need to control power and the enormous sensitivity to what was said about them created a lot of bad blood, even opposition. Dissent within organisations is often healthy, especially if it is well meaning, and history shows that staying away from dissent can be counter-productive.
But the real issue with the BCCI is the “vote” at the annual elections. That is what causes state associations to be pampered, for heads to turn away from the way cricket is governed there.
I have often talked about the ‘dreaded September” which is when the elections happen. And it is the functioning of the state associations that, to my mind, is one of the issues at the heart of the Lodha Commission report. If the states were functioning well, robust and transparent, much of this report would be rendered unnecessary.
Powerful governance, free from the need to gain votes, would have ensured that state associations could never have gotten away with financial bungling, with exotic electoral rolls and quixotic age-group selections. That is where the formation of the Apex Council, with enough non-elected members, could actually emerge as a strength for Indian cricket, even if it could weaken some. If the game is governed well, independent observers will be happy to go along, as we often see in well managed companies where promoter shareholding is sometimes even in single digits. The threat, therefore, isn’t to the BCCI but to individual ambitions.
And so, it has to be said, the BCCI has itself allowed the commission to come at it like a ton of bricks. It will be interesting now to see how they react.
They could use some rather strange micro recommendations (number of selectors, no commercials on television coverage, the extraordinary virtues assigned to cricketers, the choice of names for the players body etc) to malign the report or they could point to the complexity of the one state one vote suggestion to strike at it.
Or, instead, they could agree with a major part of the report, over which opposition would be weak anyway because a lot of the suggestions are mandatory, and ask to be free to micro-manage the little bits. I believe, given the stance adopted by the Supreme Court, they have little choice but to be conciliatory. But then, being conciliatory will eventually lead to the greater good of Indian cricket.
This is an earthquake for the BCCI but the rebuilding will strengthen the structure.