“Fall in line,” the Supreme Court said on Thursday, while directing the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) to implement the Lodha Committee report presented last month. The three-member panel of former chief justice of India R M Lodha and retired judges Ashok Bhan and RV Raveendran has recommended sweeping changes in the board’s structure and functioning. The reason the judges had to enter the cricket field was that the BCCI had failed to convincingly deal with the 2013 IPL spot-fixing scandal.
For so long, the BCCI has worked behind an iron curtain. The judges felt that all the stakeholders of the game had the right to know the activities of the BCCI and proposed the legislature to “seriously consider bringing BCCI within the purview of the RTI Act”.
To be fair, the BCCI has taken some steps towards transparency since Shashank Manohar took charge in October. From the board’s constitution to the tendering process, a lot is now on its website. Justice (retd) A P Shah has been appointed as an independent ombudsman who has the last word on questions related to conflict of interest. But the judiciary felt more needs to be done.
The bench of Chief Justice T S Thakur and Justice F M I Kalifullah wanted a complete overhaul. The judges have found the Lodha committee recommendations “straight, rational and understandable” that “deserve respect”, and “there is no reason to disagree with the committee”.
Here’s a look at a few of the recommendations of the Lodha panel and why it will be tough for the BCCI to implement them.
No minister or government servant can be a BCCI office-bearer, the Lodha committee has suggested in its report. A number of BCCI officials differ. They argue that without political and bureaucratic help, cricket bodies cannot run smoothly. Since organising a cricket game needs several governmental clearances and is a mammoth effort, an influential figure at the top helps. In India, a phone call can open doors and avoid last-minute snags.
No one above 70 should assume office in the BCCI, said the Lodha committee. “Unsound mind,” it said, is a hindrance to good governance and the “able and enthusiastic” should govern the game. The proposal, if implemented, will mark the end of heavyweights such as Sharad Pawar, N Srinivasan, Farooq Abdullah, Niranjan Shah in cricket administration. Also, the game’s administrators feel the BCCI shouldn’t be singled out. No other sports body in the country has such a clause enforced on it. A functionary of the Cricket Association of Bengal went to the extent of saying this would be contrary to the Constitution of India that has guaranteed “equal rights for all individuals”.
Do away with zonal rotation for the BCCI presidentship, the committee suggested, saying the present system might prevent “the best and most competent person” from being selected. The BCCI believes that in a vast country like India, it’s imperative that every zone gets a fair share of opportunity.
No BCCI official should be allowed to hold on to any seat for more than nine years, the report said. This is to ensure “the posts are not treated as permanent positions of power”. The counter-argument is that the BCCI would never have had administrative greats such as N K P Salve, and even Jagmohan Dalmiya, if such a cap were in place. In 1983, the board didn’t have enough money to reward the World Cup-winning squad. Four decades down the line, it has become one of the richest sports organisations in the world that looks after its cricketers, past and present, very well, the BCCI says.
A person cannot simultaneously be an office-bearer of the BCCI and also a state association. This is to ensure decentralisation of power. BCCI members and those in state associations are unanimously against it. According to them, implementing this would seriously compromise the governance of Indian cricket. BCCI members and office-bearers are nominated by their respective state associations and the two must be concurrent, they say.
Each state association gets only one vote. This is to ensure all states are represented on the board and to stop “over-representation” by some states, says the report. Maharashtra has four voting members: Mumbai, Maharashtra, Vidarbha and Cricket Club of India. Gujarat has three: Gujarat, Baroda and Saurashtra. Bengal (CAB and NCC) and Andhra (Hyderabad and ACA) have two each. Five states in the Northeast (Manipur, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram) and Sikkim are unrepresented, and so are Bihar, Chhattisgarh and Uttarakhand. The BCCI’s argument against limiting one vote to each state is that all these associations have contributed to the organic growth of the BCCI. Implementing the clause recommended by the Lodha panel might see Mumbai (40-time Ranji Trophy champions) lose their voting rights.
A three-member committee comprising former Test cricketers should do the selection for domestic and international matches, says the panel. The BCCI feels that in a large country like India, zonal representation in the selection committee is required to cover all bases.
BCCI old hand and IPL governing council member Ajay Shirke is among the few who have publicly expressed their reservations about the report. “The BCCI is older than (independent) India and all these associations have contributed to the organic growth of the body. They have made the BCCI the most powerful cricket organisation in the world. Other cricket boards aspire to be like us. Changing its structure will be against the very foundation of the BCCI,” he told The Indian Express.
So what next? The BCCI’s special general meeting is scheduled in the third week of this month. That’s when the BCCI will go in huddle to decide the future course of action. For many in the BCCI, it’s a question of survival. Knowing the way the board and its officials function, it’s unlikely they will give in without a fight.