During an Idea Exchange at The Indian Express office, MCA president Ajay Shirke, who has previously held the position of Treasurer in BCCI, talks about the issues regarding the Lodha Committee recommendations to BCCI and scams
Aashay Khandekar: The first international match of the year is against Sri Lanka on February 9. How is the MCA preparing for it?
It’s a set protocol for both international match and the IPL. Till now, we’ve hosted about 25 such fixtures. Outfield and the wicket on the pitch is maintained throughout the year. What we need to look into is ticketing, transportation, team security at the stadium and the hotel. We also do a dry run before the match as the system is turned off for a long time.
Sunanda Mehta: You’ve been against some recommendations of the Lodha Committee. Why is that?
It won’t be right to comment on this topic in official capacity as the entire topic is subjudice. I’m not against the recommendations, I’ve some views, which are strictly personal. It is essential to read the report from cover to cover to understand what the panel says first. There are many good suggestions in the report, but there are also many which are not feasible to me. They’re asking stadiums to install astroturf for hockey. If we do that, ICC will strike us off as an international match centre. There was also a recommendation for advertisement-free television, which might directly cause a net loss of Rs 1,000 crore. What was the level of research to create this report?
Anuradha Mascarenhas: What about One State One Vote, which might relegate MCA to an associate level?
It’s a common perception that one state should get one vote. But the history of the game dates back to 1928, which is before independent India, when geographical states didn’t exist. The committee has pointed to three votes that Maharashtra, as a geographical state gets – Mumbai, Maharashtra and Vidarbha. But these are teams which are playing in the tournament for the last 85 years. It is humiliating to get relegated like this for our players and members. The suggestion of the Supreme Court to the panel was to tell the ways to improve BCCI. If removing MCA improves the board, they’ve to explain how. It has hurt us deeply.
Sunanda Mehta: Then how to improve BCCI?
In our country, the only accountability that we know is sacrificial accountability. If something is wrong with the railways, the quick suggestion is to fire him, if something is wrong with the BCCI, remove everything. I’m not saying BCCI is perfect. Which organisation is perfect? But it is wrong to draw clauses from FIFA and apply them to BCCI. What is happening in FIFA? Compared to the kind of things that are happening in FIFA, BCCI scam is nothing. Some cricketer indulged in match fixing. After the incident, there was a lot of protest within BCCI, I personally resigned as the treasurer in 2013 as a result of that. But there are bad apples everywhere. Are they not in the judiciary? We take great pride in running such a big organisation like BCCI, which is admired in the world.
Sunanda Mehta: Do you think that Srinivasan’s ouster is not going to clean up the game?
Srinivasan’s ouster and cleaning up cricket are not related. Srinivasan is regarded as a clean man by his friends as well as enemies. He’s not a corrupt person. If anybody points a finger at him for corruption, I’ll be the first person to defend him. He took a peculiar position regarding the whole issue, which was wrong. But that is not synonymous with corruption. The players who earn Rs 15 crore in three, four weeks, which I might not earn in my lifetime, and still in the evening, they want to go and meet the bookies.
Geeta Nair: Did the IPL change fortunes of BCCI?
BCCI has always been a rich organisation. And the credit for that goes to the previous chairmen, most importantly NKP Salve and Jagmohan Dalmiya. But the development has been gradual. When India won the World Cup in 1983, the board didn’t have enough money to reward players, from there to now, there has been tremendous progress. The thing which IPL changed was that earlier, only 12-15 players were able to do a financially rewarding career in cricket, now 200-300 players can do that.
Geeta Nair: Do you think that connect of the sports lovers with the game reduced after the fixing scandal of IPL?
I think the fixing scandal is being blown out of proportion. See, it is extremely difficult to fix an entire match. Since BCCI doesn’t have the power of policing, we can’t intercept or investigate such crimes. Rest of the world has solved this problem. In England, where betting is legal, everything is examined by a body called Sports Betting Intelligence Unit (SBIU), which was formed about 15 years ago. All sports associations are involved in that body along with MI5, Interpol and Europol. And they’re monitoring the entire sports nexus including players and administrators. They can check your bank accounts, they know with whom did you have your dinner last night, where did you stay. How can BCCI do that?
Aashay Khandekar: Pune coming back to IPL, does it change financial equations for MCA?
IPL revenue format is very simple. Nothing comes to us, we just get hosting rent which is about Rs 30 lakh per match. It doesn’t even cover our cost, because we’ve to run the power station, the lights. Also it’s not a one-day affair, as guest teams want to play till 10 o’clock one or two days prior, so we have to keep the lights on. It’s actually a headache for us, but we do it. However, the international games improve financial position tremendously.
Nisha Nambiar: You’ve frequently spoken against the VVIP pass culture? What about this match?
We receive many letters from people in top positions asking for tickets that are according to their “position” in the society. We’ve framed many of these letters and put them up on a notice board. The whole pass culture has ruined the game. In Australia, you’ll see Steve Waugh standing in the queue for ticket immediately after retirement. I’ll also do the same thing, when I leave MCA.
Aashay Khandekar: Is there a way to cure the parking woes of Gahunje?
Parking is a big problem. There is no easy solution. We can’t create multi-storey parking. Public transport is the best option. In the original Smart City plan, Metro was to be linked to the stadium for the convenience of people, but that didn’t happen.
Transcribed by Aashay Khandekar